Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Biking violations unpunished

Saw this news and my instant thought was, hahaha eat my dusts su***

Law meant to keep pedal-pushers in line turns out to be toothless

Boston police have yet to ticket a single bicyclist for running a red light or disrupting traffic since the launch of the Hubway bike-share program two weeks ago. But the reason may have little to do with lack of opportunity: Because of a loophole in a state law, the tickets wouldn’t be worth the paper they’re printed on.

A newly enacted provision called for police across the state to begin ticketing bikers $20 for civil motor vehicle violations starting last January. For the first time, police could use the same ticket book for motorists and bicyclists, with copies of every ticket going to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

But, as police, court administrators, and Registry officials became aware this spring, the law also inadvertently did away with punishments for bicyclists who fail to pay tickets.

Without any clear way to collect fines or punish those who ignore tickets, authorities have been left with a procedure reliant on the honor system. As a result, it appears that a number of police departments are choosing not to ticket bicyclists. Boston police, as of last week, had issued 60 warnings - but zero tickets - to bikers since the Hubway added 600 bikes to city streets.

Boston police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll acknowledged in an e-mail that the department was aware of the lack of teeth in the law.

“At this time, we will continue issuing warnings and taking the opportunity to increase awareness regarding the rules of the road,’’ she wrote. “Our main concern at this point is having the opportunity to educate bicyclists on traffic rules.’’

Across the river, Cambridge Sergeant Paul Timmins said his department, a leader in bike-law enforcement, has not issued a bike ticket since January.

“It’s just this one sentence in the law that’s causing this whole problem,’’ he said.

That “one sentence’’ can be found in Chapter 85, Section 11E of the Massachusetts General Laws. It starts innocuously by calling for police to ticket bicyclists as they would motorists.

The problem lies in the sentence’s concluding remark, which says that bike tickets “shall not affect the bicyclist’s license to operate a motor vehicle.’’

Keeping bicycle tickets and driver’s licenses separate makes sense on several levels - not every bicyclist drives a car, for instance. But the law, as worded, takes away the Registry’s only means to coerce bikers to pay civil tickets - by suspending or not renewing a driver’s license - without offering an alternative punishment.

Registry spokesman Richard Nangle did not say how the Registry will pursue delinquent fines without such authority.

more on this news

No comments:

Post a Comment