Ask a Cop – January 2012

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Illustration: Sean Hennefer

Dear Cop,
I ride my bike whenever I need to get anywhere around the city. I do it mostly because it’s fun, but I’ve found that it’s also much faster than driving a car around the city, not to mention it saves me tons of money on gas and parking tickets. I have two questions though. First, the reason riding my bike is faster than driving is because, as long as there are no cars, I don’t stop for stop signs or stoplights. I’ve been told that this is legal in other states, but I’m not sure about ours. I’ve read up on Utah’s bike laws and it doesn’t say anything about bikes being exempt from stopping at stop signs or stoplights, so what do cops do when they see a cyclist run a stop sign? Second, bicycles are defined as “vehicles” just like a motorcycle or a car, but do cops really enforce D.U.I.’s as heavily with cyclists as they do with drivers? In my opinion, the only person I pose a threat to when cycling drunk is myself. And one great thing about cycling drunk is that if you’re too drunk, you don’t have enough balance to operate the “vehicle,” so you end up walking home anyway.
Sincerely,
Lance

Sir Knight: 
A friend of mine biffed it on his bike drunk and nearly died.  Not only did the fall nearly kill him, but he was almost squished by a couple of cars as well.  Bicycling under the influence is never a good idea.  Maybe thou shouldst ride in the sand dunes all by yourself.  Yes, difficult, but me-thinks much more safe.

No, brave sir, cops almost never enforce bike DUIs.  However, know that they can.  Usually, drunk cyclist dickheadness determines his punishment.

The question is, why do cops interact with bike riders really at all?  I can tell you it’s not normally for traffic violations.  As you indicated, bigger worries like cars and trucks violating traffic laws are their concern.  But, they can cite you the same as a car for violating the same laws, and that goes for most states.

Cops interact with bicyclists because many of them are out committing crimes or have warrants.  From my experience, just about any bicyclist I stop at 3 a.m. for whatever traffic violation, on whatever street, is going to have one or all of the following:
a. An arrest warrant
b. A false name
c. Drugs
d. A false name
e. Burglary tools
f. A backpack with stolen shit
g. A false name

Someone else’s pants on—they don’t know whose—and it’s that guy’s meth in the pocket: “Honest, I just found them on the floor when I got up and put them on. It was at my cousin’s house—I don’t know my cousin’s name, see, they don’t even fit …”

If I stopped a car at 3 a.m. for any violation on any street, my chance of snagging a similar perp out making someone’s life miserable is low.

Sir Lancelot, riding your bike during the day, only jousting with the Jimmy John/Jason’s Deli guy and not committing crimes, I’m gonna say that you’re probably fine … usually.

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