They called the Police on me

As I look around there is still so much to do before the grandchildren arrive later today. A bit of tidying and then assemble dinner in the slow cooker, it’s too hot for an oven. My son will be staying overnight before heading back and has a huge appetite so dinner has to be filling. What I’ll make I better determine quickly.

lemon tree flower

Not a great picture but this is the first flower that opened on the lemon tree.

There’s also the chore chart to finish. I believe children should feel they are a part of a family and that means they need to help with the everyday chores, just my opinion mind you. I’m not a slave driver but if the children pitch in it gives me more time to spend with them. One can sweep a floor while another loads the dishwasher I can be wiping down the counters and stove or running a load of laundry but the chores will be completed as a group accompanied with music and dancing to make them fun.  They will also help me prepare plan and prepare the meals. When needed they can strip and make beds or wipe down the tub when done showering.

These are the things that make a household work and children should be included in these tasks. The chore chart is simply a list of the jobs that need completed daily or weekly, who completes each chore will be voluntary as we all have chores we either dread or don’t mind. No sense in forcing anyone to do a task they hate. It’s a lot like forcing a child to eat a food they don’t like. Taste buds change as we get older but if all we remember was being forced to eat a food we didn’t like we won’t try it again later in life.

But the title of this is They called the Police on me.

police car

Having a dog here I’ve been getting up early to put her out each morning. Not easy to maintain when you aren’t a morning person. So yesterday I overslept and had to hurry to get to the ATM to pay for the top soil that would be arriving. I didn’t have time to take the long way to the store where the ATM is located so I took the shorter way which means I have to ride my chair for a brief period in the turning lane of the main street.

The section in question is a separate lane just for turning left and is maybe 20 feet long. That is all the longer I am on this street. The rest of my traveling through town consists of side streets that are narrow enough that two cars barely fit on the street. In those situations if there is a car parked on one side I always check and yield to any cars before passing the parked car. The way I figure it, even if I arrived first a car is faster and I’m in no hurry. I want drivers to realize that even though the sidewalks are unusable I am not trying to impede their path.

When it comes to the main street I have assumed my chair is equivalent to the rules that govern bicycles and therefore the cars need to share the road with me. I use the same hand signals and road rules a person on bike should.

I am not obnoxious about it and would rather make this quick in a period when there is no traffic on the road, which I was able to do on this trip. In case traffic does happen to come up behind me I always stay right up along the concrete median, which is too high to ride my chair up onto,  that separates the lane from the opposing traffic this gives cars have plenty of room to go around me.

Unknown to me someone decided I shouldn’t be allowed on the road and called the police.  An officer drove around until he found me. I was informed of the call and told I am not allowed to use the road to get to the store. He was respectful about it but never asked me how I used the road nor did he tell me the details of the call he received.  I treated him with the same respect in my responses but I was a bit teed off the same.

After sitting with this, having a conversation with my son, and looking to see if there are any laws that might pertain to my situation in Pennsylvania (which there appear to be none) I continue to feel the officer was in the wrong for seeking me out and informing me of what I can and cannot  do without confirming that the details given him by the caller were in fact accurate.

My gut instinct is to visit the Police station and speak to the chief. I’ve already spoken to city council about the lack of sidewalks and complete disrepair of others that make it necessary for me to use the streets in the first place. I see the conversation going something like “show me a law that says I can’t be considered equal to a person traveling by bicycle” and if he can’t asking him in the future to inform callers, should it happen again, that I am within my rights to make a left hand turn to the grocery store in the same way a bicyclist would.

turning lane

This is not the street in question but the lanes are very similar. The street I traveled on has two lanes plus the turning lane but it’s a single lane street only two blocks before this and being a small town traffic is light enough to only need one lane. There is also no street light as shown in the photograph. I should add there are only two street lights on this street for a couple of miles, small towns are like that.  Where I ride is right on the yellow line as close to the median as I can get my tires.

I know I can be a bit testy when I think my rights are being restricted so I’m asking those of you who are able-bodied to give me your opinion.  How do you feel about sharing the road with a motorized wheelchair? Would you assume the same rules apply to me that would apply to a bicyclist or would you be upset/worried to come upon a wheelchair in the road?

