Local Law Officials

People who enforce laws that impact bicyclists should be included in any effort to improve conditions for pedestrians. Local law officials include:

  • Police Chief and officers
  • Sheriffs and deputies
  • Law enforcement officers at educational or commercial institutions
  • Tribal officers
  • Judges

Law enforcement officers

Local law officials are generally responsible for locally owned streets, but in many cases they share enforcement responsibilities with county or state law enforcement entities. College campuses, schools, tribes, and even large commercial developments may have their own enforcement entities. Parks and Recreation officials may enforce trail or path regulations. Your local law enforcement agency can provide jurisdiction information.

Law officials are usually willing partners who value collaboration with community members, but they often have time constraints. One effective strategy for your first contact is to request 30 minutes of time for a one-on-one interview. Prepare for the interview by writing down open-ended questions (those that can't be answered with a "yes" or "no") and offer to send the questions in advance of the meeting. This ensures you will be meeting with a person who can answer your questions. Sample questions include:

  • What are your policies or programs regarding (neighborhood speeding, failure to yield, crash records, participating in planning efforts, etc.)?
  • How does your agency handle (complaints, crash investigation, crash prone areas, etc.)?
  • What information can your department provide regarding (a crash, problem, or other issue)?
  • How can your agency work with us to address this issue?
  • Can you suggest others we should include in our efforts?

Understand that officers usually view the bicycling environment from behind the wheel of their vehicle. They may not be familiar with the challenges of the built environment or potential engineering solutions. You may want to suggest they join you on a walking audit or bicycling tour. You'll often hear, "We have more urgent priorities, such as violent crimes, homicides, and domestic abuse." Without sounding dismissive of these concerns, point out that bicycle crashes are a major cause of death and severe injuries, and bicyclists are one of the most vulnerable road users in need of law officer protection.

See the section Enforce Laws for additional information on dealing with law enforcement officers.

Judges

Traffic court judges also play an important role in law enforcement. In many jurisdictions they can dismiss violations, raise or lower fines, and impose community service penalties in lieu of monetary fines. Including judges who hear pedestrian violations in your efforts will help ensure you understand their perspective and they support a safe and comfortable bicycling environment. See Developing Procedures for Handling Violations and Developing Partnerships for Law Enforcement for additional information.