I got pulled over by the cops last night, NYPD Blue-style.
I’ve only been pulled over once – when I was sixteen. It’s funny, how it happened last night, because I thought I was getting out of the way so they could pursue the real criminal who had triggered those flashing lights and sirens. Oh – that would be me?
The irony of the event is entertaining. In traffic, I’ve been practicing my balance to occupy myself at signals. Inspired by bike messengers doing track stands while awaiting the green light, I see how long I can go without putting my feet down. If I roll ever so slowly, I can keep it up for quite awhile.
I was riding home from work, approaching one of the many 4-way stop intersections in my neighborhood. After the car in front of me went, I continued my glacial roll to the stop sign, stopped, saw no other cars in the intersection, and headed up the hill. I was marveling over the flawless engineering of the Vespa GTS – so perfectly designed that I could balance while barely moving! – when I saw the cop car racing up the hill behind me. Lights and sirens – the whole nine. It’s much louder when you’re not encapsulated in a car. So I pulled over to let them pass – and much to my surprise, they followed me.
I must have had a giant question mark on my face when the officer sauntered up alongside my scooter, because he asked, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” I shook my head. No idea. I briefly entertained the possibility that I knocked my license plate off while parking against the curb earlier.
“You neglected to stop at that stop sign,” he said.
“I stopped!” I protested.
“If you’d stopped, you would have put your feet down, right?”
I was about to enlighten him on the majesty of engineering that is the Vespa, when a trusty piece of advice loomed in my head: “know when to shut up.” I suspected this was one of those times – as ready as I was to argue the semantics of the word “stop” with the Seattle Police Department.
to come to a stand, as in a course or journey, to cease moving, proceeding; to pause; desist.
Now I dug through every inch of the Seattle and Washington State Municipal Code that I could find. (And it’s amazing to me how difficult it actually is to find our laws clearly published online.) There is not a single word about putting a foot down while riding a motorcycle. The only exception is the penalty for putting a foot down during the motorcycle skills test. See? They want you to be able to control your bike without putting a foot down.
If I bring my cycle to a standstill (throttle closed, brakes engaged) for two seconds before accelerating again, is that not a “complete stop”?
But lips firmly sealed (it was a struggle), I handed over my driver’s license. He requested my insurance card as well, clarifying, “It’s not required, but if you have one, I’d like to see it.”
“Of course, officer. I wouldn’t dream of riding without insurance.” Is my laminated Geico Full Coverage Insurance policy winning me brownie points? Or should I show a little more leg?
I smiled apologetically as he returned to his vehicle, ID in hand. Meanwhile, I chuckled to myself over the timing; right when I had been extolling my awesomeness for not needing to put my feet down, I was nabbed for not putting my feet down.
The Friendly Officer returned with my license and insurance card, and started drilling me on my social security number, last mailing address, birth date and other assorted details which I must have answered correctly. “We were a little confused by the photo on your license. It doesn’t look like you.”
What, a girl can’t dye her hair?
“I’m not going to write you a ticket. It would have been $200,” he told me. I gulped audibly. “Yes, exactly. We see a lot of these scooters on the road now, and it’s dangerous out there – cars don’t see you, and it’s slippery in the rain. We want everyone to be safe,” he said earnestly.
I believed him – I think he really meant it. They want everyone to be safe. And he’s right – a more thorough stop at an intersection, when warranted, can save your life. I thanked him cordially and continued on my way home.
At the next intersection – which is a known danger zone – a car drove right through stop sign without braking. He would have hit me, but I was ready for it and stopped quickly.
I glanced in my rearview mirror for a witness, but my Friendly Officer was nowhere to be found. He would have been proud – I put my feet down that time.
[Featured Photo Credit: Seattle Times]