Friday, September 2, 2011

Lucky we don't live in Elizabethton, Tennesee

Arrested for Riding Bike to School?

Could you be arrested for allowing your 5'th grade child to ride her bike one mile to school?  That certainly seems crazy as we try to encourage active life styles for our kids.  That certainly seems crazy as we try to promote safe routes to school programs.  That certainly seems crazy as we talk of an obesity epidemic amongst our children.  But that is what police in Elizabethton Tennessee are threatening.

Wow. Small wonder some of the public says that government has gotten too big and arrogant. Here in Bombtown, our kids have Safe Routes to School.

It was considered perfectly normal for us kids to be out on the roads on our bikes at that age. I was riding three or four miles to the Millgrove Elementary School baseball fields during the summer when I was in 4th-6th grade. That included riding time on NY33 outside Buffalo, N.Y.  NY 33 in Alden was a 50 mph road with car and heavy truck traffic.

We did just fine. My neighbor had a close call one day. He was blown off his bike by the wind blast coming off the side of an eighteen wheeler and needed a few stitches in his forehead. When they took out the stitches, a couple small pebbles came out. From then on, Mark was known as the kid "with rocks in his head". We survived and prospered.

Andy Clarke of the League of American Bicyclists comments here.  For the most part, I agree with Andy when he says "...The basic principle that it really should be (and probably is in this case) perfectly reasonable for a capable 10-year old to ride her bike to school on local streets..." Furthermore, I wholeheartedly support the Safe Routes to School program. Having said that, I don't think the real problem here is with SRTS. If anything, having a SRTS program might imply to some people, such as the Elizabethton cops, that if you don't have a SRTS program in place then you better keep your damn kids off the road. That is just plain upside-down thinking. Law of Unintended Consequences, I guess.

If it is not safe for a competent ten year old to ride to school (and I'm assuming for the present that this young girl is competent to ride to school) then the job of the police is to MAKE IT SAFE. Not to have Child Protective Services take your kid away.


Steve A said...

My local SRTS made it more dangerous to cycle to school and I never see it used by kids.

Steve A said...

Actually, You could just as easily be arrested for making the same ride yourself. Any policeman that doesn't like what/how a person on a bike is riding, a prosecutor can usually transform whatever is written on the ticket into some form of conviction. Chipseal's ticket for "riding bike on the road" was transformed into a reckless driving conviction and Eli Damon had similar experiences.

Khal said...

I dunno, Steve. Closest we came so far is the Albuquerque bike organizations butting heads with our State Police. So far its been a draw. No one cited, and a bit of backpedalling from the NMSP.

I got into a strong disagreement with one of Los Alamos's Finest a couple years ago for "riding outside the bike lane", which I translated to "riding to avoid a shattered beer bottle". Quite the opposite happened rather than me being arrested. The police and county dept of public works both acknowledged that AFRAP is full of exceptions, and my case was one of them. The officer, a new guy on the force, discussed this with his superior. All turned out very well.

I think one has to manage these situations better than some have tried. I ended up not picking a bone with the beat cop other than saying I disagreed with him and would follow up--and asking him if he had a small whiskbroom and dust pan to sweep the glass off the bike lane, which I proceeded to do. Got to my office and got on the phone with supervisors.

It also helps when one lives in a more enlightened community than the unfortunate Chipseal et al have suffered with. Our cops and other public servants are first rate in Los Alamos.

Chandra said...

The key is living in an enlightened community. I am not sure Chipseal's former stomping grounds were "enlightened", unless that means the streets are lit, which I know it does not!

Peace :)