The participants and spectators were conducted into the courtroom shortly after 6PM, with the judge entering shortly afterwards. There were 12 candidate jurors to fill out the jury of six. The jurors were questioned to ensure none of them knew the defendant or any of the officers. No objections were made to the six selected and no particular motions about the trial were made by either prosecution or defense, nor did either party object to combining the three cases at hand. They were instructed that the prosecution needed to show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and they were duly sworn in. The prosecution indicated they had four witnesses, and the defense indicated he had an expert witness. The witnesses were sworn in and left the courtroom except when each was later testifying. The defendant was charged with three counts of violating Texas Transportation Code Sec. 545.363. MINIMUM SPEED REGULATIONS. (a) An operator may not drive so slowly as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.
STEVE'S NOTE - To the best of my knowledge, the only observers were myself and the Ennis Police Chief. The courtroom was also the City Council Chamber.
The prosecutor stated that the defendant was guilty of impeding traffic; creating a hazard to himself and others that compelled police action. The defendant thanked everyone for coming and stated that he was riding safely and legally in accordance with law.
OFFICER WATSON TESTIFIES FOR THE PROSECUTION
Officer Watson testified as the arresting officer in the first and third count. In the case of the first count, a dashcam video without sound was shown. Officer Watson testified that he observed the defendant riding his bike in the right lane of Business 287 well before the traffic stop. He further testified that he felt it necessary to make contact with the defendant when a shoulder appeared, at which point, impedance had occurred.
The defendant questioned Officer Watson extensively, and Officer Watson indicated he had little familiarity with bicycle law or bicycling. He estimated that the defendant was travelling 5-8mph at the time of the stop.
STEVE'S NOTE - I was surprised to hear the officer quote from an obsolete version of the law prior to the 14 foot narrow lane exception. The defendant had him read from the current version and the officer indicated the two did not match. The defendant appeared to me to be very surprised to hear the officer claim that impedance occurred when the shoulder appreared and he did not take it, and attempted to get the officer to admit that the law does not require shoulder use by a cyclist. The jury was left to their own devices by the judge as to what to make of all this. BTW, the defendant was going roughly 12-15mph before the stop in my own estimation. He definitely was NOT proceeding at 5-8mph.
Then Officer Watson testified about the third count. Another dashcam video was shown. In the second video, it was raining and it was difficult to see what was actually going on before the cyclists pulled over, other than an 18 wheeler passed him. In this case, Officer Watson indicated that the defendant needed to be taken to jail to keep him from reoffending.
The defendant continued the line of questioning on the third count. The officer repeatedly stated he had little familiarity with cycling but that the defendant was creating a hazard.
STEVE'S NOTE - I felt the judge and jury were starting to get impatient after the discussion about the first count. It was difficult to see the cyclist in the video and I completely failed to notice a pickup with flashers I was told was in the video. Also, upon recollection, I grow foggy as to whether the rain and 18 wheeler were in the second video that Officer Watson testified about or in the third video (second count) that Officer Hudson testified about below. Either way, both the second and third count were on the higher speed portion of Highway 287.
OFFICER HUDSON TESTIFIES FOR THE PROSECUTION
After the conclusion of Officer Watson's testimony, Officer Hudson testified about the second count. In it, he indicated they'd received calls and that he saw the defendant as he departed Ennis, bound for Waxahachie. The stop was made on his return from Waxahachie. In the dashcam video shown to the jury, the defendant is suffering from cramps after he pulled over and Officer Hudson is clearly concerned.
In questioning, Officer Hudson expressed his concern for the defendant's safety and indicated he had a friend that cycled on the highway but on the shoulder. Officer Hudson also indicated he didn't deal with cyclist law or cycling citations other than infrequently.
After the close of questioning of Officer Hudson, the prosecutor requested release of Sgt Pillow as a witness and she was excused. At this point, the prosecution rested.
STEVE'S NOTE - I felt that the sympathetic nature of Officer Hudson badly hurt the defense and greatly enhanced his credibility. It further hurt, since he was the final witness for the prosecution.
With respect to the "swerving," I saw no swerving in any of the three dashcam videos. I did see one SUV hit his brakes before changing lanes to pass the defendant in the first video. The place where the brake application took place was prior to the appearance of the shoulder in a 30mph zone and was not mentioned as a contributory factor to the stop by Officer Watson.
DEFENSE VIDEO SHOWN
The defendant asked to show the Keri Caffrey highway riding video. The prosecutor objected to admitting a video made outside Texas. After some discussion, the defendant was allowed to show part of the video, and the jury was instructed that the video represented how another jurisdiction viewed things, and that they could consider and weigh it in that light. The portion of the video was that where the cyclist was passed while riding in the lane. The shoulder riding portion of the video was not shown.
Defense Video, Shot by CommuteOrlando. The Shoulder Riding Portion was not Shown at Trial
STEVE'S NOTE - I was shocked at how different the video looked in the courtroom than when viewed online on a computer monitor. The cyclist looked like a tiny speck and was difficult to see when viewed from the windshield perspective. I suspect the jury mostly wondered why this was going on and probably did not consider it in any way. It was clear by this point that any mention of any jurisdiction outside Texas would be met with vigorous objections by the prosecutor and that his objections would likely be upheld.
