Yesterday morning Doug Landau represented 2 of the bikers who were ticketed for rolling through a stop sign in Loudoun County. But the details of their ride are turning heads all over Virginia, as reported in prior posts.
On Sunday June 11th, a total of eight cyclists were stopped for this offense (Virginia Code 46.2-821) during the MS ride, by a police officer whose car was parked a full 300 feet away, with orange cones near the 7-11 “rest stop.” As the cyclists approached the stop signs, located on an open, rural road, they slowed down, looked both ways, saw no traffic and continued on their route around the “squircle” (a squared off traffic circle with 4 stop signs and a sidewalk running through the center). Rather than follow some of the cyclists through the middle of the square, these experienced bicycle riders thought going around the “squircle” would be safer. The police officer, who the cyclists thought was waving on participants in the Multiple Sclerosis charity ride, then proceeded to ticket them for not coming to a complete stop. No warning. Just a citation for a moving violation, with 4 points and a large fine as well!
Landau represented two of the cyclists yesterday in the Loudon County Court, both of whom plead “not guilty” to the charges. But before the judge called the case up for trial after all the other cases had been heard, Landau showed the photographic and documentary evidence that had been prepared and had reached an agreement with the prosecutor. Both of his clients pleaded guilty to having insufficient reflectors/lights on their bicycles, which resulted in a much smaller fine, court costs and no points for a moving violation.
Mr. Landau offered to represent these bicycle riders “pro bono,” (at no charge to them) in their cases. The “TriathlonTrialLawyer” as he is also known, felt strongly that the bikers should not have been ticketed for making a rolling stop that day in the Lovettsville and Purcellville.
Interestingly, one of the eight ticketed cyclists was present in court but chose to represent himself. He plead guilty to the original charge, was fined several hundred dollars in addition to court fees, and got 4-points on his record for disregarding a stop sign, with no mention on his DMV record that he was on a bicycle and not in his car!
But none-of this would have happened if the Commonwealth of Virginia had adopted the “Idaho Stop Law”, which permits cyclists to roll up to a stop sign, yield the right of way, and then proceed without stopping. Virginia should adopts laws like this, which make the roadways safer for cyclists and motorists, while at the same time freeing up the traffic courts.
The “MS-8″ were not riding dangerously or causing accidents or injuries. Bicyclists all over Virginia should be aware that law enforcement authorities can (and do) strictly enforce the stop sign law. Even a “track stand” stop may be insufficient for some officers, such that a cyclist who is able to balance, with no forward motion, but whose foot does not leave the pedal or touch the ground, might be given a ticket by zealous sheriffs and prosecuted by Commonwealth Attorneys under the strict letter of the existing laws.