Detroit cyclist gets a ticket and possible child endangerment charges

Here’s sort of an odd one that appeared in my inbox courtesy of Ann Rappaport:

On September 2nd, Sean Harrington biked to the Detroit RiverWalk with his twin sons in a bike trailer. On the way home, he took the sidewalk north on Park Avenue, which is a one way side street heading south.

When pedestrians and construction scaffolding blocked the sidewalk, he rode on the road for about four car lengths.

That was apparently too much for Detroit Police who issued Harrington a $110 ticket and now may face charges of child endangerment.

Read the full article and commentary by visiting the M-Bike page.

On its surface, this one seems like a “geezus, don’t the cops have anything better to do?” kind of story, but I want to throw a few points out for discussion. First, many cyclists understand that in order to be taken seriously as legitimate road users, we must abide by the various vehicle laws on the books and ride according to those laws. Second, just as many of us cry foul when we see motorists breaking assorted laws…meanwhile, we’re running stop signs and blowing through red lights without a care in the world. Third, many of the vehicle laws are tough to apply evenly between bikes and motor vehicles, giving rise to such flexible rules such as the “Idaho stop“. Frankly, some of the laws on the books can inconvenience cyclists…when the shortest and safest route between two points means going the wrong way on a one-way street, can we just do it? Sometimes, even with our increased maneuverability on two wheels, just because we CAN doesn’t mean we SHOULD.

The pending case in Detroit is a bit over-the-top in terms of charges, but perhaps the Detroit Police are trying to send a message: whether two wheels or four, you are a vehicle and are stuck with the same laws. That’s a tough message to ignore if we want to maintain our rights to the road. Your thoughts, as always, are greatly appreciated. Hit us up in the comment box and tell us what you think.


  1. Steve A

    I’m not sure the ticket was for the appropriate offense, but operating a vehicle the wrong way on a one- way street is and SHOULD be illegal anyplace I know. Throw the book at the guy and issue him a $10 ticket, which would be about right compared to the $42 ticket they issued to that motorist that drove off a road and killed a cyclist on the shoulder in Seattle.

    Seriously, it is past time to reform and take seriously the laws regarding crimes committed by cyclists, such as this, AND crimes committed against cyclists and other non motorized road users.

  2. Brian Ogilvie

    If it was legal for him to be cycling on the sidewalk in the first place, as it is in some municipalities, I could support him on the grounds that the scaffolding was an unexpected obstacle, and that this was a de minimis offense.

    If Detroit prohibits cyclists from using the sidewalk in that particular place, then he should have chosen another route.

  3. Dan

    It is likely that the child endangerment charge will be dropped. However, I think the riding the wrong way on a one way charge should be prosecuted.

  4. Mike

    BS. He posed no danger to himself or others. That should be the only consideration.

  5. Scott

    Agreed with charges. I’m so sick of cyclists on sidewalks and one way streets I could puke. I’m even more sick of negligent parents. I trailered my kids for years – wonderful fun – but had them get out whenever there were hazards such as this.

    I just wish our city took it so seriously.

  6. Ghost Rider

    I cringe when I see cyclists doing things they shouldn’t — especially blowing lights at busyish intersections, riding at night without lights/reflectors and doing the wrong-way thing. But I do find the “child endangerment” part of the above story quite excessive.

    Remember that riding on the sidewalk, although ill-advised, is legal in many municipalities.

  7. bryantp

    Look – endangerment is only called for if you give the same ticket to speeding motorists with children in their car or those speeding through neighborhoods but…

    “Salmoning” is dangerous to everyone, including other bikers. For that, he deserves some serious hassle. Sorry but no excuse.

    Also, saying that because some car drivers get off easy, all bike riders should as well is irrational. Spend your energy prosecuting the vehicle drivers who injure bikers. If they get off in criminal court, sue them into bankruptcy…if the biker is following the law. Not seeing the biker isn’t an excuse. It’s not an excuse when you run into another car or pedestrian.

  8. dukiebiddle

    bryantp – it’s my understanding that the modal share of the road he salmoned on is something like 7 vehicles an hour with a 25 mph speed limit, and he was likely hugging the curb. I agree that I support ticketing him for the road infraction, but the child endangerment charge is outrageous, as there was no genuine danger. It is one thing to support equality in the law; but it is another thing entirely to myopically demand a pedantic interpretation of equality when the safety considerations between motor vehicles and bicycles are fundamentally incomparable.

  9. Ghost Rider

    ” It is one thing to support equality in the law; but it is another thing entirely to myopically demand a pedantic interpretation of equality when the safety considerations between motor vehicles and bicycles are fundamentally incomparable.”

    Bravo — well said!

    @BryantP, who said that about car drivers getting off easy? Anecdotally, it IS common for motorists getting a slap on the wrist (or even less) for tangling with bicyclists. We joke in Florida that hitting a cyclist with a car is the only legalized form of murder in the state (grim humor for a state plagued with one of the highest cyclist death-rates in the nation).

  10. Scott

    I’m thinking the child endangerment charges might be excessive. but let the parent sweat a bit, and let other parents take note.

  11. Karen

    Regardesll of whether one is traveling w/a kids or not, biking against traffic, for any lenght of time is stupid and dangerous. We wouldn’t tolerate this of a car driver so we shouldn’t expect this for a cyclist. As a general rule I stay off the sidewalk but there are locations where I live where cyclists are advised to move to the sidewalk. In those cases I also travel the direction of traffic. Some trips don’t allow any other choice than to use an indirect route. We all see bike lanes and sidewalks that are obstructed by construction materials so if your desired route cannot acommodate for that possibility then you should select a different route.

  12. GT

    Why did he pick this route to begin with? Going into the street against the flow of traffic was wrong. He had other options, we always do. He could have walked the bike those 4 car lengths & probably avoided the ticket all together. He could have turned around. Not starting down a one way street against traffic even on the sidewalk would have even better.

  13. PhilGE

    Makes me think about my own routes and shortcuts that are not always on the up and up. Good food for thought. Thanks for posting.

  14. NickNasty

    Kids are property of their parents until 18; you should be able to endanger them all you want…
    I can see the cops issuing this actually.
    Where do you draw the line? Is it okay to teach your kids to jaywalk and run with across the road your children?

    I think the road not being busy is a flimsy argument. It only takes one car to kill a child.

    The ticket for going against traffic should stand without question. If it had been a motorcycle traveling the same speed as the bicycle against traffic, the ticket would not be in contest and would probably carry a heftier penalty.

  15. NickNasty

    Oh man! How did that horrible, grammatically incorrect sentence make it through my proofread?

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