The Chainlink

car starts to weave into your lane, you knock/bang to get their attention... they are a cop...

I saw a car stoped askew and a bicyclist down when I got to Desplanes and Washington this morning. I recognized the cyclist as someone whom I had passed a bit further back on Milwaukee and who must have then passed me up again when I stopped to fidget with my chain. I was amazed to see a police office already there until I realized that the cyclist was in handcuffs. I didn't actually witness what happened but from hearing what the cyclist was saying and what the officer was telling dispatch on his cell phone and what a witness who did actually see some of this said something similar to the following must have occurred:

The officer was off duty, likely on his way home from work in his own civilian car.

the cyclist was riding in the bike lane on des planes.

The officer was weaving lanes a bit and driving a bit aggressively (according to the cyclist and the witness the officer said he was stopped and not moving to the on duty officer who arrived later but had indicated he was in motion when initially calling dispatch)

A witness showed up who said she saw the cop weaving as he drove and asked if she should stay to give her information the cop told her that he did not need her information and she could (/should) go. The cyclist said he did need her information and she should stay. This was a red flag that caused me to stick around. I got her number on two of my business cards and tried to give the cyclist one. The officer told me I could not give someone who was under arrest anything, I said its just a business card. He took the business card from me.  I told the cyclist I would post something to so he can locate me if he doesn't still have her info. in the hopes of making this searchable I'm putting his name in the Tags, but I do not know if I have the spelling correct.

The bicyclist says he saw the officer weave a bit into the bike lane and knocked or banged on the car to alert the officer to his presence, the degree of force used for this knock was of some discussion ('a light tap?' 'no, loud enough that he could hear me' - 'he banged on my car hard, for no reason I was stopped')

Clearly blood was running hot, voices were raised but everyone was civil enough.

The cyclist asked what he was under arrest for the officer cited 'reckless conduct' or something vague and could not cite a statute number. The cyclist said he is a  lawyer, threats of lawsuits for improper arrest/detainment were issued.

What a mess...

For what its worth:

I don't think any cyclist bangs on windows unprovoked. Your hand is worth more than the glass and is more breakable, that's pretty clear even when road rage of getting cut off runs high.

The cop probably was tired coming off a hard shift doing thankless work and did not have any patience left.

No damage was visible to the car or the cyclist.

I'm glad no one got hurt, but what are you supposed to do when a car cuts into the bike lane... and its an off duty cop!

If you are the cyclist, and you need the witnesses phone number, call me at: tree one too, cinco quarto tres, eighty seven, 41.

I wrote this up within an hour of what I saw, but I arrived too late to see the events leading up to the arrest and even now my memory grows fuzzy... I wish my gopro hadn't been out of batteries, or that the cyclist had had one. ugh.

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You probably already know this, but be prepared to have the Assistant Corporation Counsel make you an offer for a settlement agreement.  You probably already know this, too, but I will say this for the general public:  The City's description of the hearing process is here.  Note that the city only needs to introduce the violation as evidence.  It does not need to bring in the "complaining witness".

My docket is clear.  I would be happy to provide moral support...

WOW. "a cyclist suddenly appeared" is credible testimony from the off-duty cop? What a joke. 

But now that <snicker> "justice" has been done might it be possible for cyclists to chip in to pay the fine? James Liu took a stand for all of us. 

But now that <snicker> "justice" has been done might it be possible for cyclists to chip in to pay the fine? James Liu took a stand for all of us. 

Has anybody started a fund to do more than just pay the fine - to provide financial support to appeal the decision, and to provide support for a civil trial?


I'd chip in, if I could find where and how.  Has anybody started this?

I'd like to help out Mr. Liu as well. He was endangered, threatened, stopped, arrested and fined for something that probably everyone on this thread would agree was wrong, while the guilty party is further emboldened to act as if he is above the law. Apathy is the same as acceptance.

I'm so sorry to read the outcome. It worries me to hear that after having a witness and James see the off duty cop weaving in and out of the bike lane, the cop can just deny it happened. Cyclists don't knock on cars without cause i.e. fear for their safety. 

Here's the follow up article from DNA Info:

But the witness would have to come to the hearing...

