Friday, September 26, 2008

Letter from Scott Wildy, the arrested cyclist

The following is an email from Scott Wildy, the cyclist who was arrested in the video. He emailed me after finding the video online, and asked that I forward this on.

Thursday September 25th 2008.

Caltrain conductors arbitrarily deny boarding for scores of cyclists each day stating that the train is at its capacity for bicycles. These people who are simply trying to make their way to and from work or school, are victims of a system that is poorly designed with rules that are heavy handedly enforced. The reality is: sometimes the train is over its bike capacity and sometimes it's under; sometimes Caltrain runs a train with only 16 bicycle capacity and sometimes they run a train with capacity for 32 or 64 bikes on the exact same schedule. Caltrain conductors appear to refuse cyclists based more on their mood at the time, rather than any judgment call on safety or concern for other passengers.

On this day, Caltrain Conductor number 684 became emboldened with his sense of power and authority and ordered the arrest of a cyclist whose crime was to board the train and place his bike in the available space of a bike rack.

It was a regular morning trip to Palo Alto, on route to the office. The southbound train pulls into Burlingame station. One cyclist steps off the train with his bicycle and I immediately step into the bike car with mine. I can clearly see the empty position on the bike rack left by the disembarking cyclist and start towards the rack. Conductor 684 appears at the door and has other plans for me. Having already decided that the train is full, he orders me off the train. I protest: there is clearly a space available in the rack directly in front of me! Conductor 684 argues: the train is full b/c there is an extra bike on another rack at the other end of the car. He waves his hands saying: look at the signs - 16 bikes max. I look around the train and the only signs are the ones on the racks that say "4 bikes per rack". Further, I notice that the extra bike at the other end of the car is neatly strapped to the rack (which has 5 bungee straps anyway) and can see that he was not making any effort to have the extra bike moved up to this rack. I continue my protest: the sign on the rack says "capacity 4 bikes" and there are only 3 bikes here. The argument continued, until finally I placed my bike on the rack and took a seat.

The train continued its journey south. At San Carlos station, the police met the train and asked me to step off the train. I complied. They asked what was going on and I explained the situation. There is a palpable sense of disbelief that this is happening - that riding a train with a valid ticket, with bicycle properly strapped to the bike rack, trying to get to work requires the intervention of San Carlos Police and the San Mateo County Sheriff. A fellow cyclist passenger films the spectacle with his iphone. At this point, my commute is not looking good - my bike and bag are pulled off the train. Then my disbelief turns to shock - the sheriff grabs my wrists and clamps handcuffs on me. I'm under arrest for delaying a train. According to the sheriff, Caltrain Conductor 684 not only wanted me off the train, he requested a citizen's arrest.

The "kind" sheriff allows me to avoid the county jail and releases me with a citation, and orders to stay off the train for 24 hours. I guess I wont make it to work today. And I'll have to request another absence from work to appear in San Mateo criminal court in October. Staying off the train wont be a problem, though - after this harrowing experience I'm getting back in my gas guzzling car.


pkellner said...

What happened to Scott's Bike?

raamman said...

you guys are too nice about this- the conductor should be followed after work and beat up. the arresting officers should find themselves handcuffed to telephone poles in some less friendly neighbourhood after dark. take things lying down and there is no incentive for change.

kenteroo said...

This is so sad, really. I happen to agree with Raamman on one level, the conductor should have a few of his teeth loosened and think about another line of work.
The cops (3 of them?) were so clearly in control I can't imagine why they were threatened by a videographer or by caltrain? What would have been nice were if the cops ordered the passenger back on the train and threatened the conductor with a misdemeanor for delaying it. A glance into the train by anyone would have revealed that at that point there was capacity and it would have diffused the situation by saying, "Gosh, there's been a big misunderstanding, there are 3 spots right there! Move along." So much for "protect and serve".

nicole said...

Okay, so kenteroo and I have talked about this frequently and both think this is, um, VERY STUPID.

1. I take Caltrain every morning to school and every afternoon home. There are either many open bike racks or a big piling of bikes on top of each other. The conductors never mind. Just let the poor people get to work, it's bad enough they have to take the train, with all of it's inconveniences.
2. Some conductors have major power-trip issues. It's like "YOU'RE A FREAKING TRAIN CONDUCTOR. calm downn."
an example of this is that one day a friend and I were taking the train to school. When the conductor came around checking tickets she realized she didn't have hers and apologized many times saying that she forgot it and she was willing to get off the train.
I understand that she may have deserved a citation (which he did threaten to give her). He wrote down her name and address, but instead of stopping there, he continued yelling at my poor little freshman friend until she cried. And continued yelling at her even after she was crying. Then when we reached our stop, he told her that she better have learned her lesson and never to board the train without a ticket again.

I totally and completely understand that she didn't have a ticket and that is unacceptable. But honestly, he could have stopped at a citation. It sounds way dramatic, but I totally consider it as a form of verbal abuse of a passenger.

Sorry for the super long comment. I just had to tell you our story (:

P.S. poor Scott Wildy, he was just trying to get to work. Taking the train in the mornings (having to get up at the crack of dawn) is hard enough.

AK said...

Is there anything we can do about the bad behavior of these Amtrak employed train conductors that operate Caltrain?
I was forced off the train after I realized my wallet was missing from my purse. They left me somewhere in south san francisco in the middle of nowhere with no money no cards and no idea where I was. The best part is the conductor sees me EVERY day and knows I carry a monthly.

Wanda Davis said...

Thanks for sharing! I was wondering if you had any suggestions or recommendations for fall arrest training in Calgary Calgary