cyclist vs. car bias meeting notes

Cyclist/Driver Law Enforcement Meeting

February 5, 2008

Take a look at some pictures as well.

Opening Statements

  1. Law enforcement’s goal is to listen, plan, implement and have a better community overall.

  2. This meeting proves we have law enforcement’s ear.

  3. Meeting goals:

  4. Discuss the perceived anti-cycling bias (short-term)

  5. Create partnerships and improvements for cyclist safety (long-term)

  6. Meeting Groundrules:

  7. Please temper criticism of law enforcement. We’re here to ask questions, not levy blame.

  8. Give specific examples of incidents that demonstrate bias against cyclists. You’re talking to your future partners going forward.


Key Attendees

  1. Janet Carson — Tahoe Pyramid Bikeway

  2. Mike Gallioto — GSR Bicycles, owner

  3. Laurie Anne Grimes — State of NV, DPS, Mgr of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs

  4. Heidi Littenberg — NV Bike Coalition

  5. Carrie Henderson — NV Bike Coalition

  6. Tim Rowe – Chairman, NV Bicycle Advisory Board (arrived later)

  7. Noah Silverman – Reno Bike Project

  8. Shawn O’Meara – Team Bacon Strip


Bias Examples

1) Darren Seltzer — paraphrased the “rant” e-mail that started this whole process:

  1. Read that a cyclist was hit by a Cadillac and that the driver was only cited for failure to yield (minor infraction).

  2. Sent the info to Bob Mionski, legal consultant for Velonews. Mionski said this indicates a bias against cyclists. (Aside: Law enforcement’s view is that Mionski doesn’t know Nevada law well enough to comment.)


  1. Yes, there are inherent risks in our sport, but should there be greater consequences for drivers when they seriously hurt or even kill a cyclist? Feels it’s unjust that a cylist gets maimed and the driver only gets a traffic ticket. Cyclists’ rights are not protected.

  2. What about vehicular manslaughter in a case where a cyclist is killed?

Aside: Matt Davis, the cyclist that was hurt, is fine after surgery.


2) Mike Alber

  1. Accident in Incline Village. Cyclist was hit by a car that crossed his/her path while making a left hand turn. Cyclist was killed.

  2. Initial press coverage indicated that the cyclist must have been at fault/speeding — very biased/one-sided against the cyclist (the Bonanza).


  1. Driver turned left across the path of an oncoming cyclist? How can the cyclist be at fault?

  2. Final results of the investigation have not been published, so there’s been no update for the public since the incident occurred. How can this be allowed?

  3. Later Mike Alber asked if the Bonanza Newspaper can be followed up with.


3) Pat Sealy

  1. July — hit by a car while he and partner were riding a tandem on Mayberry. Driver made a left across their path, also.

  2. Both were unconscious and his partner, Marlies, was seriously injured — long hospital stay, used a walker for a while.

  3. Driver got a failure to yield citation and 8 hours of community service was the penalty.


  1. Why so light a sentence when people nearly died?

Aside: Overall, the penalty is far more serious for the cyclist (injury, death) than it is for the driver who collides with the cyclist.


4) Kate Blake (did not attend) “rant” said, according to Terry:

  1. Dropped her case against the driver when she learned the driver would only receive a $100 ticket.


5) William Still (did not attend) “rant” said, according to Terry:

  1. Friend was hit and run by a driver on 7th Street. Got the license plate of the driver.

  2. Police went to the victim’s house and saw the damage to the bike and the cyclist. Drove to the driver’s house to confront the motorist.

  3. Told the driver to pay more attention and that’s all.


  1. What about the cost of the bike and the cyclist’s injuries?


Other Incidents/Comments

6) Shawn O’Meara

  1. All cyclists have stories of bad encounters with cars. The more you ride, the more chances you have of dealing with bad, even malicious drivers.

  2. Drivers think we don’t have the right to be on the road.

  3. Unlike car vs. car (road rage incidents), is the driver looking for a reaction from the cyclist?

  4. Seems like bad driver behavior is not being addressed.

  5. Some cyclists have quit as a result of these kinds of incidents.

  6. He now carries pepper spray after he was verbally assaulted while riding.

  7. Anne MacQuirie called for a show of hands of people who had been harrassed. Nearly all cyclists raised a hand.


  1. Does law enforcement consider potential malicious aspects?


7) Donna Boroff

  1. Question: Can we start a community education campaign for drivers and cyclists alike?


8) Kreg Mebust

  1. Compliments law enforcement for only giving him a warning when he ran a red light (the light would not change because the sensors didn’t detect his presence).

