St. Louis cyclists arrested by police on "bicycle license" and "impeding traffic" pretexts

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by Brent Hugh, May 17, 2003.

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  1. Brent Hugh

    Brent Hugh Guest

    A group of bicycling puppeteers in Tower Grove Park Friday were stopped, arrested, handcuffed, taken
    to a nearby police station, processed, and held for six hours, according to a story in today's St.
    Louis Post-Dispatch: http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/news/2020446AF1E9C94E86256D2-
    9001734D0?OpenDocument&highlight=2%2Cbicycle&headline=In+town+for+protest,+cyclists+are+arrested.

    Below is my comment on the incident, posted online (with some additional links that don't survive
    the translation to plain text) at

    http://mobikefed.org/2003_05_01_newsarchive.html#200305193

    The reason given by police for the initial arrest was that bicyclists over the age of twelve years
    need a license to operate in St. Louis.

    After being held by police for about six hours the "bicycling without a license" pretext was
    dropped. The cyclists were charged with impeding traffic and released.

    The "bicycle circus" is one group of many in St. Louis this week to protest at the World
    Agriculture Forum.

    Although these arrests were directed at protesters--and are undoubtedly part of the police's plan to
    break up such protests, using whatever legal pretexts are necessary--the use of bicycle-related laws
    to harass these cyclists must be seen by Missouri bicyclists as extremely disturbing.

    St. Louis had a bicycle license requirement until about two years ago when it was repealed; no St.
    Louis-area bicyclist today has a bicycle license and police could use the excuse of "riding without
    a bicycle license" to arrest anyone on the street on a bicycle.

    Although St. Louis has rescinded its bicycle license requirement, some other Missouri
    cities--Columbia, for instance--still have bicycle license provisions on the books. Such provisions
    are practically unknown to police and cyclists alike, but incidents like the one Friday show the
    potential of such discriminatory laws to increase police harrassment of bicyclists.

    The charge of "impeding traffic" is even more problematic for Missouri bicyclists. This excuse can
    be used by police to stop any bicyclist--and particularly, any group of bicyclists--at any time.
    Furthermore, St. Louis's "impeding traffic" law is clearly written so as not to apply to bicyclists:

    No person shall operate a motor vehicle in such a way as to impede the normal and reasonable
    movement of traffic.

    Furthermore, Missouri cities are required to pass laws which are not in conflict with state laws.
    The Missouri state law on impeding traffic is this:

    No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and
    reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in
    compliance with law. (RSMo 304.011.1)

    Certainly riding a bicycle at its normal operational speed is required for its "safe operation" even
    if it can somehow be considered to be a "motor vehicle".

    Missouri does not have a sterling record in regard to providing equal protection under the law for
    bicyclists and pedestrians. Too often, motorists who recklessly or carelessly cause serious injury
    to pedestrians and cyclists--or even kill them--are let off with little more than a slap on the
    wrist. Bicyclists calling police to report road rage incidents against them have been too often
    ignored or ridiculed. In at least one incident, the bicyclist had charges brought against him,
    rather than the assaulting motorist.

    This latest discriminatory application of traffic laws against a group of bicyclists can only do
    more to undermine Missouri bicyclists' faith in due process and equal protection under the law.

    The Missouri Bicycle Federation, the St. Louis Bicycle Federation, and other bicycle and pedestrian
    groups around Missouri are working hard to create more equitable laws, to educate police,
    prosecutors, and the public, and to bring disturbing incidents such as this one to the public's
    attention so that remedies may be found.

    Friday's incident shows clearly that much more such work is needed in Missouri.

    --Brent Hugh Missouri Bicycle Federation www.MoBikeFed.org bhugh *at* mwsc.edu
     
    Tags:


  2. Ron Hardin

    Ron Hardin Guest

    Brent Hugh wrote:
    > Friday's incident shows clearly that much more such work is needed in Missouri.
    >
    > --Brent Hugh Missouri Bicycle Federation

    Nobody hassles me. Of course I'm not trying to be a public nuisance.
    --
    Ron Hardin [email protected]mindspring.com

    On the internet, nobody knows you're a jerk.
     
