Officer pulls over bicyclist
July 15, 2006
There wasn’t a chance that Bill Morris would be outrun in his police SUV when he pulled someone over recently for what he says was a violation of a little-known traffic law.
Morris, a sergeant in the Park City Police Department, made a rare stop of a person on a mountain bike after he observed the rider make what he describes as an illegal maneuver in order to avoid a stoplight.
At about 11 a.m. on July 8, Morris watched as the bicyclist rode southbound in a traffic lane on S.R. 224 near Hotel Park City. He says the bicyclist, described as a man in his late 40s or early 50s, reached a red light at Thaynes Canyon Drive, motioned with his hand to turn right, made a U-turn and then made another right turn onto S.R. 224, not stopping at the light.
Morris says he stopped the bicyclist to inform him of laws against that sort of move. The person was not ticketed. The man told Morris that he was unaware of rules prohibiting his maneuver, Morris says.
That Morris pulled over the rider highlights what Parkites see as a trend of some bicyclists in the city ignoring traffic laws even though they are supposed to abide by the rules as if they were driving a car.
"They must follow the exact same laws as somebody behind the wheel of a motor vehicle," Morris says, claiming that bicyclists frequently break traffic laws, such as when they run the stop signs at the intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue.
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Phil Kirk, a Park City lieutenant, says the police have stopped other bicyclists previously, including those pulled over for running stop signs and speeding, but such encounters are rare. He says they have been stopped on the Mine Road and Daly Avenue, where stop signs are posted at the end of long downhill stretches, for instance. He does not recall someone receiving a ticket riding a bicycle.
"If they’re flying through there, that presents a dangerous situation," he says, referring to bicyclists who do not stop at stop signs. "Safe roads include bicyclists being safe too."
In bicycle-mad Park City, where people often take long rides in the mountains or on the roads after work and on the weekends, pedaling at favorite spots like Empire Canyon and the Rail Trail, the recent traffic stop went unnoticed.
However the episode is notable in the aftermath of the death of Bill Corliss, a local bicycling giant killed by a driver in Utah County, and the injuries to Robin Valline, a Park City man struck by a car while he was riding through Quinn’s Junction.
The bicycling community has long wanted the area made safer for riders and local officials have largely agreed with them, painting bicycle lanes on some streets and upgrading trails. Most recently, the Park City Council in June agreed to fund a $150,000 study that will consider options to aid bicyclists, walkers and others who are not driving.
Still, there is agreement between the police and bicycle advocates regarding traffic laws. The advocates say that, for safety, people on bicycles must obey traffic laws.
"We’re all on the road. We’re sharing the road," says Carol Potter, who directs Mountain Trails Foundation, a Park City non-profit, adding, "This is a two-way street. The bicyclists have to abide by the rules of the road as well as the motorists."
Potter admits that she rarely sees bicyclists breaking traffic laws. Sometimes as many as four riders might travel beside each other, spreading outside their lane, she says, but she witnesses that just once every few weeks.
At the Salt Lake-based Utah Bicycle Coalition, another non-profit advocacy group, Malcolm Campbell, the president, supports Potter’s comments, saying that the police hardly ever stop a bicyclist but the number is tracking upward.
"The very, very basic rule, which is red means stop, is pretty fundamental," he says. "A lot of cyclists will violate the rules but it’s to their own peril."
Campbell reports that two riders in Utah have been killed in 2006 in accidents after not following traffic laws. He says a driver struck and killed a bicyclist in Richfield after the rider did not stop at either a stoplight or a stop sign and in Provo a cyclist attempted to cross a street outside an intersection, signal or sign and was hit.
"They must," he says about bicyclists obeying traffic laws. "I don’t see any other way for a lot of people to use the road unless they’re prepared to follow the rules that govern those roads."