We have been following the Reed Bates’ case since pretty much the day the saga began. At the very outset, I called a couple of the people closely involved with Mr. Bates and offered the League’s help; it did appear that the charges were inappropriate, that Bates had a legal right to ride where he was riding, and that the jury that Bates chose to be heard by was incorrectly instructed by the first judge involved. On that basis, we would have been happy to help defend his right to ride on the road.
Our offer to assist was not accepted; instead, he and his advisers chose to assert that not only was Bates legally allowed to ride where he was riding, but that’s where he and everyone else should be riding, even in the presence of a perfectly rideable shoulder. That approach took the issue beyond a strict legal argument as to where one is legally allowed to ride to where one should ride, and a rural Texas courtroom may not be the best place to have that call made on our behalf. As the situation has developed, Bates (and the people advising him) has unfortunately chosen to follow a strategy that our board and legal advisers did not think was in the best interests of all cyclists – from the initial trial by jury preference to a failure to show up for court dates and hearings to the pursuit of a position that is simply not reasonable and could easily backfire.
We have remained in touch with the issue with local Dallas-area advocates, Bike Texas and our board of directors. It is instructive that none of us have chosen to get involved. I think we all regret that the way the case has been played by Bates and his advisers has precluded us from constructively intervening to help him and defend our collective rights to the road.
Andy Clarke was appointed to the position of Executive Director in April of 2004 after successfully leading efforts to create, interpret and implement the various transportation programs that are available to improve conditions for bicycling and walking as the League’s State and Local Advocacy Director. Before joining the League in February 2003, Clarke was on contract to provide technical assistance to the highly regarded Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center on site at the Federal Highway Administration. He is on the Board of Directors for America Bikes, and a member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals.