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Shootout riders could be ticketed Saturday

The section of Mission Road between Valencia and San Xavier Road is the most likely areas for ticketing.

Cyclists riding the shootout Saturday morning may finish their ride with traffic citations in their jersey pockets.

Tohono O’Odham police warned riders last week that they would begin citing cyclists who were riding more than two abreast this weekend.

The Tohono O’Odham public information officer said he could not speak to the media, but referred me to the O’Odham’s overall public information officer, Matt Smith.

Smith said on both Wednesday and Thursday that he had left a message with the police department, but hadn’t heard back and couldn’t comment.

Erik Ryberg, a local attorney who represents cyclists, said if the Tohono O’Odham police cite riders for riding more than two abreast, there isn’t much cyclists can do.

Ryberg said the argument could be made that because the road is too narrow for a car to safely pass two riders without going into the the second lane, then the group has the right to take the lane. Ryberg said he thought that argument would likely fail in court.

Mission Road is owned by Pima County, but Tohono O’Odham police can issue citations.

According to the Pima County Attorney’s office, a non-tribal member who receives a ticket from the Tohono O’Odham police on tribal land will go through the Pima County Justice Court. Because the cyclists would go through Pima County’s court system the bike diversion would be an option rather than paying the fine.

Ralph Phillips, the owner of Fairwheel Bikes — the bike shop associated with the ride — said it actually makes more sense and is easier for cars to pass the group when they are bunched up.

Because the group rides more than two abreast, a motorist would have to be in the opposite lane for a shorter period of time.

Ryberg said the argument makes sense, but it always comes down to the judge.

“I don’t know that that is going to matter to a judge,” Ryberg said. “A judge is going to be be like, ‘what were you thinking? Why don’t you ride two abreast and leave spaces so a car can pass?'”

Phillips said he hoped it wouldn’t come down to police citing the group.

“Before people start handing out tickets, we ought to sit down and talk,” Phillips said. “They can do that if they want, but it is not going to build any goodwill or good relationships between either of us.”

Ryberg said cyclists need to work with the authorities to come to some sort of agreement.

“I don’t think the shootout has a lot of options here,” Ryberg said. “I think they are going to have to compromise. Because what they are doing is technically illegal, they need to find way to get the local authorities to look the other way. The only way that is going to happen is if they are a little more courteous and they are a little bit more careful to permit cars to pass them.”

Phillips suggested they hire a motorcycle officer to provide traffic control each weekend, but that hasn’t happened.

Pima County’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, Matt Zoll, said there is some work being done to add paved safety shoulders to portions of Mission Road, which might help alleviate some of the motorists concerns.

Phillips said they chose the route and the time to try to make the ride as small as a nuisance for the residents in the area. He said the group also tries to be respectful.

“We try to have minimal confrontation with people out there,” Phillips said.  “We try to be polite to motorists, but sometimes they flip us off too. It goes both ways.”

Ryberg said he sees why the ride is so well attended.

I understand why these guys want to ride in this group and I think the shootout is something Tucson cyclists can be proud of,” Ryberg said. “It is a pretty impressive ride.”

He said he wasn’t sure what the ride could do, but suggested pursuit groups of 10-20 riders might be an option.

“As competition for the road increases with drivers and as the shootout grows, it is going to need to make some changes.”

14 comments
zz
zz

How many years has the shoot out been using that route and the haggling is like it started yesterday. I thought the BAC cleared all this up 2 or 3 years ago (Nudge nudge, wink wink). Officials need to take a stand and either OK the use, because we're a bicycle friendly and promoting region of gold standard or ban it outright. Giving everyone a ticket is a mousey and unintelligent approach to 'working this out'.

fat america
fat america

where im from, if the road is too narrow for both bicyclist and car, the bike has the right of way and is allowed to use the whole lane no matter the speed limit...and if cyclist come withing 5 mph of the posted speed limit, they are encouraged to take the center of lane for safety.