 

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30 comments

  1. oh WOW

    imagine how ignorant some folks are to phone the police, instead of stopping to ask if they could assist (if they thought you were in some way impeding).

    imagine how ignorant that officer is to speak to you in that way…
    ===========by the way, how / route did you get home/did he suggest you get home?

    re speaking to the officer, oh my, yes, be most polite etc (have a personal story)

    re the motorised chair having the same rights as a bike…I don’t know, but I believe that where I live, technically no, as it has a “motor”. Having said that, the ONLY time I have heard of the police being called, was when someone was “speeding” in such a chair, and they were given a ticket (seriously, but cant recall more details). Oh yes, and someone was in such a chair inebriated, and they were given a ticket for drunk driving. Oh, yes, and one time one was on the freeway.

    re sharing the road, we have seen folks in motorised chairs fairly often, but I cannot recall it ever being a problem. As a vehicle we accommodate them in the same way we would a bike. It is very seldom they have been on the road, almost always on the sidewalk, but it has happened. But we always accommodate as if a bike.

    you say you already spoke to council, what did they suggest? was anything said about using it as a bike?

    re the laws, I am thinking that these sort of laws are “local”, mandated by the city, or municipality.

    Might be best to ask the city council what the local laws are.

    by the way, is the officer a city employee (local cops), or state police etc?

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    • You crack me up. 🙂 Loved the story of drunk motoring a wheel chair drunk but that’s as it should be.

      When I talked to city council I didn’t discuss whether I was allowed to use the streets because I had been doing so for more than a year now.

      The officer, township employee, didn’t say i couldn’t come back using the street as I ride on the edge of a lane. He simply told me I can’t ride in the middle of the street but this would make it more dangerous for me than what I’ve been doing.

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  2. I’m angry for you. If I were the car driver seeing you traveling on the road, I would make every effort to keep you safe and say to myself, it’s not right that she has to take the risk of traveling on the road, why aren’t there appropriate sidewalks??? Maybe the person who called the police was genuinely concerned for your safety but didn’t realize there are no safe alternatives available.
    I also wouldn’t let it drop. I would go to the police with an “I’m here to learn” demeanor and ask them what you would be expected to do in this situation in this town. It’s a chance to educate them and for them, then, to educate drivers in your rights.
    Your lemon flower is gorgeous and you must be so excited! We had a few buds on ours — for the first time — but the squirrels at them off. They also love the leaves of our lime tree so now both trees are completely wrapped in chicken wire! I do hope you get a lemon.

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    • I honestly don’t know what the caller said, I was told the person “complained”. Cynthia, your attitude it very much like mine is at this moment. I want to have a face-to-face with the chief of our police department.

      The lemon tree is my daughter-in-laws. I bought it for her birthday but while she’s was on vacation I kept the dog and her plants. She’s so excited to have flowers already as we weren’t sure how long it would take to have lemons.I’m so sorry the squirrels got to your lemon and lime trees. I do hope now that your wrapped your trees the squirrels will move on.

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  3. Gosh. What a difficult situation for you without having proper side walks (with wheel chair access curbs – because without easy access past the curb, the side walks are pretty much useless as well).

    I get what you are talking about and I agree many of your perspectives … but I worry that the person most at risk in the situation you described is you – regardless of what the laws are or what the police said. In my mind it doesn’t make any difference who is right – if a wheel chair and a car meet in the street, the car will “win.” It is why I don’t even like bikes or motorcycles on the roads. It takes just one stupid entitled person with poor judgement in a car (who is protected by metal) to take out a bike, motorcycle, pedestrian or wheel chair bound person who is protected by nothing. It is also why I don’t like those super super small 2 person vehicles. I try to give the right of way to all individuals who are more at risk on the roads than me – especially on minor streets. And that gets me into trouble as well. If someone is jay walking, I stop for them – meanwhile the driver behind me is leaning on his horn, letting me know I am wrong for giving someone the right of way who doesn’t have it. The rules of the road say one thing and safety sometimes says something else. With that said, the town needs to address the issues of the disabled in a way that at least your rights are protected – even if your body isn’t.

    And as for the cop … glad you kept your cool … even though he was wrong to stop you. I remember when the kids were little I was stopped in my car at a red light. Something happened with a kid in my back seat. I turned to the back seat to address the issue (with my foot still on the brake) and the light turned green (which I didn’t see.) A man in the van behind me decided to go as if I wasn’t even there – running into me, smashing the back of my car. When the cops were called, the van driver was trying to make a case that I was at fault because I didn’t move on a green light. The cop (and I will always remember this) said he agreed (agreed??? seriously???) but that a judge would not agree – especially in light of the fact I had children in the car. Now as a 69 year old woman I would have challenged the cop – and his “good old boy” attitude with the van driver – and probably be ticketed because I challenged authority. The cop would have found some reason to find me at fault. Instead the van driver was ticketed because I was quiet (and scared and young), but not in the wrong … which the cop knew.

