Capt. Thom Shaw a member of the Field Operations Division of the Loudoun County Sheriff's office, was involved in an online chat today to discuss the MS Bike ride tickets and to answer questions about safety and rules of the road when bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians meet.
On whether cyclists were blowing through stop signs or participating in rolling stops.
On targeting cyclists
On motorists stopping for cyclists stopped at the crosswalk
On police guidance to cyclists before the ride
On passing large bike groups
On citations written to motorists and cyclists
Unfortunately we do not track [cyclist violations], traffic violations are tracked by code and not by type of vehicle.
In general, summonses issued to cyclists would be far fewer then that of motorists. Since January 1, 2009, we have issued over 1200 summonses for motorists disregarding stop signs and traffic signals.
And as pointed out by a commenter who stated "the cyclist that was run off the road (hit) by the car was charged along with another rider for assault and destruction of property. Apparently there was an altercation that involved the driver and the two cyclists after the car ran then off the road."
CTS: Two other cyclists were charged in Purcellville for assault during a traffic altercation.
There is a bit of distance to his answers: quoting code and answering very clinically. It's like talking to a robot. And he doesn't seem to be apologetic for somewhat rude behavior that one person reported.
Captain Shaw, A friend and I were riding through Broadlands last weekend during a triathlon, which was also manned by the Loundon County Sheriff's Office. As we approached the stop sign, the sheriff blurted out to us, "You all need to understand the rules of the road apply to you also." Mind you, this was prior to us even arriving to the stop sign (at which we had perfectly intended to come to a full stop). I was a little upset at this comment, considering we had not even broken any law but the sheriff felt the need to call us out on this.
It all gives a sense of a lock-down. Don't say anything beyond the minimum, admit no mistakes and wait for it to blow over. I'm not sure if that's what it is, but that's what it feels like to me.
If they were targeting cyclists and only got eight, then maybe they were really only ticketing the worst offenders. One witness does confirm that one ticket was for a blow through - which differs only from the story of one ticketed person as reported in the paper.
It's disappointing that they don't distinguish between tickets for cyclists and motorists - and that he continued, after acknowledging that, to say how many tickets they've issued motorists when that's clearly incorrect.
Their story is that the deputy was driving along on normal patrol, saw some very egresious violations of the law and ticketed them, just like he would have if he'd seen a car. If you believe that, then this is a non-issue. If, however, you believe that's what he would say even if the deputy saw cyclists, figured he could write a bunch of tickets and set up camp to ticket the smallest offense - then this clears up nothing. If you don't believe the Captain then you're probably still angry.
I, for one, will play it safe and just not bike in Loudoun - where it sounds like cyclists aren't very welcome on the roads.
Update: Another ticketed cyclist responded in the comments of the story
2) I did roll through a stop sign on a deserted square on a Sunday morning at approximately 1 MPH "after" looking to be sure the intersection was clear. I did so to avoid unclipping my shoe from the pedals of my bike. I would never roll blindly through a stop sign since the most likely outcome of that action would be my own injury or death. You can be sure that no motorist was put at risk by my action. And, btw, I think the Idaho law mentioned above makes a lot of sense for just this reason.
3) There may have been people on the ride who were doing things that were unsafe. If so, I'd encourage the police to consider doing more proactively, rather than just writing tickets.
4) I believe the complaints that motorists made to the police were likely triggered by cyclists on the roads upstream from where I received my ticket. I believe the sheriff's deputy, rather than addressing the issues he saw on the roads as he saw them, where he saw them, instead drove to the square where he could trap cyclists as they moved slowly through multiple stop signs and traffic lights. This was the cycling equivalent of a radar trap at the bottom of a steep hill on a 25 MPH road.
5) The officer that stopped me was angry. There was no conversation. I was told I am getting a ticket for failure to stop at a stop sign. Conversation over. That bothers me because being nearly run down by motorists is a fact of life for anyone who cycles. Do the police exhibit the same intolerence for motorist's infractions or are mitigating circumstances sometimes considered?