Dave Thompson
Dave Thompson

I used to ride the shootout weekly several years ago. The pack was sometimes so large that a couple of riders would spill over to the wrong side of the yellow line. A minivan passed us, and one of the riders on the wrong side of the line was absolutely irate about being passed. The minivan was traveling just slightly faster than the group, and the rider sped up and banged on the minivan's door. After that incident I decided the attitude of a minority of riders was creating dangerous situations for the entire group. If the group hasn't figured out a way to self-police these idiots out of the ride, riders will get hurt, and driver's animosity towards cyclists will only increase.

guest
guest

I'm a Sahuarita resident. I've been run off the road by "The Shootout" when I was riding my bicycle north on Mission Road. The Shootout riders were taking the entire road! I had to pull off to avoid a head-on collision with another bike. Yes, I think motorists need to be aware, but we as cyclists bear some responsibility as well. We have to be a little better than the cars.

Rcclark
Rcclark

Lots of relevant points here.. Riding bikes has turned into a social event. I take part in the widely controversial tuesday night bike ride myself.. I enjoy the ride for its wide range of bikes. There are few that egg on the mentality of "lets see how many cars we can piss off." I do not agree with that. However we have worked with the police that, for the most part turn a blind eye to the group unless it gets too out of control. control being how many 911 calls they get from motorists.

shmily_dana
shmily_dana

What if they had to pass a slower rider?

noah
noah

I wonder if Eric Ryberg (or anyone else) could explain something for me: if two people are riding two abreast, and a 3rd (and 4th, 5th...) person comes along so now there are 3 or more abreast, can the two closest the shoulder be ticketed as well? This whole thing seems very difficult to enforce because it will be nearly impossible for the ticketing officer to determine who is who in the pack when it is pulled over. One more thought: the Tohono officer last week seemed to be working under the (mistaken) impression that this was an official/organized/sanctioned/etc. ride and we are all in it together, and I was under the impression they would ticket *everyone* on the spot. I hope I'm wrong about that.

Frank Tellez
Frank Tellez

Why do people break the law then whine about getting in trouble like it's someone else's fault? I don't understand this about bike culture. :/ I see lots of stories like this on here.

miguel
miguel

Perhaps they should request an officer follows them as they ride 2 abreast and cites anyone who violates the 3 foot rule.

Scott
Scott

It's been a lot of years since I've ridden as a "roadie" and perhaps things have changed, but isn't every group primarily drafting in a single line except for those actively engaged in passing the group anyway? Primary line + one or more passing (also drafting in line) = two abreast. An unnecessarily wider frontal area than that just seems inefficient in spite of what the law requires, so are these guys training or are they chatting?

Scott
Scott

That's an interesting legal question. Like those towns that have an ordinance prohibiting more than one motorcycle parking in a metered space on the street. The first guy to park is obeying the law, but if someone else violates it by pulling into the same space after he's left they both get a ticket. Some folks have had success by demanding that the city prove - which they cannot - that they weren't the first one there. I suppose the shootout rider to the far right might have the same shot. But is it really that unacceptable to insist that riders pass the line only one deep at a time?

Scott
Scott

So how do you suppose the reaction here might differ if it were a car club that went out on Sunday mornings and polished their road-racing technique on public roads through some sleepy retirement community? Then complained if they got cited for the laws they were breaking? Queue everyone chiming in now to tell us how that's a totally different thing, and that bicycles are special, entitled, etc.

3wheeler
3wheeler

Frank, I agree w/ your position about abiding w/ laws on most issues except this one. The law says it's OK for a farmer to run his tractor on a street and block traffic. I don't see any difference between tractors or bicycles. The argument that the farmer is feeding the world and cyclists are just out having a good time is irrelevent because the tractor could be running down the road for a non-farming purpose and not get a ticket. I don't think there are enough groups of cyclists out there to cause this to be a significant problem. While driving I've been caught behind tractors, cattle, and bicyclists at one point or another and none have made me near as angry as being stuck behind a slow car.

Scott
Scott

The laws of most states require farm and/or construction vehicles follow "slow vehicle" restrictions not unlike those required of bicycles - particularly to keep as far to the right as practicable, travel in single file, and if multiple vehicles are stacking up behind due to lack of safe passing space, to pull over and let them safely pass. If multiple farm vehicles were running side by side willfully blocking the entire road you bet your ass they'd be cited, and rightly so. So yes I agree that there is no difference between tractors and bicycles in this regard. If the cyclists obey the law and practice consideration for other road users, then no objection, no ticket, no problem.