  3. > Friday's incident shows clearly that much more such work is needed in Missouri.

    Friday's incedent shows clearly that somebody needs to launch an unlawful arrest Law$uit...
     
  4. [email protected] (Brent Hugh) wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...

    > This latest discriminatory application of traffic laws against a group of bicyclists can only do
    > more to undermine Missouri bicyclists' faith in due process and equal protection under the law.

    I think it's safe to say that the cyclists in question weren't bona fide transportational cyclists.

    To say that these were just honest cyclists getting from point A to point B is disingenuous. They
    are a "bicycle circus." Their very essence is to use as much of the roadway as possible while
    riding and performing. They would have made a colourful show, a political statement--and a public
    nuisance, with regard to their rendering the roadways impassable to any other traffic,
    bicycle-borne or otherwise.

    Were the protesters driving SUVs at 8 mph and blaring their message through bullhorns, blocking
    lanes of traffic, nobody would be kicking up a fuss. They would have been ticketed, and quite
    rightly, too, for blocking traffic.

    But now since they're cyclists, we are supposed to unite and defend them? Sorry, I don't buy that.

    Veloborne MASShole protesters certainly do *not* make my life as an individual transportational
    cyclist much easier. They unnecessarily antagonize the authorities and other road-users. They have
    made the bicycle into a vehicle of protests, and thereby run the risk of having the bicycle
    marginalized in the minds of most people as merely a protester's vehicle and not "real transport."
    The rage they stir up in motorists collectively is taken out on innocent, law-abiding cyclists
    individually.

    I would defend them on the bicycle-licence charge, on the basis that they ought not have been
    arrested, charged, and held on the basis of a law that was no longer in force. I would, however, be
    disinclined to support their defense in the traffic-impedance charge.

    -Luigi

    PS: I have already prepared my confession for the inevitable biketivist show trial. I
    append it below:

    Comrades, I stand before you a victim of the false consciousness of civil society. I cannot show
    proper solidarity with the prisoners. I cannot embrace their suffering as part of my own, cannot
    equate their struggle with my own. I still believe in equal access to the public rights-of-way,
    under democratically-enacted laws. You may accuse me--and you would be correct in doing so--of
    betraying our revolutionary cause. I stand so accused, and I do so confess.
     
  5. Tom Keats

    Tom Keats Guest

    In article <[email protected]>, [email protected] (Brent Hugh) writes:

    > Although these arrests were directed at protesters--and are undoubtedly part of the police's plan
    > to break up such protests, using whatever legal pretexts are necessary--the use of bicycle-related
    > laws to harass these cyclists must be seen by Missouri bicyclists as extremely disturbing.

    Good publicity for the protesters, though -- with whose cause I sympathize. Especially after
    following your St. Louis P-D link, and then Googling on "world agriculture forum protest".

    In one way, it sux that cycling gets singled-out for visible oppression. But in another way, it's
    sort of ... beatiful.

    cheers, Tom

    --
    -- Powered by FreeBSD Above address is just a spam midden. I'm really at: tkeats [curlicue] vcn
    [point] bc [point] ca
     
  6. Tom Keats

    Tom Keats Guest

    In article <[email protected]>, Ron Hardin <[email protected]> writes:

    > On the internet, nobody knows you're a jerk.

    Gotta love that machiavellian mouse-trap of yours.

    --
    -- Powered by FreeBSD On the street, it's impossible to park one's bike and blow one's runny nose,
    without an audience.
     
  7. Alan

    Alan Guest

    I didn't realize there was a 'purpose of use' provision in the traffic laws that allows police to
    ticket and arrest people based on why they were using the public roadway.

    They indeed may have been a nuisance, but there's nothing in what I've read that indicates how they
    were riding at the time of the incident. Without knowing that, we do not have sufficient information
    to reach reasonable conclusions.

    --

    alan

    Anyone who believes in a liberal media has never read the "Daily Oklahoman."

