Gary Elswick just wanted to ride his bicycle in peace in his suburban Orlando neighborhood.
He is recovering from a massive heart attack in September, and was following his doctor’s orders to exercise more. So he figured the best way to get more exercise was to go for a nice bike ride. It was the first time he has rode a bike in 25 years. That bike ride turned costly on February 3.
Elswick was riding his bike in his neighborhood when all of a sudden an Orange County patrol car behind him and pulled him over. Elswick told his story to Local 6, the Orlando CBS affiliate who broke the story. He told Local 6 reporter Lisa Bell:
I thought he was going to go around me, but he come whizzing right up beside me and jumped out and told me I was getting two tickets.
According to Local 6, the deputy, Jovani Santo-Hernandez, wrote the bicyclist two citations each for $164. In case you need to double take to see if what I just wrote was real, let me re-type this again: Two traffic citations for $164. To add injury to insult, he is also facing seven points on his driver’s license. You’re not dreaming. It really happened.
One of the citations was for failing to come to a full and complete stop. The other was for "driving" the wrong way on a one way street. Since when do you "drive" a bicycle? Elswick told Local 6 that the street he was riding on was not a one way street, but a dead-end street. He said that all of the streets in his neighborhood are so narrow, that they do not have painted lines to divide the road.
If you ask me, this is police abusing their power to the highest order. Yes, bicyclists are supposed to obey traffic laws as well. But if you are in your own neighborhood just going for a peaceful bike ride, how many officers will actually pull over a bicycle for not coming to a full stop and riding on the wrong side of the road? Mr Soto-Hernandez takes his job way to seriously. One of the great arts of policing is actually having people skills, and Soto-Hernandez clearly lacks that.
But sadly, this is how the Orange County Sheriff's Office operates these days. The only way Orange County can redeem this mess is to throw this travesty of citations out and actually do some real policing.