Bicyclists be warned: Traffic rules in Shelburne apply to you, too.
Following “an exorbitant amount of complaints” this spring about scofflaw bicyclists on the town’s scenic roads, officers are writing tickets for “blatant” offenses such as running stop signs or red lights, Shelburne Police Chief James Warden said.
The tickets have led to a burst of comment and commiseration on the website of the Green Mountain Bicycle Club.
One rider posted on May 9, shortly after receiving a ticket, that this was the person’s first run-in — after riding for thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of miles over 19 years: “Tonight riding home was my 1st ticket for rolling through a stop sign, $214 + two points on my license. I guess there wasn’t much else going on in Shelburne tonight?”
Another said a $195 fee for the Killington Stage Race “is starting to look like a bargain now compared to a commute or training ride in Shelburne ($240 + 2 points on drivers license).”
Warden said his department has no special animus for bicyclists. “It had gotten to the point where we had to do something about it,” he said, “but there’s no policy to go out and nail every bicycle on the road. Our goal is to see no one gets hurt.”
He said the problems with law-breaking bikers led to comments from officers about the need to act. “I think it’s worse this year,” he said.
A Shelburne officer, he said, has been acting as a liaison to local bike clubs, to let bikers know police have their ticket books at the ready.
At times, Warden said, the issue seems one that could be resolved by simple courtesy, as was the case recently when the department received a rash of complaints about a group of 30 or so bicyclists on Irish Hill Road, blocking the right lane as they rode and blowing through stop signs.
And the problems, he said, are apparent on many Shelburne roads.
Warden said that while some who are ticketed acknowledge their mistake, others are less cooperative.
“They argue,” he said, “God, how they argue. They write everyone. Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, they try to push it off.”Jared Katz of Richmond, a former police officer who formerly trained bike cops, said Shelburne officers have “every right” to enforce traffic regulations and should respond to violations such as that on Irish Hill Road, but some police, he said, might be “more aggressive than necessary.”
And while self-righteous bicyclists aren’t hard to find, he said, some cops don’t know the law well as it applies to bicyclists, such as that they may ride two abreast, or that while they are to ride to the right, the law specifies that it should be as “far to the right as practicable.”
Given the condition of many Vermont roads, he said, that sometimes means bicyclists are forced away from the side of the road.
Katz urged bicyclists to “ride safely within the law, be courteous to and aware of motorists. Be prepared,” he said, “be predictable, and be aware.”
Warden said the police department is “trying to make everyone accountable. We want motorists to be considerate of the bicyclists, and we also want the bicyclists to adhere to safety rules and regulations” — use common sense and employ hand signals, he said, and not dart in and out of traffic.
“Obey traffic rules and ride safely,” the police chief said, “or pay the price.”
Contact John Briggs at 660-1863 firstname.lastname@example.org.