Friday, September 26, 2008

More Info About Caltrain Biker Arrest

On Thursday, September 25th 2008, Scott Wildy boarded southbound Caltrain #226 at the Burlingame station. One cyclist had just disembarked, and Scott found an empty spot on one of the bike racks in the train car. A conflict immediately ensued when the Caltrain conductor, claiming that the bike car was full, demanded that Scott leave the train.

Scott's argument was that the rack on which he placed his bike only had three out of four spots occupied. The conductor's argument was that another rack at the other end of the train had five bikes on it, which is one over capacity. The conductor argued that this constituted a full train, based on the total capacity.

When the cyclist refused to leave the train, the conductor arranged for police to meet the train, and the cyclist was arrested at the San Carlos station. I happened to be disembarking with my bike at the same stop, and filmed the whole incident with my phone's camera.

Here is the video. Note that it's about 7 minutes long. I did not edit it down, because I didn't want to leave any gaps that would allow for speculation.

Some frequently asked questions about the video:

Who are you, and why were you videotaping?
I'm a software engineer who lives in SF and works in the South Bay. I've been taking my bike on Caltrain for three years now. During this time, bike car capacity issues have gotten worse and worse. I started recording as soon as I saw police approaching the train because I wanted to share with others the level to which this issue has escalated.

Why did Scott get arrested?
In the video, Scott asks the same question as he is being handcuffed. The response from the police is that he was being arrested "for delaying the train; that's a misdemeanor."  Of course, it was not Scott's decision to have the train stopped for ten minutes while he was interrogated on the platform.

What happened to Scott after the arrest?
He was cited, and given court date for "delaying the train". Upon discovering my video online, he sent me an email, with a detailed account of what happened. You can read the letter in the posting below this one.

Why were the police giving you a hard time?
They didn't like being videotaped, apparently. Early on in the video, one officer can be seen quietly alerting the other that "someone is taping us". Later on, one officer steps in front of me for awhile to block my view. I repeatedly asked if I was breaking any laws by videotaping in a public place. Their responses ranged from "you're in my way" to "you're interfering with the investigation". A third officer later told me, "you can keep videotaping, just stand aside" which I appreciated.

What is being done about this?
I shared the video footage with the San Francisco Bike Coalition, and they contacted me by phone yesterday evening. They were all upset by the situation, but explained to me that the law is on the side of Caltrain, since it is up to the conductor to decide when the bike car is at capacity. However, the Coalition has been working extremely hard to get Caltrain to increase bike car capacity.

How can I get involved? / I'm so angry!!! / Where can I complain?!?
Instead of just bashing Caltrain and the police, the best thing to do is get involved with the San Francisco Bike Coalition's "Bikes on Board" project. This project proposes some real solutions for the ongoing bike capacity issues that Caltrain has not worked hard enough to resolve.

What we need are massive amounts of Caltrain bike commuters to come together in a constructive and organized way. Let's use this ridiculously overdramatic incident as a reason to get involved.

Please check out the project, and sign up to get involved at this site:

Thanks for your support. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments at:
cops . on . a . train ( a t ) g m a i l [dotcom].


Elaine said...

There are a few CalTrain conductors who need to understand that without bicyclists, their ridership would sink low enough to require the layoff of some CalTrain workers like conductors.

Do we need to stage a boycott of CalTrain to prove this to them? I've often thought that a "bring your car to work day" would teach motorists the importance of supporting alternative transportation systems.

Hustler Joe said...

thanks so much for sharing. this is absolutely outrageous.

Bail Agent said...

Bicyclists are people to dang it!

I declare this to be true says the Bail Bondsman for Las Vegas