Reed Bates reviewed why he felt he was riding in accordance with Texas law and why riding in the lane was the safest way to operate. He reviewed the applicable statutes that entitled him to do so.
Upon questioning by the prosecutor, the prosecutor appeared surprised to hear that Reed had never been cited for any cycling offense prior to these Ennis cases.
The Defendant, Reed Bates, and also the Defense Counsel
The prosecutor stated that the citations were made because the defendant was impeding traffic and endangering himself and others. The defendant stated he was riding safely and legally.
CASE GOES TO THE JURY
The judge instructed the jury that they were there to answer the question of whether the defendant committed the following offense:
An operator of a bicycle commits the offense of FAILURE TO OBEY MINIMUM
SPEED REGULATIONS (IMPEDING TRAFFIC) if the operator of a bicycle drives so slowly
on a public road as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.
He also instructed them that, if they found the defendant guilty, that they were to assess the fine, not to exceed $200. The jury went to the jury room shortly after 8PM.
VERDICT AND WRAPUP
Another Slow Moving Vehicle, from Wikipedia
STEVE'S NOTE - In various forums and such, I have seen assertions about the conditions and such of the trial. I feel it is somewhat misleading to claim that Reed did not assert that slow vehicles should have a right to the road by virtue of the law. He did, but it was one of many claims made by the defense and may have been missed by the jury. It is also misleading to talk about the width of the improved shoulder or road as a factor. No witness for the prosecution claimed any particular width for the shoulder, nor that any particular width or condition made the failure to use the shoulder a criminal offense. The only assertion about road width came during defense questioning of Officer Watson, who declined to estimate the lane width in the first traffic stop. He did admit, however, that he would not argue with an estimate that the lane width was less than 14 feet. In my estimation, the right-hand traffic lane in each stop was roughly 12 feet. I do know that Mr Bates states he has since requested an official lane width in each count from the Ennis City Engineer. I do not have a copy of that document, but have no reason to believe it indicates that any of the lanes were 14 feet or wider.
On the day of the trial, I drove Highway 287 from Waxahachie to Ennis. I drove the speed limit. During that fourteen mile distance, I passed two cars and was passed by eleven motor vehicles. For most of the distance, the shoulder was typical of such a rural highway, with a moderate amount of debris, and an occasional left turn, driveway, or motor vehicle stopped on the shoulder. Sight distance along the road was uniformly excellent, and the speed limit was 65mph for most of the distance. When I exited to drive to the Ennis Municipal Building, the speed limit dropped as I drove along Business 287. I did not keep track of passing statistics while in Ennis, nor note exactly where and how the speed limit dropped. At that point, I was looking for Reed, noting the library which represents his current source of Internet access, and a few cycling scofflaws riding against traffic and shooting off sidewalks.
UPDATE on Tuesday
No, there was no court reporter. There was a court clerk, but she was not busily typing away. My presumption at the time that everything was being recorded turned out not to be true. Unfortunately, my iPhone batteries were lower than optimal so I elected not to try to record things. Besides, I had no dispensation to do so.
From items I read on various forums and such:
In all three of the traffic cam videos, the defendant was riding more or less in the center of the lane. Despite Reed's claims, he was NOT riding towards the left side of the lane. Not that it would have been relevant to the charge in court, regardless of where in the lane he'd been riding. Also, I read in more than one place that he received several warnings prior to his first citation. I do NOT believe that is correct, and no witness so claimed, though I also believe it would not have mattered much. Reed is determined to ride in the way he feels is safe and legal, regardless of what might be popular. In other situations, I HAVE observed him, for example, ride in a bike lane (I really wish I'd taken a photo!). I have also heard claims about the volume of 911 calls. Reed indicated to me that he requested the 911 logs and has not received them. While I don't doubt that 911 calls about him were made, it would be presumptuous, in the absence of any actual evidence, to conclude whether there were one, two, or a thousand 911 calls made, nor to presume what the 911 dispatcher(s) might have told any callers about the rights of cyclists to ride in the roadway rather than the shoulder. Certainly I heard no specific claims about 911 calls during the trial and even the passing references do not stand out at all in my memory.
STEVE'S NOTE - There are two practical roads to ride between Waxahachie and Ennis. One is Highway 287. The other is Farm-to-Market Road 879. The first is mostly a divided four lane road with a 65mph speed limit, excellent sight lines, and pretty smooth pavement. The second is mostly a rough two lane road (leading to "ChipSeal's" moniker) with a 55mph speed limit, sharp corners, and double yellow "no passing" lines. The first has the shoulder which, in my personal opinion, is what led to the citations. The second has no shoulder. Use Google Maps for "ennis, tx" and then go to street view. Not having ridden the roads myself, I can't say which my own preferred route would be, but the choices ARE few and none of them are without their own particular problems. If there is a third practical choice, please so indicate in the comments. I have NOT driven down FM 879, though I HAVE driven down FM 1722 and Hwy 287.