Aug 4, 2009 - Bike Advocacy Thoughts    Comments Off on Disappointment Over Tennessee Safe Passing

Disappointment Over Tennessee Safe Passing

This morning, someone posted a link to the HBC list. It’s more or less an article, written by police officer Alex Teach, making a joke out of David Meek, a prominent bicyclist in Chattanooga who was run down by a truck.  What a horrible thing – a police officer, sworn to protect and serve, with an attitude of neglect towards one class of road users – the bicycle driver.  I always wondered why the police never wrote a ticket.  I wondered why the Grand Jury failed to press charges against the driver, but later found out it was because of testimony from the investigating officer.  I was confused why the justice system failed David until I read.

More recently, in Greeneville, TN, Jay Westbrook and a friend were riding along on a shoulder on the outside of a curve, and a Comcast truck swerved towards them, the passenger mirror hitting Jay, resulting in a helicopter ride to a trauma unit, a long stay in the hospital, and at least 8 weeks laying on his back in bed recovering.  No ticket was issued.

Upon reflecting on David Meek and Jay Westbrook accidents, then factoring in Officer Teach’s piece of work, and the consistent failure for our law enforcement and justice system to find fault, I realize the following: the Jeff Roth and Brian Brown Bicycle Protection Act of 2007 is either unenforceable, or police officers are untrained or apathetic towards protecting bicycle drivers.

Shannon Hornsby and I, shortly after the law was passed and went into effect, developed the website, posters and campaign to educate bicycle and motor vehicle drivers of the law.  Sharp Emmons developed the logo.  Ivan Kansky developed the poster and background for the site.  We were so happy that we finally had a law that protected bicyclists.  But we understood that it would probably only be part of a incident where a bicycle driver was swiped by a motor vehicle.  Man were we wrong.  And I sit disappointed.

  • I call to have the safe passing law revoked and for bicycle drivers to be treated like motor vehicle drivers. 
  • I call Tennesseeans to educate and become educated, that bicycle drivers are allowed and belong on the road. 
  • I call for motor vehicle drivers to expect bicycle traffic. 
  • I call for survivors of those killed, or those who survived their encounter with a motor vehicle while driving their bicycles to seek justice, either through criminal law or through civil law. 
  • I call for bicycle drivers to ride defensively and courteously. 
  • I call for bicycle drivers to continue to ride on roads that they’re legally allowed to ride on.
  • I call for police officers and local governments to enforce laws equally between bicycles and motor vehicles.
  • I call for Tennessee to declare in law that bicycles are valid users of the roadway and should be treated as such.
  • I call for Alex Teach to be assigned to Chattanooga Bike Patrol, or teach bicycle safety and law for the remainder of his career.

More information that should be of interest if you’ve made it this far.  Alex Teach’s response after realizing that his job as a police officer is in jeopardy.  He doesn’t seem to want to learn the error in his ways.

John Baker, a contributor to NTMBA, shared this letter with me after writing a letter about the failure of the justice system to respond to the Jay Westbrook incident:

Finally, on August 8, a group of concerned bicyclists (including myself) from across the state is convening in Nashville to form a statewide advocacy organization for walking and biking.  This will hopefully be a catalyst to bring positive change in the environment we’re currently dealing with.  I’m sure we’ll be talking to Kendell Poole and Mike Browning from TDOS about his suggestions to John Baker.

PS – I hope you didn’t stumble upon my website after I was run over by a motor vehicle driver while I was legally driving my bicycle.

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