Cyclist Told He Shouldn’t be on the Road – By Police



Cyclist Told He Shouldn’t be on the Road – By Police

This morning’s Projo had a letter to the editor from a cyclist who was told he shouldn’t be on the streets, by a police officer.  The cyclist was out for a ride on New Year’s day and returned through Providence.  As he was heading

Down North Main Street, I went up Smith Street, past the State House and then the iconic New York Systems diner, when all of a sudden I’m nearly hit by a moving vehicle. Mind you, this is not the first time I’ve come close to being hit by a driver while riding through downtown or the surrounding areas. I throw my hands in the air in disgust and yell, “Slow down.” Yet to my surprise, said vehicle was a marked Providence Police vehicle, a sports utility van to be exact.

Much to his surprise, the officer turned his lights on and pulled him over.  After being stopped, the cyclist

asked why he pulled me over, he responded with an emphatic and irritated, “You shouldn’t be on the road!” I asked, “Where should I be?” And then I tried with all the patience my cold and wet body and numbed mind could muster to explain that I have every right to the road. He responded with, “You’re going to cause an accident if you continue to ride in the street” and immediately called for back-up.

His request resulted in six police vehicles, not including the unmarked vehicle that also arrived momentarily, all of which surround me, while one officer checked my identification.

During the traffic stop, the cyclist tried to

explain my rights as a cyclist I was told that it is apparent that I do not like police officers and that I was trying to tell them how to do their job.

What I find most disturbing about the whole incident, despite having taken over 30 minutes of my time and taxpayers’ money, was that all of this could have been avoided had the initial officer, who happened to be a sergeant, or any of the assisting officers, been aware or at the very least familiar with Rhode Island bike laws, which clearly state a bicycle’s right of road.

This is certainly not the first time I’ve read or heard such a story.  Hopefully, someone from the Providence Police Department actually reads the Projo and realizes this is a serious problem.  With seven police vehicles involved in the stop, this means there were at least seven police officers who either don’t know that cyclists have every right to be on the road or willingly choose to ignore these laws.


  • Esserman
    Jan 25, 2008 at 8:04 am

    This guy should file a complaint with the PPD to get it on the record and possibly get the officers better educated.

  • haidee
    Jan 25, 2008 at 8:31 am

    I am unfortunately not surprised at all. except by the call for backup. that is beyond ridiculous. a similar thing happened to me a few months ago. i was riding on wickendon street, towards the point street bridge, when a car blew by me, within inches, obviously on purpose cause the road is very wide there. he was blaring the horn, and yelled something about get out of the road as he zoomed by. well, he got stuck at the light under the overpass and i caught up to him in seconds. i went right to the window which was still open from him yelling out of it, and confronted him. i explained that he should know that bikes have the right to be in the road, that its state law. he says 'oh yeah' and pulls out his badge. i didnt see where he was a cop, and before i could say anything the light turned green and he zoomed off. so he was basically either telling me i was wrong about the law, in which case he is ignorant of it, or he was telling me that as a cop, he told me what the law was, not the other way 'round, which is more frightening.

    anyway. good job for writing a letter to the editor about it. without any info on the man, i didnt see the point of complaining to anyone. but this has got to stop.

  • mimi
    Jan 25, 2008 at 9:10 am

    and THEN what happened???

    we have lots of bicyclist-friendly lawyers in my town, what about in Providence???

  • jack
    Jan 25, 2008 at 10:01 am

    WoW! I've had similar experience with ignorant police on the streets. A less life-threatening example are the officers on bikes downtown that patrol the sidewalks on their bikes. They go the wrong way on one ways etc. Many people may even consider these guys as potential cycling safety role models and assume they are riding properly.

  • Jan Blackman
    Jan 25, 2008 at 11:50 am

    For goodness sakes, make a copy of the law, write a nice polite letter to the Chief of Police, the Mayor and the City Council and send it out! Have your bike riding friends do the same thing. Hopefully, the message will get to the police that the law counts and that the anti-bike culture has got to stop!

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  • haidee
    Feb 23, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    hey all, just to let you know, i did send an email to the mayor and the bike coordinator in the planning dept. with a version of my story and a link to this blog.