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    • Your story makes me so mad. I know it happened a long time ago, but even then the rules were clear that you are responsible not to hit another car in front of you.

      If my street were busier I would be concerned about that stretch of the road and sharing the street with cars. The thing is this road is lightly traveled and it’s rare for there to be more than a single car needing the turning lane at any one point.

      When I drove I hated passing bikes, I always feared the rider might hit something and lose his/her balance and the bike would fall in front of my car. Motorcycles are similar, I would leave more than a couple of car lengths between us.

      If I take on the problem of pedestrian/wheelchair walks it’s going to be one big uphill battle.

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  4. There are no easy answers to this. I think what was in everyone’s mind was your safety. We have a man in a motorized wheel chair that regularly rides on the highway into town because there are no sidewalks. I’m sure he’s trying to do the same thing you are–errands. However, there are high curbs on either side so there is no place to get over for him or cars. He scares me every time I see him. He rides against traffic and you can’t always see him coming. It just an accident waiting to happen.

    I don’t know anything about your laws, but I think the police have the right to remove anyone from the road that they think is a hazard whether in a car, motorized chair, or a bike. I’m guessing he considered you a hazard both to yourself and the other traffic.

    The long term answer is better sidewalks in your town. However, those take money and time. In the short term, I would visit the police station and ask for suggestions on how you can handle this problem. It seems to me if you follow the rules of the bicycles (go with traffic, obey lights, etc.) you should be able to ride there. Perhaps, they could put up a sign that says Wheelchair on Road or something similar like they do when there is a deaf child playing in the area.

    Also, how much protection do you have from ADA? This seems like it might be an equal access issue. Once again, this may not be an easy thing because even though ADA is a Federal Law it is usually not funded at the local level. That puts a lot of the local schools, towns, etc, in a difficult position of trying to comply, but not having the money to do it.

    Good luck. I know independence is very important to you and I hope you can find a way to keep it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve never looked into getting answers or help from ADA but that’s a great idea. I will be talking to the police chief here soon but not sure if much will come from it.

      I understand your feelings about the man who travels against the traffic but I can tell you from personal experience that it’s a much more comfortable way to travel because we can see the drivers and know if they have seen us. When my back is to traffic I just have to hope for the best and accept that I can’t do anything to so much as attempt to get out of the way. Before I moved I had one experience where a driver was distracted with a cell phone and swerved into the breakdown lane where I was. I couldn’t have gotten out of the way but I did have time to react enough to come to a sudden stop when I saw this happening up the street and it bought me enough time for the driver to get back in the lane. I’m not beyond throwing myself out of my chair to avoid being hit but I’d have to see the impending collision to do so.

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      • FWIW, I looked up the law in PA and it says electric wheelchairs should follow the same rules as pedestrians – which means facing traffic. As a kid I was always taught to ride my bike that way, but somewhere along the line they decided bikes should ride with traffic. Took me a while to get used to it, but it does make it possible to “take the lane” for the purposes of making a left turn.

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        • Where did you find the PA law? I looked and didn’t find anything. Nice to know my preferred method of travel how I should be traveling.

          Speaking of bikes I just found a beautiful bike trail in my town. The bike trail runs 80 miles and connects several towns in the county. The trail is paved and far exceed the condition of any street or sidewalk in the area. 🙂 I’m glad it exists and it’s used quite a bit but I wish they could now find the money for the sidewalks.

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  5. I get where you are coming from. Your city has it’s eyes closed to your needs and you are in a position to open them. You have probably viewed Alicia’s post on http://spashionista.com/index/2016/5/20/omore-fashion-show-2016. Her blog is about fashion for the wheel chair bound but she is hammering the city of Nashville on accessibility for wheel chair residents. I can see you tackling this and think you could take this writing thing up a notch to get some action going. If I saw your chair in the turn lane, I’d make it my job to make sure you got there safely, not call a cop and complain. I am sure I would worry about seeing you there but maybe a flag pole up behind you would help. Seen too many bikers of both kinds get hurt by distracted drivers. You need a safe way to get where you need to go and I think you need to find others that are having the same trouble. United we stand and all that. Go get ’em, Lois! Time for a spot on the city council.