    "Luigi de Guzman" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > [email protected] (Brent Hugh) wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...
    >
    > > This latest discriminatory application of traffic laws against a group of bicyclists can only do
    > > more to undermine Missouri bicyclists' faith in due process and equal protection under the law.
    >
    > I think it's safe to say that the cyclists in question weren't bona fide transportational
    > cyclists.
    >
    > To say that these were just honest cyclists getting from point A to point B is disingenuous. They
    > are a "bicycle circus." Their very essence is to use as much of the roadway as possible while
    > riding and performing. They would have made a colourful show, a political statement--and a public
    > nuisance, with regard to their rendering the roadways impassable to any other traffic,
    > bicycle-borne or otherwise.
    >
    > Were the protesters driving SUVs at 8 mph and blaring their message through bullhorns, blocking
    > lanes of traffic, nobody would be kicking up a fuss. They would have been ticketed, and quite
    > rightly, too, for blocking traffic.
    >
    > But now since they're cyclists, we are supposed to unite and defend them? Sorry, I don't buy that.
    >
    > Veloborne MASShole protesters certainly do *not* make my life as an individual transportational
    > cyclist much easier. They unnecessarily antagonize the authorities and other road-users. They have
    > made the bicycle into a vehicle of protests, and thereby run the risk of having the bicycle
    > marginalized in the minds of most people as merely a protester's vehicle and not "real transport."
    > The rage they stir up in motorists collectively is taken out on innocent, law-abiding cyclists
    > individually.
    >
    > I would defend them on the bicycle-licence charge, on the basis that they ought not have been
    > arrested, charged, and held on the basis of a law that was no longer in force. I would, however,
    > be disinclined to support their defense in the traffic-impedance charge.
    >
    > -Luigi
    >
    > PS: I have already prepared my confession for the inevitable biketivist show trial. I append it
    > below:
    >
    > Comrades, I stand before you a victim of the false consciousness of civil society. I cannot show
    > proper solidarity with the prisoners. I cannot embrace their suffering as part of my own, cannot
    > equate their struggle with my own. I still believe in equal access to the public rights-of-way,
    > under democratically-enacted laws. You may accuse me--and you would be correct in doing so--of
    > betraying our revolutionary cause. I stand so accused, and I do so confess.
     
  8. "alan" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...

    >
    > They indeed may have been a nuisance, but there's nothing in what I've read that indicates how
    > they were riding at the time of the incident. Without knowing that, we do not have sufficient
    > information to reach reasonable conclusions.

    I accept that based on the information explicitly so given, we can't say for sure how they
    were riding.

    I am, however, unwilling to toe the party line on this incident and jump to the automatic defense of
    the cyclists involved. Protest-riding and deliberate obstruction of traffic is not acceptable
    behaviour. "Share the Road" is an imperative that applies both to cyclists and motorists, after all.

    -Luigi
     
  9. Hawke

    Hawke Guest

    "Brian Sanderson" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > > Friday's incident shows clearly that much more such work is needed in Missouri.
    >
    >
    > Friday's incedent shows clearly that somebody needs to launch an unlawful arrest Law$uit...

    Hope the police cracked a few skulls.

    Hawke
     
  10. Jym Dyer

    Jym Dyer Guest

    > They are a "bicycle circus." Their very essence is to use as much of the roadway as possible while
    > riding and performing.

    =v= According to you. Not according to anyone I know familiar with this, who've actually seen them
    do their thing, and who actually knows some of the performer.

    =v= But hey, you're the authority for some reason. <_Jym_
     
  11. Bluto

    Bluto Guest

    [email protected] (Hunrobe) wrote:

    > "It" was possibly poor police work but thanks to the definitely poor reporting, Alan is right. We
    > have insufficient facts to form any reasonable conclusion.

    We do, however, have the prevailing context of widespread use of law enforcement to selectively
    suppress the civil dissent of the political left.

    I have witnessed it dozens of times over the last few years: 50,000 football fans acting up, no
    problem. 100,000 Bible-thumping hatemongers rallying, no problem. Any possible number of jingoistic
    flag-waving morons, no problem. But 1000 lefty protesters turn up in one place, no matter how
    well-behaved, and there _will_ be riot goons in attendance-- if only to cast aspersions on those
    voicing their convictions.

