They’re sly, they’re sneaky, and they give out tickets like nobody’s business! That’s right, I’m talking about the Stanford bike police. They’ve been out in force and recently I had the great honor of “chatting” with an officer as I was riding my bike at night without a light. As most Stanford upperclassmen know from experience and most freshmen and sophomores are learning the hard way, bike tickets seriously cramp everyone’s style! Expensive, time-consuming (if you choose to go to “ticket school”), and all around crappy. Now, if you follow the law (use a light at night, come to a full-stop at a stop-signs, don’t ride where you’re not supposed to, etc.), you should be fine and don’t need to read this. However, if you’re an anarchist bent on disobeying authority, this is definitely for you. Also, if you’re a regular Stanford student that makes a few mistakes now and then, you should probably keep reading.
DISCLAIMER: I do not endorse breaking the law, nor dishonesty. Use these tips at your own risk. If you get caught doing some of these your punishment will be far greater than if you hadn’t tried to be a bad-ass. Telling the officer that “Jesse said I could do it” will most definitely not work. Duh. The following tips are based on the experiences of myself and other undergrad Stanford students:
1.) Don’t be a dick
You have to realize that from the second a cop pulls you over, he has complete control. Even if you are completely innocent, I promise being rude will get you absolutely nowhere. In fact, just being rude may be warrant enough for the cop to give you some type of ticket. Sure, you may be able to get out of it down the road, but that doesn’t mean it won’t take a ton of your time and energy in letters and court appearances. Pulled-over? Suck it up, smile, and be polite.
2.) Be honest
Cops are not idiots. I promise. They give literally thousands of tickets a year, so your half-brained, split-second excuse is most likely not going to work. Depending on how crappy it sounds, it could end up with you getting a heavier fine/more unpleasant interaction. If you get pulled over it’s likely the first thing the officer will ask you is why you think he pulled you over. You have two options: tell him the truth (if you know), or tell him you’re not sure. Again with the whole idiots thing: if it’s super obvious (ex: blew a stop-sign where everyone else was stopped) and you say you’re not sure, that’s a pretty sure bet for a ticket. Oftentimes honesty can get you a long way with the police here, especially if you’re apologetic and polite. However, enforcement will rarely have mercy for bikers who don’t pay attention when they’re riding, and honestly they probably shouldn’t. In cases like these I recommend telling the truth, but putting your own spin on as to why you broke the law. Which leads me to point 3….
3.) If you’re going to make an excuse, make it good!
Again, cops hear tons of stories, so what makes you different from the last 10 people he just gave tickets to? If it’s 3AM and you’re leaving Meyer without a light on your bike, you know you’re breaking the law (if not, you do now, so no excuses). While you’re unlocking your bike, multi-task and come up with a solid reason for why you don’t have a light. A few of my friends have pulled the “I was at the library and someone stole my light” card, which seemed to work for them, but that’s pretty un-creative. If you are smart enough to study here than you should be smart enough to come up with at least one reason for why the cop should take pity on you. Bonus points if you state to the officer that you realize it’s against the law to ride without a light.
4.) Police officers issue tickets for 2 reasons: safety and revenue. Use this to your advantage.
Unlike motor-vehicle tickets, which can have astronomical fees (sometimes thousands of dollars), in conversations I’ve had with the Stanford bike enforcement it seems they are genuinely interested in student safety over price gouging. Sure, the revenue doesn’t hurt them either though, so it’s your job to make the cop benefit more from letting you off than making money off you. If you show competence with bike safety and the law when speaking with the officer, he’ll be much more inclined to entertain your excuses. Police often use tickets to “teach a lesson,” so if you already know the lesson before he lectures you about what you did wrong, that should get you bonus points.
And the last (and most controversial) option:
Personally I would not do this, however I have heard several success stories of running (er…biking) away from enforcement. The successes I have head about have been either when the officer was on foot or far away in a car and the biker lost the officer in a crowded parking lot. Know that if you do this and get caught, you are screwed. Big time. Risk definitely outweighs the gain on this one.
So there you have it. Let’s hear your ticket-avoidance strategies!