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    • I hadn’t seen Alicia’s blog before so thank you. I don’t have time today to read through, the kids are waiting to go back outside, but had to laugh at the picture of her wearing those heals.I would break my neck trying to transfer in those. 🙂 I’ll spend more time there tonight when the kids hit the sack

      I do worry about being in the roads and I’m always watching the eyes of the drivers to see if they notice me. I feel that when I am in that turning lane I am probably the safest I’ll ever be on the street because the cars have to slow down to switch into that lane and of course have to slow down to stop before turning. I do need to find a way to put a flag on my chair never needed it before I moved because that town was set up for a large handicap population.

      Beyond my needs I am concerned about families out walking, or children walking places on their own. There are no cross walks here so when I initially talked to city council I expressed my concerns for pedestrians as well. Guess time will tell if the town can come up with the needed funds.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m with Marlene on this one, Lois. You need to talk to the city council. Do you have a flag on your wheelchair? Here in my town in Canada we see a lot of motorized wheelchairs as this is a bit of a retirement community. They all have the flags on, so I’m thinking it must be a law or a rule or something. I know here we drivers need to stop for anyone crossing the street, pedestrian wise or we can get a ticket and a 500 dollar fine (whether they cross at the corner or in the middle of the block, they have right away) I believe the same goes for wheelchairs here, as least from what I’ve seen. But Canada seems to be pretty wheelchair friendly. You really need to talk to people about this.

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    • I have talked to city council and explained my situation they were nice and I learned they are trying to come up with the funds to improve the sidewalk situation.

      No I don’t have a flag on my chair and have even looked to see how I could add one. For some reason this particular chair doesn’t have a place for adding a flag, guess I’ll have to make one.

      Ha! People here don’t stop for pedestrians even if they are in a cross walk on the street or a clearly defined one in a parking lot. It’s a bit different in the cities but this little town is very backward when it comes to sharing the road.

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    • I think I’ll pass on the naked part. 🙂 I’ve found two ramps on homes but never seen the resident outside the house. I’ve met one person who uses a wheelchair but travels everywhere driven in a car by his son. So it would appear there are only four disabled people in my town and I’ve met one from a town nearby so I’m not sure we could organize anything big enough to get attention.

      The biggest roadblock (no pun intended) is that there is no money to address the issue of putting in a sidewalk or repairing the existing ones. Heck, the town is so broke that the schools may close and if they do they have already admitted there won’t be money to bus the kids to a school elsewhere. There are priorities and even I will admit that safe cross walks for all comes in second to education.

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  7. Good GAWD! I don’t even know where to begin on this one. First of all, I’ll start by saying that nobody has a clue what the law is – and this includes the police.

    A few years ago I was out running errands on my bike and I got hit by a car crossing a major street. I had the right of way, and an idiot lady making a left turn hit me (after she stopped and waved me on – apparently she changed her mind?) I wasn’t seriously hurt, but I was good and shaken up – not to mention pissed off, and there was significant damage to my bike.

    To further complicate the situation, this street is the boundary between Denver and the next suburb over, so 2 ambulances and 6 police cars responded. First the police all had to sit there and argue about whose jurisdiction it was… where exactly was I in the intersection? Once they got that sorted out, they kept asking me if I was in the crosswalk. I informed them that no… I was riding about 2 feet inside the crosswalk at the edge of the lane (which is sort of misleading because the street does not go through, so there can be no traffic in that lane) because it’s illegal to ride in a crosswalk. They acted like they were going to ticket me for not being in the crosswalk, and I explained that Colorado law clearly states that bikes are not allowed in crosswalks unless you dismount and walk the bike. They looked confused. Finally they decided that it didn’t matter because the driver was clearly in the wrong for failing to yield and they ticketed her.

    Fast forward a year or so and CatMan got hit crossing a street. He got hit by a driver turning right who didn’t see him. He also was not seriously hurt, but when the police arrived they informed him that he was in the wrong because he was in the crosswalk! So they wanted to ticket me for NOT being in the crosswalk, and they wanted to ticket him for being in the crosswalk. (Insert face palm here.) BTW – apparently both of us have mastered the art of sweet talking police officers, because neither of us ended up actually getting a ticket.

    As I see it, the problem is that we just don’t have a traffic system that accounts for anyone other than cars and pedestrians. If you fall somewhere in the “murky middle” you’re pretty much on your own, and whatever you do, you’re gonna piss people off. If you ride in the street like a car, they honk and yell at you to get on the sidewalk. If you ride on the sidewalk they yell at you to get in the street. You just can’t win.