  2. Question: Bikes don’t trigger stop lights? Can we fix this?


9) Dave Grill (Kiwanis Childrens Bike Program)

  1. Motorists are too close to cyclists.

  2. He’s been driven off the road.

  3. Question: Address the law itself?


10) Liz Ortiz

  1. People don’t see her on the road and don’t think to look for cyclists.

  2. Comment: Education for drivers and cyclists is needed.


Summary of Questions

  1. Should there be greater consequences for drivers when they seriously hurt or even kill a cyclist? Feels it’s unjust that a cylist gets maimed and the driver only gets a traffic ticket. Cyclists’ rights are not protected.

  2. What about vehicular manslaughter in a case where a cyclist is killed?

  3. Driver turned left across the path of an oncoming cyclist? How can the cyclist be at fault?

  4. Final results of Incline investigation have not been published, so there’s been no update for the public since the incident occurred. How can this be allowed?

  5. Why so light a sentence when people nearly die in collisions with cars?

  6. What about the cost of the bike and the cyclist’s injuries when a cyclist is hit?

  7. Does law enforcement consider potential malicious aspects when a collision occurs?

  8. Can we start a community education campaign for drivers and cyclists alike?

  9. Address the law itself (i.e. 3-foot rule)?


Law Enforcement Responses

1) Mike Poehlman, Chief (RPD) in response to Matt Davis accident:

  1. The law — traffic laws apply to bikes the same as for cars. Law says it’s the same as a car-on-car collision.

  2. Law enforcement — writes the ticket, court decides the penalty according to the law.

  3. Need to work with the courts to raise visibility and work with legislature to change the laws so penalties are higher when a cyclist is hurt or killed.

  4. Maliciousness — unless you can prove it, it’s just a traffic violation under the law. Maliciousness/intent is very hard to prove.

Sheriff Haley: These are collisions, not accidents. They can all be avoided.

Officer Donnelly: Trends in our concerns:

  1. Seriousness of the violation (injuries) versus a slap on the hand for the driver.

  2. Media reporting of car/cyclist collisions.

  3. Aggressive nature of motorists overall (need to be somewhere now, get out of my way, etc.)


Potential Citations When a Person is Seriously Injured

  1. Careless/reckless driving.

  2. Alcohol or drugs (DUI)

  3. Maliciousness/intent to harm

  4. Pattern of bad driving

  5. If none of these are evident, it’s solely a traffic violation.



  1. 8 hours of community service in the Pat Seeley tandem accident on Mayberry. Victims should have been consulted first?

  2. Driver was also driving under distraction (talking on a cell phone). Should have been charged under the state’s distracted driving law? Citation didn’t include this and it probably should have. Officers said that ususally the judge picks one violation that is the cause and sentences under that one. This is a disincentive to law officers to cite more than one cause.


Media Perception

  1. They don’t always get the story right. (Terry – I thought he said something like “seldom gets it 100% right)

  2. Also, witnesses may speculate, which sways the reporter.

  3. Sheriff Haley and the officer in Incline (Capt. Kelly) were also very upset by the Bonanza (Incline) article.

Capt. Kelly

  1. New reporter

  2. He spoke with the reporter like he did the reporter’s predecessor, but the reporter didn’t have an understanding of all the facts when Kelly gave the background info.

  3. Has met with the paper to rectify the situation.

John Spencer

  1. Incline accident — the driver was a juvenile. Therefore, law stipulates you can’t give details of the accident, including the driver’s name, until the case is closed.

  2. Two charges have been filed in juvenile court. Since the cyclist is dead, we can speculate who is getting charged.

  3. An eye witness saw the cyclist. Saw the cyclist’s behavior and said the cyclist responded to the threat and tried to react.

  4. Key point — a cyclist’s riding ability and reactions are very important on the road!

  5. There also appeared to be a bias against out of towners (the cyclist is not from the area). This is not the case. The situation with this being a juvenile defendant makes it look worse than it is.