    I'm sure it's no different in Chicago than what I've seen. Were you present at this event?
    http://chicago.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=22131&group=webcast

    Chalo Colina
     
  12. In article <[email protected]>, [email protected] (Bluto) wrote:

    > [email protected] (Hunrobe) wrote:
    >
    > > "It" was possibly poor police work but thanks to the definitely poor reporting, Alan is right.
    > > We have insufficient facts to form any reasonable conclusion.
    >
    > We do, however, have the prevailing context of widespread use of law enforcement to selectively
    > suppress the civil dissent of the political left.
    >
    > I have witnessed it dozens of times over the last few years: 50,000 football fans acting up, no
    > problem. 100,000 Bible-thumping hatemongers rallying, no problem. Any possible number of
    > jingoistic flag-waving morons, no problem. But 1000 lefty protesters turn up in one place, no
    > matter how well-behaved, and there _will_ be riot goons in attendance-- if only to cast aspersions
    > on those voicing their convictions.

    Bluto: that's largely because the Promisekeepers don't have an anarchist bloc of mask-wearing
    vandals wandering around in their ranks.

    As for football fans, are we watching the same sports? Any pro sporting event in North America sees
    a significant police presence both within and outside the venue, and when the fans get out of hand
    (as, for example, they did in Vancouver in 1994) you can bet that they meet up with a great number
    of well-armored members of the local constabulary.

    I think that lots of left groups are beginning to realize how much of a PR disaster and
    organizational headache the Black Bloc and similar idiots are. I don't blame left-wing protests for
    attracting jerks (it's Larry Niven's 16th law: "there is no cause so right that one cannot find a
    fool following it"), but I don't blame the police for acting as if there might be trouble at
    left-wing demonstrations, either.

    --
    Ryan Cousineau, [email protected] http://www.sfu.ca/~rcousine President, Fabrizio Mazzoleni Fan Club
     
  13. Brent Hugh

    Brent Hugh Guest

    > >"alan" [email protected] wrote: I didn't realize there was a 'purpose of use'
    > >provision in the traffic laws that allows police to ticket and arrest people based on why they
    > >were using the public roadway.
    > >
    > >They indeed may have been a nuisance, but there's nothing in what I've read that indicates how
    > >they were riding at the time of the incident. Without knowing that, we do not have sufficient
    > >information to reach reasonable conclusions.

    > Bob Hunt wrote: What I found odd about the article was its almost total reliance on what the
    > alleged arrestees said. There was a quote from a St. Louis city council member saying that "it
    > (whatever "it" was) was an unfortunate misunderstanding". "It" was possibly poor police work but
    > thanks to the definitely poor reporting, Alan is right. We have insufficient facts to form any
    > reasonable conclusion.

    I agree with many of the criticisms of the reporting in the news article, the lack of definite
    information about the circumstances, our inability to make a final judgement about the incident
    because we don't know enough specific details, and the fact that this isn't specifcally
    bicycle-related but rather the playing out of a little drama between demonstrators and police. And
    the fact that the demonstrators may be, to a degree, being deliberately provocative (after all, that
    IS the point of demonstrating, isn't it? The only questions are, to what DEGREE and in what MANNER
    do the demonstrators choose to be provocative . . . )

    Still, I must say that it makes me very, very nervous to see the police dreaming up spurious excuses
    for these arrests that could be applied to any bicyclist at any time. As one local cyclist said, the
    St. Louis police might now start harassing random cyclists on "impeding traffic" charges just to
    prove that they're not picking on the demonstrators especially.

    Of course, police might do no such thing. But the possibility alone is disturbing. Furthermore,
    depending on how the court case play out and what kind of bicycle-savvy lawyers they get to
    represent them, there could be a very bad precedent set in a St. Louis courtroom.

    I might mention also, that though I do not know the specifics of the location this happened (a
    park), a typical road in a Missouri park is, at best, a two-lane affair with 12-foot lanes and a
    fair bit of crumbling near each edge. So even a group of 2 or 3 cyclists riding in single file as
    near the right edge as is safe causes passing automobiles to move a minimum of 3/4s of the way into
    the oncoming lane in order to make a safe pass.

