Tall Bike Has its Day in Court

Rock the Bike's Fossil Fool, builder and owner of the bizarre tall bike/sound system/mobile art project/Burning Man homing beacon that can be seen rolling around SF, was recently taken to court over the bike.  Apparently the fine state of California's Vehicle Code makes tall bikes illegal, as a rider of a bicycle must be able to stop safely while upright with “at least one foot on the ground.”  So to get around the law, FF built two stabilizing bars (called “roots,” because the bike is named “El Arbol”.  GET IT???) that can be deployed with a pull of a lever from the top of the bike, thus preventing the inevitable tipping-over that happens when stopping a tall-bike in traffic.

Of course, the safety measures were not good enough for SFPD.  FF explains:

Even though San Francisco is a pretty liberal city when it comes to enforcement of bicycle related offenses, I did get pulled over at Critical Mass when I drifted to the back of the group, where the motorcycle cops ride. I deployed the roots, climbed down and talked to the officer, pointing out the safety features, how I am able to keep both hands on the handlebars, how wide the roots are, etc. He thought that the rig was illegal due to its height, but couldn't recall the tall bike statute by heart and wrote me up for no front headlight instead. I thought that was odd considering how bright the Down Low Glow was shining, but he had to pick something, i guess.


Fool paid that ticket and kept on pedaling, but the same officer apparently obsessed a little too much over the bike:

So I was riding El Arbol to [the Fix Fell] protest. I was rounding the corner at Dolores Park when the I saw the same officer talking to a couple other motorcycle cops on a break. He smiled and gave me a hand motion to come over, and I think he said “I have something to show you.” It was unclear whether I was getting pulled over, and I was running late for the protest, so I gave him a shrug and kept riding. I guess in retrospect it was pretty obvious what was going to happen next. He caught up to me on Church St. and pulled me over. This time he had researched the tall bike law and cited me for it. My arguments ranged from “C'mon man, I'm not hurting anyone” to nitpicky.

So FF, feeling his ride was perfectly safe, took his ticket, rode the bike to court with some pictures and sketches of the bike.  The judge looked the bike over, asked him about how one gets on and off the bike, and simply dismissed the charges, noting that the bike and it's deployable roots were “novel.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how to beat California's tall bike law.

(Read the whole thing and see lots of construction shots of El Arbol over at Rock the Bike)

Comments (10)

“And I was running late for the protest” is one of those “only in San Francisco things”.

Tall, 2-wheeled and handsome.

Your solution of keeping the bike from tipping over by extending these “training wheels” may keep your bike from tipping over and keeping it just within the specifics and intent of the law, but if I were riding in Critical Mass and the deployment of your legs caused me to run into them, fall and suffer an injury, I assure you that my attorneys and I will see to it that I take possession of every piece of property and wages that you make for the remainder of your life and a few generations beyond.

As if.

Wow, buddy, you need to lay off the anger pills.

The cop resembles Meatloaf.   Most of us electric bike enthusiasts ride standard bikes during events like critical mass.  While it would be a nightmare if the “legs” were deployed in front of you during a ride, the article states Fossil Fool stayed to the rear of the procession precisely so that no other bikers would be in danger from the deployed legs.  Basically the only ones behind him were the motorcycle cops.

What I hate about those extra-tall bikes is that it’s so hard to see around them when you’re in traffic behind them and when they back up they run over things because they can’t even see behind themselves OH WAIT THOSE ARE SUVs AND THIS IS A BIKE AND what a waste of police time when there are certainly red-light runners right there…

Never EVER let go of the unique opportunities to educate the court. Fight EVERY traffic citation.

That link was annoying. Just because you (the author of the article) are too ignorant to figure out how to mount and dismount a tallbike does not mean that every person who rides one can’t either. Tallbikes are safe because they are easily seen, and you can see further ahead in traffic. This allows you to plan your stops accordingly and slow down and dismount, or find something to lean against like a street sign while waiting for a light to change. Or you can do what most lazy tallbikers do and slow down when approaching a light and time it so it turns green as you get to the intersection.

Tallbikes actually go back to the 1890’s before streetlamps were electric and they had to be lit by hand. This was accomplished on a “lamplighter” bike, a purpose built tallbike. They were used in circuses and advertising as well. The the 60’s when car and motorcycle customizing got big, so did bicycle customizing, and along with bicycle choppers people started building homemade tallbikes. Now with DIY becoming popular, tallbikes are experiencing yet another resurgence, and just like fixed gear bikes, the ignorant are calling them dangerous, simply because they don’t know how to ride or stop one.

that looks like officer simpson, a cop who is notorious for citing cyclists.