By NATALIE SHEPHERD
Published: December 3, 2009
Brad Marcel doesn’t have a car.
Instead, the University of South Florida junior chooses to ride his bike wherever he needs to go. He tries to ride on side streets and through neighborhoods to avoid traffic, and he said that up until now it’s worked out pretty well.
“Cars can usually go around me just like they would another slow-moving vehicle; if there was a car going 20 miles an hour and you were going 25, you’d go around it,” he said.
He rides his bike 11 miles from his apartment on Fletcher Avenue to his job at a sandwich shop on South Howard Avenue in South Tampa three times a week. He was surprised last month when a Tampa police officer pulled him over on Bougainvillea Avenue during his commute.
Florida law stipulates bikers must ride to the right of the lane so as not to block traffic.
“When I told her that I knew the law, she asked me if I wanted a ticket for impeding traffic,” he recalled, “And I told her I wasn’t impeding traffic, so I really didn’t want a ticket for it.”
Marcel admits he was riding in the middle of the lane. He describes the street as narrow, and felt it was safer to ride where drivers could see him.
“In my personal opinion, I think it’s easier to get hit when you’re on the side of the road and people don’t see you,” he said.
And while the law requires bikers to stay to the right, it also makes exceptions in certain situations, including debris in the road, potholes and roads that aren’t wide enough for a bike and a car.
Marcel thinks that applies to his situation.
“Under certain circumstances, you can ride your bike where ever you feel safe in the lane, and one of the circumstances is if the road isn’t of optimum width,” Marcel said.
The officer disagreed and issued Marcel a $50 ticket. The Tampa Police Department says the road is wide enough for bikers to ride to the right.
“In this particular case, he was riding almost in the center of the lane, so there was plenty of room for him to stay to the right of the road,” said spokesperson Andrea Davis. “And for some reason he chose to put himself at risk and stay to the center of the lane.”
Three members of the Tampa Police Department met with members of Southwest Florida Bicycle United Dealers on Wednesday to discuss cyclists’ rights. Davis said the department plans on working with bike advocates to make sure officers are educated about bike laws. They also plan on working to increase public awareness about sharing the streets.
“It’s very important to us that we understand the bikers’ concern,” she said. “And that’s why we initiated this meeting.”
Marcel plans to fight the ticket he got last month.
“It’s low traffic, very narrow. I don’t feel bad riding in the middle of the road. I don’t really feel like I’m inconveniencing anybody,” he said.
His court date is set for Jan. 12th.