Ignorance of the Law is no Excuse

This past week was the Kansas City Corporate Challenge Swim Meet from Monday-Thursday at the Gladstone Natatorium. Since I am my company’s swim meet coordinator, I was there every evening from 5 p.m. to end. Since the Natatorium is only 5.5 miles from home, I rode my bicycle there each evening.

Motor vehicle drivers react to cyclists differently. Most of them are tolerant; a few even give a thumbs up or say something positive. But the most common interaction, when someone does interact, is negative. It had been awhile until this week, but both Monday and Tuesday afternoons, while riding on Antioch north to the Natatorium, I had several people yell “sidewalk” or “get on the f***ing sidewalk” at me as they squealed on by.

Wednesday night no one said anything, but I saw a couple of Gladstone police officers standing at the corner of 69th street and Holmes as I pulled up to park at the community center. So before going in I walked over and had a talk. I mentioned that I had talked to officers in Kansas City and North Kansas City, and just wanted to confirm whether the regulations were the same in Gladstone. Then I told them about the people yelling at me to get on the sidewalk. Their reaction was: no, that would be against ordinance. You are correct to stay on the street, etc.

Thursday my trip up was uneventful, but on the way back down I had another “get on the f***ing sidewalk incident on Antioch. But this time the guy squealed up next to me, straddling the white line in a menacing manner as if to push me off the road, pacing me, blocking the traffic behind us both. This time, since he was still there, I yelled back “The police say I’m supposed to be on the street.”

I’m not sure if he heard me. The window on the truck was up. And I couldn’t get his plate number — the light for it was out. So when I spotted a Gladstone police car another block or two down the street, I pulled into the parking lot just north of KFC where the officers were.

The officers greeted me pleasantly and asked how my evening was, to which I described my recent encounter. They asked if I could identify the vehicle, to which I admitted I’d tried but I couldn’t see the plate. The one officer, who serves on their bike patrol at times, agreed I was where I needed to be, and that if he had seen what the guy did we would have written him a hole bunch of tickets for the infractions done.

I then got to hear his stories about being a bike patrol officer, with a cycle that said police on the side, and signage on the back, and still have people do things to him like they had done to me. Sometimes people are so close their windows almost hit his handle bars.

I share this to show the number of drivers who feel inconvenienced by cyclists, and don’t realize the cyclists have rights to right-of-way on streets. The police officers mentioned they aren’t likely to come down on a cyclist on the sidewalk, as long as they yield to pedestrians. It is, after all, a safety issue.

I mention this to also say how pleased I was by the conversations I had with the Gladstone police officers. All four of them, the two from Wednesday, and the two from Thursday, were pleasant, helpful, and competent. It is a sad fact that, like on Thursday, unless they are right there at the right moment, there is often little they can do, but they are committed to trying.

I spent evenings the past week enjoying the hospitality of the Gladstone Community Center. For several years they have hosted the KCCC Swim Meet, and I hope we are allowed to come  back for many more years. The center is a shining gem for Gladstone. And now I have experience with Gladstones police officers, and my appreciation for this city surrounded by Kansas City has only increased.

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