Police Think We (Cyclists) Are Pedestrians

25 Oct

You know how some business hire police officers to direct traffic in and out of their parking lots during busy traffic times?  Well yesterday, I was visiting such a business on my bicycle.  While I was inside, I noticed that every time someone tried to leave the business in a car, a police officer would walk out into the middle of Peachtree Street and block all four lanes of traffic so that the car could enter the roadway.  I see this all the time in Atlanta and didn’t think much of it.

Well now it is my turn to leave.  I hop on my bike, cruise up to the edge of the street, signal a left turn, and wait… and wait… and wait…

Traffic is miserable (I think Paul Ryan was in town or something), there is no way that I’m getting into Peachtree Street without a little help.  That’s when I look over to the police officer and ask him for a hand.

[Paraphrasing] He says “No, you are on your own.”  This doesn’t surprise me, but it does pique my curiosity.  I’m in no hurry, so I dismount and walk over to the officer and ask him why he can’t help me.

He says, “Because you are on a bike.”

I say, “So, what difference does that make?”

He says, “If you were in a car, it would be different.”

I ask, “How so?”

He says, “If I helped you into the street, and you got hit, then I would be held liable?”

I said, “But if I was in a car or on a motorcycle, you wouldn’t be held liable?”

He says, “I don’t know, I can’t help pedestrians cross the street.”

I say, “I have to follow all the same rules as a car, and it is seems stupid to me that I wouldn’t be given the same treatment as a car in this case.  Especially considering that I am much more vulnerable than someone in a car.”  It really irritates me to have to explain the law to a police officer, but he was being friendly, so I tried not to get riled up.

He says, “Sorry, I can’t help you.  I wish I could. It’s policy.”

I say, “I know you don’t make the policies, but if that is the actual policy, then it is absolutely stupid.  Is there something I can do to get that policy changed?”  I tried not to be a prick, but I did want him to consider the absurdity of that policy (I highly doubt any such policy exists.)

At this point, he was getting a little tired of answering my questions.  He walk into Peachtree Street stops all four lanes of traffic and lets me through.  It was awesome.

I thanked him as I rolled past.  I hope I didn’t come off as too much of a jerk.  He has a very difficult job, and I didn’t want to show any disrespect, but it is crazy that bicyclists are asked to follow the same rules as motorists, but aren’t given the same assistance is situations like this.

I know cyclists are guilty of riding on sidewalks, going the wrong way in traffic, blowing past stop signs and a host of other bad behavior.  But I almost never do any of those things.  I try to behave as any other vehicle on the road, and I expect to be treated as such.  Anyway, it was a small victory.

My next challenge…Getting service at a Drive-Thru.  Seriously, if McDonald’s closes their dining room at midnight, purchasing a $10,000 car suddenly becomes a prerequisite for ordering a delicious McDouble.  That doesn’t seem right.

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9 Responses to “Police Think We (Cyclists) Are Pedestrians”

  1. thekalechronicles October 25, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    You shouldn’t be eating McDonald’s food anyway. No one should. Perhaps they are doing us all a favor by closing their dining room at midnight.

    • dedwards8 October 26, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      It’s not a matter of should. It’s a matter of want. There are plenty of things I do that I shouldn’t do.

      All things in moderation.

      I could really go for a McGriddle right now.

  2. David October 25, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    I use the drive-through at my bank by bike all the time. They always respond quite friendly, but then again, I live in the Salt Lake City area and bicycles are extremely common as a mode of transport here. In fact, during the summer at my office, half the people are coming by bike, train, or bus.

    Atlanta, however, seems to be far more suburban, which makes anything but cars a nightmare.

    • thelyniezian October 29, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

      As I said in my other post, ‘drive-though’ and ‘bank’ don’t really go together for us non-Americans- it’s rather weird! Here, going to a bank requires parking your car and walking (unless you’re me and you get the bus into the town centre sometimes). I’m glad your part of the States is more bike-friendly, but the whole concept of drive-throughs seems to signal a dependency on cars. Here it’s only for your fast-food joints- McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC &c.

      Lest you get any misconceptions the UK might be a little more friendly to non-car users but people still like their cars… and bikes still tend to suffer the brunt of motorists’ desires!

  3. tanoshinde October 26, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    I think you have a really interesting point here. It does seem like those of us who ride bikes are often subject to a sort of double standard: we’re expected to obey all the laws that drivers find make their lives more convenient, while we are expected to allow them to break other laws when obeying those laws would inconvenience them (while this actually doesn’t seem to be true of most Louisville drivers, in my neighborhood people routinely assume that I should wait and let them go first when I’m going straight and they’re turning left at a green light with no arrow).

    I think to some extent, the double-standard at drive-throughs reflects the fact that most people believe that *cars* are dangerous, not *drivers.* Thus, instead of writing policies such that a driver who injures a cyclist during a drive-through transaction would be held responsible, they simply try to take the bikes — ironically, the least-dangerous element — out of the equation.

    We also seem to get the short end of the stick when it comes to policy decisions — not only at pull-out points like the one you described and drive-throughs, but also in destinations like cemeteries. There’s a beautiful historical cemetery here with beautiful gardens and walking trails that’s a lovely, peaceful place to visit, and a popular local destination for reflective strolls. The problem is that bikes aren’t allowed in. There’s also no bike parking nearby. A carfree cyclist with a loved one buried there is forced to find somewhere to lock his or her bike (which can be quite a ways off), while car-driving relatives and friends would be free to drive right up to the parking area nearest the grave site.

    In short, the cemetery’s policy reflects the common view that bikes are toys, not vehicles. I understand that they don’t want people racing through in packs, but I’m sure there are other ways to prevent that. Most people are pretty respectful of cemetery rules, and those who aren’t respectful won’t be any more so on four wheels than on two.

    There’s also a church not far from my house which explicitly prohibits bikes and skateboards in its parking lot — reflecting, once again, the idea that bikes are toys, not vehicles. Doesn’t exactly make me feel like “Everyone Is Welcome,” here.

    It sounds like the police officer in question did try hard to treat you like a human being, and that’s pretty good. It sucks that the policy he’s paid to enforce is so backwards. I realize he might not be in a position to directly influence policy, but I can’t help but think that more positive interactions like the one you had with him can help change the conversation, as they’re saying these days.

    • Daniel October 28, 2012 at 7:08 am #

      It’s just possible the man saw the point eventually, and changed his approach or raised it with the management. Good on you…

  4. tanoshinde October 26, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    PS: I am all for the “all things in moderation” plan!

  5. thelyniezian October 29, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    I sometimes wonder if police officers are even always altogether clear of what the laws and policies actually are- but they’re only human after all. I wonder if this is in fact one of those cases.

    As for drive-throughs, they are in my estimation an abomination which ought to be wiped from the face of the earth. They just encourage people to over-use cars. Though thankfully in the UK they are a rare optional extra- I understand you Americans even have drive-though ATMs! We don’t!

  6. dmanstow123 November 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    loved the pos and as always it got me thinking again and ten i remembered a artical from time that i had read a few months back.
    heres the link and i hope this gives you more to think about enjoy.
    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2118668,00.html

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