    In terms of how to handle your current situation – I really have no clue, but I’m inclined to agree with June (Live and Learn) that in your case this is an ADA accessibility issue. My sarcastic inclination would be to make a huge neon colored sign reading: “I’m riding in the street because the sidewalks are not wheelchair accessible” and affix it to a pole above your chair. Seriously, if you can’t access the sidewalks, and you can’t ride in the street, what are you supposed to do? Someone – police, city council or whomever, needs to clarify for you where they want you to ride.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OH my gawd, I was positive Denver and your police would be clear on the rules concerning bikes on the road. Good think you and CatMan know how to sweet talk your way out of tickets but you shouldn’t have to.

      I’m not sure that anyone knows the rules even when it comes to cars. I was ticketed once for being in an oncoming lane while facing the wrong direction. Thing is I was hit by another car so hard it spun my car around and pushed me into that lane and there were skid marks to prove it.

      My son was charged with causing an accident in Arizona yet his was the last car in a string of vehicles involved. The officer said he hit the car in front of him so hard he pushed each car in the line of vehicles into the next. I had never heard of such a thing. and assumed the officer just wanted to pin it on a kid but when we tried to fight it I was informed the last car in that situation is always the car charged with being at fault!

      I’m frustrated by the limitations I’m finding are still existing for wheelchairs and this was just the latest. For example, I can’t get into either of the two banks in town because the buildings are on the Historic Register. I am a huge supporter of the Historic Register because I want to see these buildings saved when at all possible but here’s the thing, they must be kept, or restored to, the exact condition as it would have been when first built. This means no modifications can be made for exterior ramps as it would change the facade.

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      • OK… that’s just absurd that the banks are prohibited from putting in ramps! That sounds like an ADA issue for sure! But I have a friend who’s dealing with a similar situation with his home. He lives in Manitou Springs, which is a little tourist town outside of Colorado Springs. His wife recently died from breast cancer – it was the sudden, aggressive horrible variety. Anyhow, the experience got him to thinking about his own future and he decided that he wanted to make his home wheelchair accessible. Since the house has historic designation he had to get everything cleared through the town, and it’s just been a total nightmare! The long and the short of it is that they’re arguing about 10 inches of space… the town says it would be a violation of code for the ramp to extend to the side of the property, but if it doesn’t go that far it becomes unusable because there isn’t enough room for the wheelchair to make the turn to get up the ramp!

        Anyhow, when I was running the music school we purchased an old church and renovated it into a music school and concert hall, so we had to deal with all sorts of issues. I totally get that the building codes are there for a reason, and that organizations have limited funds to make large scale improvements (like elevators and major building re-design) but it just seems like people need to more reasonable and work together toward the goal of ensuring access for everyone.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I love seeing the many transformations people have done on churches I’m sure your music school/concert hall was amazing!

          I am all for preserving the historic buildings but I don’t believe we need to be so picky about the original facade being saved/restored that we can’t even add proper accessibility. Nowadays, people are living longer but not healthier so we have a lot of people who need easier accessibility and this should be built into the Historic register’s rules. I do hope your friend gets his ramp problem solved. Any chance he could have his home’s historic designation removed to make the process easier?

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  8. In a real hurry at mo so can’t reply to this in full – needed to see what this title was about! Here you are not allowed on the road on a scooter or electric wheelchair etc because it can’t be seen by motorists over other cars…to protect you. But I don’t think there was a cause for him to track you down to tell you this. I can imagine your feelings about it all afterwards!!!

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    • Now that’s interesting. Do you have real busy roads? I do worry when I come home because I have to travel against traffic along the edge of the street, that a driver might be distracted and not realize I am there. I do wish there were defined laws in this area, but being as I am the only one using a wheelchair around town my presence will probably define the rules for the future.

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  9. In NZ, as per above comment, you don’t see electric wheelchairs on the road. I have seen ones with pennants flying and think how much more visible it makes them. I like EcoCatLady’s idea about the sign – that would serve to inform fellow road users and maybe get some council action on improving the footpaths (sidewalks). I can understand how peeved you must feel.

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    • Thank you, Anne. My reason for sharing this was to hear how wheelchairs are treated in other areas. You mention seeing wheelchairs but not on the streets which tells me your area has sufficient sidewalks and infrastructure that can be used by the disabled. I wish that were the case here.

      I wish it was as simple as having a sign on my chair to see the town take action and improve and add walks but there is no money to pay for them. I’ve talked to city council and know they are applying for grants (from state and federal government) to pay for it but baring that money coming in the town is broke.

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    • Hi Cindy. I don’t think the people here are willing to change enough in my lifetime. I’ll manage as best as I can and hope I’m paving the way for the next disabled person.

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