Two professional Boulder cyclists were ticketed for riding more than two-abreast before the Boulder officer called them early the next morning and admitted she had misinterpreted the law.
Nicole Duke and her boyfriend Ben Berden -- both professional cyclists -- were riding along Iris Avenue on Tuesday at around 4 p.m. She said she was riding in front with Berden just behind and to the side of her, and that both were riding in the bike lane. But as they were turning on Folsom Street, a Boulder police squad car pulled them over.
Duke said the officer, Kathleen O'Toole, appeared to be very agitated at the two riders.
"She immediately got out of the car and was irritated already," Duke said. "She said we were violating 'single-file law' and that she was 'sick of pulling people over for this, somebody has to get a ticket.'"
But the law in Boulder allows for up to two people to be riding abreast of each other as long as they are not impeding traffic. Duke said she knew this, but initially thought that there may have been a sign in that area specifically prohibiting riding two abreast and didn't protest the ticket -- which actually cited the statute disallowing riding more than two abreast.
"I just kind of wanted to smooth it over," Duke said.
But after Duke posted a photo of Berden at the traffic stop and described the situation, friends started weighing in and Duke realized O'Toole was mistaken. She sent O'Toole an email and sure enough, O'Toole called them back to say the ticket was a mistake.
The problem with the call, according to Duke, is that O'Toole made it at 1 a.m.
"To have that phone call at one in the morning, I don't know what she was doing but that was rude," Duke said. "She could have waited and called the next day. It was insult to injury."
In the call, Duke said O'Toole admitted she had read the statute wrong. In an additional email, O'Toole wrote, "I reviewed the statute with another officer and learned I misread the statute."
O'Toole told Duke and Berden that she would come by when she was back on duty to pick up and void the ticket. Boulder police spokeswoman Kim Kobel said officers can void tickets in the event they wrote a ticket in error, listed the wrong charge or made any other mistakes. Kobel said the officer does have to turn in the ticket to the records department for accountability purposes.
Kobel said she was not able to talk to O'Toole -- who is not scheduled to work until next week -- about the incident and did not know any specifics about the episode.
While Duke said she appreciated that O'Toole acknowledged the error, she said it wasn't as if she had a choice.
"It was great she admitted she was wrong, but she had to have, or we would have went to court and would have shown she was wrong," Duke said. "We ride every day, we know how to handle our bikes, and we weren't obstructing traffic whatsoever."
Duke added she was disappointed with how O'Toole treated her during the traffic stop, and said many of her other friends also have said they have had similar experiences.
"I'm irritated, because I've had so many incidents with police," she said. "They never come when you need them but they're always harassing you."
Duke said while she acknowledges there are some cyclists who ignore the rules of the road, she thinks cyclists in Boulder are unfairly targeted.
"I just wish that some of these police officers would get on a bike and ride in traffic and see what we have to deal with," Duke said.
"I understand they may be frustrated with some cyclists riding three or four abreast, but I'm harassed when I'm by myself on my bike. It's pretty disappointing, and it's a big frustration for the cyclists in our community."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or email@example.com.