Orange County bicyclist could face bigger legal battle
Updated On: Feb 04 2013 07:26:48 PM EST
An Orange County man who received two citations while riding his bicycle on a narrow, dead-end street may face an even bigger legal battle.
Local 6 first reported on Sunday that Gary Elswick, 51, received two citations for failing to come to a complete and full stop and driving the wrong-way on a one way street. Each ticket is for $164.
According to the Florida Bicycle Association's Executive Director, Tim Bustos, if Elswick does not fight the tickets and pays the fines, the two citations will likely go on his driving record and could affect his automobile insurance rates.
The Elswicks were told by Orange County court personnel that Gary Elswick could also face up to 7 points on his driver's license.
The Florida Bicycle Association's interpretation of the law indicates that bicyclists would not have points accessed to their driver's license for moving vehicle citations. However, Bustos says, clerical errors often lead to points being inadvertently assessed to driver's licenses.
In Elswick's case, Orange County Deputy Jovani Santo-Hernandez put a slash through the "vehicle description" box on both citations. Therefore, Bustos says, it would be impossible for court personnel to know that the vehicle was a bicycle and not a vehicle, and points would likely be assessed to Elswick's license.
If Elswick takes his case before a hearing officer and is unsuccessful, he could face up to $500 in court costs per citation, in addition to the $328 in fines.
The Elswicks say they cannot afford to lose up to $1,328.
After suffering a massive heart attack in September, Elswick, 51, says he was following doctor's orders to get exercise when he decided to go on a bike ride.
Elswick says it was his first time riding a bicycle in 25 years and he had no idea that he was breaking the law when he hit the road just before dusk Tuesday evening.
"I was riding in the middle of the street. I come to the stop sign, I looked both ways, I didn't put my foot down, but I just eased on cause there was nothing coming," said Elswick.
Elswick said that's when he heard the deputy's sirens.
"I thought he was going to go around me, but he come whizzing right up beside me and jumped out and told me I'm getting two tickets," said Elswick.
Santo-Hernandez wrote Elswick two citations each for $164. One violation was for failing to come to a full and complete stop, the other for driving the wrong way on a one-way street.
But Elswick said he was not riding on a one-way street, but rather a dead-end street. In fact, all of the streets in his neighborhood are so narrow, they don't even have painted lines to divide the roads. Also, Elswick says prior to this, he has never even received a speeding ticket.
"For them to not give a warning and just throw out $328 worth of tickets is a hardship for us," said Tammy Elswick, Gary's wife. "We were riding a bike. I mean, for heaven's sake. There's real crimes going on out there and that's what they should be worrying about."
Tammy Elswick said this is not only a hardship for them, but should be a warning for anyone who owns a bicycle.
"I (asked the deputy), 'So you're telling me if my 2-year-old granddaughter is out here on her bicycle, you're going to give her a ticket cause she's riding her bike just right here in front of me or something?' He goes, 'No, that's against the law and we're going to give you the ticket,'" said Elswick.
Local 6 asked the Orange County Sheriff's Office for dash cam video of the incident and for an on camera interview to talk about bicycle rules. In an email to Local 6, a sheriff spokeswoman said deputies assigned to patrol do not have dash cams and said that no one would be available to answer our questions.
Instead, sheriff spokeswoman Ginette Rodriguez referred Local 6 to the Florida Highway Patrol, "since they are the experts in traffic." She also stated, "bicyclists are subject to the same traffic laws as motorists."