If you get a ticket while riding, here’s how to wipe your record clean
By: Bob Mionske
Whether you’re in a car or on a bike, the flash of police lights behind you is never a good sign. A traffic ticket—yes, it’s possible to get one while cycling—can cost several hundred dollars or more, and it’s virtually guaranteed to raise your auto-insurance rates. Rack up enough tickets and you could lose your driver’s license. It can even put a damper on your job prospects should an employer want to see your driving record. And if you are involved in a collision and get ticketed for violating a traffic law, you will be the at-fault party in the eyes of the driver’s insurance company—even if that person was also responsible for the crash.
One way drivers can avoid most of those consequences is to attend traffic school. Complete the program, and your insurance rates and driving record will remain unaffected. That’s not a bad deal, especially if you are guilty as charged.
Cyclists haven’t had access to a similar option for long—but it’s starting to catch on. Since 2007, for example, riders in Portland, Oregon, who have been ticketed for certain violations can attend a two-hour class, pay a small fee, and have the ticket dismissed. These programs are also sprouting up in cities in California, including Alameda, Santa Cruz, and Huntington Beach, as well as at universities in Davis and San Luis Obispo. On the East Coast, there’s a traffic school for cyclists in Manhattan, but it’s open only to riders who have committed certain minor violations, such as sidewalk riding. Running a red light or riding against traffic will still land you in court. Participants must also complete a day of community service.
If your town does not have such a program, see if you can start one (see “Get Schooled,” left). After all, there’s no reason cyclists should face a greater consequence for a traffic violation than a driver ticketed for the same offense.
Want to start a ticket-forgiveness program for cyclists where you live? Here’s who to contact.
Your local advocacy group
It may already be working on developing a class. Offer to help out.
Seek the approval of the court responsible for handling traffic violations. Also get buy-in from the police department and others in local government.
Talk to advocates in cities that already have a bicycle traffic school to find out how they got started.
Research and assistance by Rick Bernardi, J.D.