Thinking about this more and more, I am considering what we can do as cyclists to protect ourselves and I came up with a few thoughts. I find James a credible cyclist but in court the judge decided in favor of the cop in a way that makes it clear that a cop's word holds more weight in the legal system. Right or wrong, that's the reality we are working with. So what do we do? Here are a few thoughts and questions:

1. Is having a lawyer represent you more effective than representing yourself?

2. Go Pro and video could help provide proof to back up the cyclist's story.

3. Having the witness in court. Would this have helped the case? 

4. James knocked on the car for his own safety. Why would he knock on the car otherwise? That makes more logical sense to me than saying the cop just wanted to get to work and therefore wasn't doing anything wrong. With that logic, drivers on their way to work should all be innocent of speeding, reckless driving, etc. when they deny doing anything wrong. Right? So, if knocking on a car can get us into trouble, what do we do here? Scream? Have a very loud horn? Immediate stop riding? It seems wrong that to make ourselves safe in the bike lane (especially from a cop), we need to change our behavior but what do we do to protect ourselves?

5. Infrastructure - Are protected bike lanes the answer?

6. The public's perception of cyclists needs improving. This comes into play with credibility, driver awareness, attitudes towards cyclists (just read the comments of the DNA Info article and you'll most likely feel queasy), and the clear need to humanize us so people care more about our safety. So if Active Trans wants to start a campaign like this, The Chainlink will FULLY support and promote it. We need a change. Now. Pittsburgh had these in their bus shelters and around town. This is what I'm talking about - humanizing cyclists as real people.

Part of the perception of cyclists is thinking of ourselves as ambassadors - stopping at red lights, giving motorists the right away when they have it, etc. I am NOT saying this is what happened with James. I am saying that we can't even talk about James in public without people saying all cyclists are "out of control". It sucks but it's true. 

Ok, those are my thoughts. Feel free to pick apart, disagree, provide suggestions, etc. Just need to think there are solutions we can find to address this. I don't want to lose good people like James to other cities. I really want Chicago to be THE great city for cyclists.

Definitely people's perceptions of cyclists needs to evolve, but I have seen a lot of evolution on that since the late 90s when I first commuted by bike. Back then it was way worse. People threw stuff, reached out to touch you, aimed their cars at you, and all that. There's much less of this now. 

I think what we need is to teach people what the law actually is. I'm sure the vast majority of people would change their behavior upon learning something new, and that just leaves us with the axxholes like this police fellow and his non police ilk; he did not care so much about the traffic laws. 

In my opinion video is the strongest ally we have. When you read in the news how the explosion of video evidence is changing the outcome in a variety of cases it is really astounding, and is forcing rapid cultural changes from the revelations video evidence provides. 

And, yes, we have to behave. I knock on cars all the time, and rarely see this level of response. I knock lightly, usually, knowing that the sound is amplified inside the car, and I keep in mind that the sudden noise will provoke a fight of flight response in the driver. But I'll tell you, the last time I knocked on a car panel the driver opened her window and apologized to me. I think a light tap is a reasonable action. I have pretty much eliminated road rage from my riding diet (see my post about that ;) ) so when I tap a car it's not in anger. And when I hit it harder it's in an emergency. I don't know any more effective way to get a drivers attention, no sound or light can have the same effect. 

Protected lanes are nice, but here we seem to have problems keeping them clean, and even city workers don't seem to understand that they are traffic lanes. For example, if the P.B.lane needs to be blocked for a graffiti blaster truck under a viaduct, safety cones need to be put in place far out enough to alert riders.  

I love the Pittsburgh ad campaign. These perceptions are changing but not fast enough.  Like it or not I think  we have to ride for more than ourselves. We represent in the minds of the general public. The more the general public sees us as a reflection of themselves or their neighbors or their parents or their kids...the safer the streets will become and the more law enforcement will be our ally rather than adversary. This is at odds with  my generally rebellious nature but I  will learn  to deal with it.

Yeah, it's incredible how the offduty cop gets to drive recklessly and have that dismissed as a "traffic situation," while a cyclist reacting to that dangerous situation is held accountable.

Two sets of standards, clearly.  Bad judge.  Remember to vote NO on this guy next time you're in the booth...

Unfortunately, I don't think he is elected?

Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)

This is the person who conducts the administrative hearing and decides whether a municipal code violation has occurred and, if so, what penalty should be imposed. The Department of Administrative Hearings contracts with approximately 74 Administrative Law Judges to conduct hearings in three hearing facilities located throughout the City of Chicago.  Administrative Law Judges are private attorneys who have been licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois for a minimum of 3 years.



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