  6. Both Kelly and Spencer will be at the hearing.

  7. After the results are on the public record, the media can talk about it.


Intentionally Aggressive Drivers

  1. It’s very difficult to prove intent to harm.


Other Questions

  1. The area is not perceived as cycling-friendly. We need to change this to fit with the area’s recreation destination status.

  2. Glee Willis — Does the court cite at the highest level/is there a hierarchy? The court determines what caused the accident and prosecutes based on that.

  3. Law enforcement is never around?

  4. Reports not taken seriously?


State law — Law enforcement issues the citations when a driver meets certain criteria. It’s the law that they have to determine when to cite an a certain way.


What Happens When a Cyclist Calls to Report an Accident?

  1. Reno dispatch sends offer on a priority basis, depending on what else is happening. Misdemeanor officer follows up in these cases.

  2. Cyclist can make a station report or do so on a computer system.

  3. Cyclist can sign their own citation and go to court.

  4. Reno Chief says they get about 12 erratic driver reports per hour so they are very difficult to follow up on.


Phone/Call Center Information

  1. NHP — *NHP. Calls routed to the appropriate jurisdiction if it’s not in the NHP’s jurisdiction. Caller connected to a dispatcher.

  2. 911 — universal number, along with *NHP.

  3. 334-COPS — joint RPD and Washoe Sheriff dispatch center.

  4. 328-2001 and 328-3350 — use to call after the fact. Sheriffs complaint phone numbers.

  5. Reno Direct — call or online. This is a city of Reno system. 72 hours response time. Helps generate statistics / a pattern of incidents. Law enforcement uses the data to determine where they patrol.

  6. These numbers will be put on a flyer.


Info for Cyclists

  1. Wherever possible, get the license plate of the car and driver’s physical description. Can’t take action against the car or the car’s owner. Can only take action against the person driving the car.

  2. When you call, stay on the scene and wait for the officer to arrive.

  3. All of the calls, online reports, etc. are used to track repeat offenders, along with actual citation info. RPD and Sheriff use the same tracking system so data is shared between the two jurisdictions. NHP has the same kind of tracking system.

  4. Report license numbers! It can help to prove intent or a pattern of bad driving.

  5. 1.2 police/sheriff officers per 1000 people in the community. 1.5 NHP officers per 1000 people. We can help out! Be eyes and ears and report what you see.


How Much Lane are we Allowed? (Sgt. Mike Gross)

  1. Bikes are the same as cars.

  2. Be as near to the right as practicable.

  3. Can occupy the driving lane, same as a car, if you’re doing so in a safe manner. Driver must exercise due care when passing.

  4. Cannot ride more than two abreast. Aim for single file.

  5. When there’s a paved shoulder, use it. It’s not always legal but law enforcement prefers it.


The Law as it Pertains to Designated Bike Lanes

  1. Cars cannot use bike lanes as driving or turn lanes.

  2. Intended for bikes only.

  3. County and cities designate the lanes (through the planning process)

  4. Designated based on cyclist traffic levels and speed of auto traffic.

  5. Can’t cite the driver if their car is disabled and it’s parked in the bike lane.


Julia Ratti proposed Work Group Topics:

  1. Public education
  2. Change in statutes needed?
  3. Police discretion/training/presence
  4. Influence RTC process, help w/ advocacy
  5. Judical effort


Initiatives/Action Items

  1. Education — driver and cyclist education so everyone is on the same page. We can apply for grants for this, from a variety of sources.

  2. Statute changes — make the law more stringent when cyclists are hurt or killed.

  3. Internal police eduction

  4. Advocacy on law enforcement’s part? For example, participate when decisions are made about where bike lanes should be placed?

  5. Judicial education effort

  6. Will look at “bike friendly” cities and determine what efforts are most successful — bike route designations, education, etc.

  7. Look at LAB Bike Friendly City application and Safe Schools programs to get ideas about what works.

  8. Collect all the notes.

  9. Solicit volunteers for committees. Must act quickly. Legislative committees are meeting now. Dept Public Safety — recommendations for legislative action are due on 2/28.

  10. Schedule another meeting — Terry is the point of contact for the public. Contacts will be appointed at each agency. Laura Bayer to help coordinate on law enforcement’s end.



  1. Bike safety booklets/rules of the road. It’s being updated.

  2. This is a group effort! Everyone must help going forward!

  3. NV Bike Coaltion blog —