After ticketing Fort Collins bicyclist, Larimer sheriff’s deputy under investigation for behavior

Posted: May 2, 2013 in local news, Police State
Tags: ,

May 1, 2013

A confrontation between a sheriff’s deputy and bicyclist in Fort Collins last month led to a $22 ticket for the rider and an internal investigation into the deputy’s behavior.

Douglas Baker, 57, was riding his bike north on Riverside Avenue by the Coloradoan’s office on March 26 when he was stopped by Larimer County Sheriff’s Cpl. Perry Malisani, who was coming up behind him. Malisani ticketed Baker for failing to move to the right as the deputy passed the cyclist.

But bicycle advocates note the ticket given to Baker cited a section of the law changed in 2009 following a series of confrontations betweencyclists and then-Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden. Alderden repeatedly told cyclists they needed to get out of the way of drivers.

The ticket given to Baker says he failed to move to the right when being overtaken. But the current law no longer requires that. Instead, it allows cyclists to ride where they feel safe in the lane. And it requires motorists to wait to pass if the road isn’t clear and to give cyclists a 3-foot berth.

“We all need to understand what the rules are, what the laws say. And the rules in this case are very clear,” said bicycling advocate and safety instructor Rick Price, who counseled Baker following the confrontation. “We’re not expected to ride in the gutter.”

Baker, a tech support agent, was riding home from work when a string of cars passed him on Riverside in an area that has two lanes in each direction and a central turning lane. The final vehicle, however, was Malisani’s marked patrol car.

“I was shocked and incredulous when he said … you have to stick to the right,” Baker said. “I explained to him that everyone else was able to move over.”

Unmoved, Malisani wrote Baker a ticket and the cyclist began riding off. That’s when he noticed the deputy’s patrol car approaching in his rearview mirror.

Malisani, Baker said, passed by him and his bike with inches to spare.

“I just rode off, but the shocking thing was when the officer then passed by me … he was about a foot, maybe nine inches away,” Baker said. “It’s unbelievably different when the car that’s stalking is you an officer who is supposed to serve and protect.

“It could have been an honest mistake, but I’m quite convinced he was making a point,” Baker said.

Baker filed a formal complaint with the sheriff’s office, whichconfirmed Malisani is under investigation for violating policy, but declined to comment further.

Baker hasn’t paid the $22 ticket yet. Instead, he’s planning to show up in court later this month, confident it will be dismissed. Both Malisani and Baker passed signs on Riverside alerting drivers that the right lane is considered a bike lane, and urging drivers “share the road” with riders.

Fort Collins police officers have received specific training on bike laws. Sheriff’s deputies have not.

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