Going on four year, staring in February 2016, the Paradise Valley Police Department has conducted targeted traffic enforcement on the cyclists traversing their community and it’s beyond ridiculous. Just this morning I rode with the Tri-Scottsdale Gainey group for the first time of the 2019 season, like I have since 2008, wondering if PVPD was still following the group around and literally hiding in bushes to find a violation. The answer a resounding YES. At four different locations cops, or the same cop, was tucked away watching the group at stop signs and intersections.
Why is this stupid. Coming from a guy that recently retired from Scottsdale PD after 20 years, having spend two year on a bicycle unit and then as an IPMBA-certified officer for the last 18 years of my career, I’ll tell you why it’s dumb.
First, from the information Tri-Scottsdale got from a meeting with PVPD, they put a task force together, using Federal funds meant to “enhance bicycle safety”, in response to a handful of complaints by one very old, very wealthy women that lives on a popular cycling route around Mummy Mountain. She often walks her dogs in the dark before dawn, in the roadway (since there are no sidewalks in this area of PV), against traffic, often on the inside of a blind corner, with no lights on and with her dogs usually drifting (on leash) into the middle of the roadway. Yes, she has almost been hit by us. Several times. I’m sure if a car was rounding the corner, she would almost be hit my it as well.
Next, let’s talk about the funding of the task force. My understanding is that it is from a NHSTA grant used to “enhance bicycle safety”. During my time with Scottsdale I was involved with writing these grant request. The grant reads, “funds can only be used to fund law enforcement activities related to bicycle and pedestrian safety, training for law enforcement professionals on bicycles and pedestrian laws, and public education and awareness campaigns to inform motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists about bicycle and pedestrian laws.” While it can be used to pay a cop’s salary or OT for enforcement, most departments don’t use it that way. It is normally used to put on classes at schools and for the public, train bicycle cops and generally do community out reach. At Scottsdale we never used it for targeted enforcement. Why? We were to busy actually dealing with criminals, running call to call and generally doing that whole “Serve and Protect” thing. Even if we wanted to pay cops to write ticket to cyclists, we didn’t have the bodies to do it. It would have been about 237 on the list of priorities.
We spent the money going to schools and public events for education, registering citizen’s bikes so if they were stolen we could find them, making new bicycle lanes and improving signage and finally, putting more cops on bikes to patrol our downtown bar district.
How about the necessity of such enforcement. Is there a problem? Are cyclists involved in a lot of accidents in PV? Probably, after all PV is crazy popular in the cycling community. The next questions that need to be asked are: why is the enforcement directed only at the cyclists? Why is it not directed at the vehicle commuters since, statically, the cars are usually at fault in bike vs car accidents? And why has it been directed at one group of riders and a specific day? Has the group been involved in a high number of accidents that would necessitate targeted enforcement?
I can tell you that in 11 years of riding with this group almost every Tuesday morning during the triathlon season, I cannot recall a single accident involving anyone from the group and a car or a pedestrian. We have had cyclists go down crashing into each other but no accidents involving anyone outside of the cycling group that I can remember. The only incident I can remember remotely related to the group was that about 5 years ago one of our rider, while riding to the meet-up location alone, hit a runner that was running in the bike lane, against traffic, who was dressed in black and wearing no lights. The cyclist actually killed the running and sustained very serious injuries of his own.
I’m just curious, would there be any outcry if the police, for four years, followed a group around town looking for a reason to write a ticket, if it was not cyclists?
This is definitely a First World Problem on so many levels. It also says a lot about the priorities of the PVPD. If you live in PV, the next time your home or business is broken into during one of those typical early morning burglaries and the response time of the PVPD is two or three hours, you should ask why.