In about a year Jackson police officers have pulled over around 150 cyclists for various violations.
They say they’re trying to keep bikers safe and not repeat what happened in 2014, when a young cyclist was killed at Millward and Pearl.
“The traffic enforcement for bicycles is a public safety thing,” Jackson police Lt. Roger Schultz said. “We are there to educate and have people voluntarily comply with the law, whether you’re walking down the sidewalk, driving a car or riding a bicycle.”
Several people were reminded of that ’14 tragedy on May 1, when a woman was hit and thrown several feet after running a red light at Cache and Broadway. But her injuries were minor.
“For whatever reason, some cyclists don’t feel they are required to stop at stop signs,” Schultz said. “There needs to be an educational effort on our part and our community’s part to get cyclists doing the right thing.”
Cyclists in Wyoming are required to follow the same laws as motorists.
That means that if you don’t want a ticket, your bicycle tires need to come to a complete stop.
One cyclist argues that it’s unnecessary.
“I would love to see us adopt the Idaho bike law,” Jackson resident and cyclist Sue Morgan said. “It reads that cyclists yield at stops. I think that makes tons of sense, and it has cut down on car-bike collisions.”
Morgan received a ticket in 2016 for “blasting through a stop sign” on her bicycle.
“Now I look for policemen,” Morgan said.
To keep the infraction off her driving record, Morgan attended traffic school. The ordeal ended up costing her nearly $200 between fines and traffic classes.
“I had to go to court to be awarded the privilege of going to traffic school,” Morgan said. “It certainly made me do some research and got me all fired up.”
At the time Morgan felt she was unfairly targeted and that police officers surely had more important criminals to catch.
“To add insult to injury a fellow who ran a stop sign in a car was only going to be charged $110,” Morgan wrote in a 2016 letter to the editor, “because he had his seat belt on.”
Jackson resident Scott Eren received a $135 ticket May 26 while he was biking home.
He was nabbed for the same thing — gliding through a stop sign — but Eren says he definitely made a full stop.
“The officer expressed concern about bikers and not wanting them to get injured and referenced that woman getting hit,” Eren said. “I feel like the statutes are vaguely written, and I’m worried about insurance repercussions.”
Eren plans to fight the ticket.
“I don’t think people who spend a lot of time on bikes think they need police officers in SUVs looking out for their safety, particularly at a four-way stop at midnight,” Eren said. (Disclosure: Eren works for Orijin Media, which is owned by Teton Media Works, the parent company of the News&Guide.)
But police say the potential ramifications are too great to ignore minor traffic violations.
“The negative consequences for violating the law and the potential of injury is so high that we think $135 is appropriate for a cyclist running a stop sign,” Schultz said. “I would rather have you hate me for giving you a stop sign ticket than have you hate me for not protecting you from yourself and your family hating me for not doing my job and you getting killed.”
Cpl. Jeromie Traphagan, who oversees Jackson’s bike patrol, said the department takes bicycle safety seriously because there’s such an influx of bicycle and motorist traffic in the summer.
“We don’t want to see anybody hurt,” Traphagan said. “On a daily basis, we make sure when we are out patrolling that we’re watching for vehicles and cyclists following the road rules.”
Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JHNGcourts.