    So, unless the nine cyclists who were arrested were riding on BOTH sides of the road (and in that
    case, why were they not cited for riding on the wrong side of the road?) it is hard to believe that
    they were any more of an "impediment" to traffic than any small group of cyclists riding along
    minding their own business.

    If they just want to bring the people in for being annoying demonstrators, then why don't they
    charge them with disturbing the peace or some other such infraction? Again, my problem here
    (speaking as a bicycle advocate and completely neglecting my stand as an average American who sees
    his freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly being eroded at a faster
    pace than he would like) is this: Why are they making the charges specifically bicycle-related,
    and applying them in such a way that they *could* apply to basically any other cyclist riding
    around the city.

    --Brent Hugh Missouri Bicycle Federation bhugh <at> mwsc.edu
     
  14. Brent Hugh

    Brent Hugh Guest

    [email protected] (Hunrobe) wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
    > What I found odd about the article was its almost total reliance on what the alleged arrestees
    > said. There was a quote from a St. Louis city council member saying that "it (whatever "it" was)
    > was an unfortunate misunderstanding". "It" was possibly poor police work but thanks to the
    > definitely poor reporting, Alan is right. We have insufficient facts to form any reasonable
    > conclusion.

    These are perfectly valid criticisms and they occured to me as well.

    Below is some more detailed info from the Jefferson City News Tribune that answers some of the
    questions you and other people have made about the reporting. Note the the police spokesman as much
    as admits the the incident happens as previously described:

    -----
    Police also detained nine bicyclists Friday, who said they had planned to attend the protest.

    Police spokesman Richard Wilkes said the bicyclists were each issued a summons for impeding the flow
    of traffic, though he acknowledged the bicyclists initially may have been arrested on a law that's
    no longer on the books -- failure to have a license to ride a bicycle.

    See http://newstribune.com/stories/051903/sta_0519030061.asp
    -----
     
  15. Bluto

    Bluto Guest

    [email protected] (Hunrobe) wrote:

    > You're entitled to voice your opinion of course and, thanks in no small part to the "goons" you
    > condemn, you won't be assaulted for doing so at a public rally no matter how unpopular that
    > opinion may be.

    That so? One of the last times I turned out with a few thousand like-minded anti-war protestors, I
    was muscled out of the street by horses in face shields!

    (It was a pretty good tactic, actually. I'm not tempted to backhand a horsie for giving me a shove.
    And unlike the club-wielding thugs present, the horses really didn't know any better than to be out
    violating several portions of Amendment 1.)

    Anyway, of all the demonstrations I've attended in the last few years, only the election fraud
    protests in Austin have had any counterprotestors, and at those events the cops were few,
    plainclothed, and kept on a short leash.

    In my broad sample of experience, they only haul out the riot gear and start spewing OC spray when
    it's lefties-only in attendance. Perhaps you could explain why that is? Because to me it looks like
    suppressing the opposition.

    Chalo Colina

    Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the
    people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
     
  16. Bluto wrote:

    > In my broad sample of experience, they only haul out the riot gear and start spewing OC spray when
    > it's lefties-only in attendance. Perhaps you could explain why that is? Because to me it looks
    > like suppressing the opposition.

    Seems only the lefties think freedom of speech involves the right to block traffic, trash a
    business, spray paint "blood" (or dump the real stuff) on steps, etc., etc., etc.

    That's the way it is around here any ways (coupled with the fact that "right wingers" are extremely
    scarce in these parts).

    SMH
     
  17. Just Zis Guy

    Just Zis Guy Guest

    On Tue, 20 May 2003 17:05:07 -0400, Stephen Harding <[email protected]> wrote:

    >Seems only the lefties think freedom of speech involves the right to block traffic, trash a
    >business, spray paint "blood" (or dump the real stuff) on steps, etc., etc., etc.

    You might want to run that by a doctor at your local abortion clinic first, if the antis haven't
    assassinated or run them out of town yet.

    Guy
    ===
    ** WARNING ** This posting may contain traces of irony. http://www.chapmancentral.com (BT ADSL and
    dynamic DNS permitting)
    NOTE: BT Openworld have now blocked port 25 (without notice), so old mail addresses may no longer
    work. Apologies.
     
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