Saturday, August 23, 2008

Memphis Cyclist Pulled Over by Shelby County Sheriff

It’s about 9 am Thursday, August 21. I am cycling to work down Germantown Road as I have safely done daily for four years. The traffic light is red for the southbound traffic at the Trinity intersection. I am stopped in the outside lane (next to the right-turn only lane) when the light turns green. (I ride in the shoulder of Germantown Parkway where there is one. Otherwise, I am within 3 feet of the lane edge.) There are no cars behind me. A lane over, a scruffy looking guy in a plain gray car rolls down his window and shouts “Get off the road.” This happens occasionally, so I shout “No” as I ride off, signaling that I am merging into the new outside lane formed at that intersection.

Suddenly, the plain gray car starts flashing his police lights and sounding his siren as he pulls behind me. It’s an un-marked sheriff’s car. I stop in the driveway of Wal-mart and Target. He gets out of his car, slips on his lanyard with a star and asks, “What did you say?” I admitted that I said “No”. “You don’t tell an officer no in the line of duty,” he says. I apologized and admitted that I was wrong to do so.

He says that I can’t ride on Germantown Parkway. He asks, “How long have you lived in Memphis?” I told him that I have lived here for the last 27 years, as if that mattered. “You can’t ride on the road. You don’t have a tag and registration. You’re impeding traffic.” I explained that traffic is impeded if there are four cars behind a slow moving vehicle, and they have no safe way to pass. I carry a copy of T.C.A. 55-8-171 to 174 and I offered to show these to him.

“I don’t come into your office telling you how to do your job, don’t tell me how to do my job. I don’t want to see the law. You can’t ride on the road. Your bike has to be registered. Consider this a warning. If I see you on the road again I’ll give you a citation. If your still riding on the road, I’ll throw you in jail.”

Unfortunately, I was so rattled that I failed to get the officer’s name or badge number. I had no way to know he was a police officer being scruffy sitting in an unmarked car a lane away. I am shocked how ignorant of the law he was, unwilling to see the law. He was more upset that I said “no” to someone who looked like a day laborer.

I am e-mailing you to publicize this mis-treatment and ignorance by an officer of the law.


Anonymous said...

What time is the next Critical Mass ride? 5:30 or 6 pm?

Memphis Cyclist said...