Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 2nd, 2011 at 11:46 am
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There have been some developments in the story from Elizabethton, Tennessee I shared yesterday. The local newspaper has published a story that makes it appear as though the incident has been smoothed over. However, Teresa Tryon, the girl's mother, has been commenting here on BikePortland to share that the issue is far from resolved.
Ms. Tryon alleges that she is being "victimized" by the police and that their story has changed as the media attention around the case has grown.
I have since received a copy of the police report filed in the incident, which I'll share excerpts from below (download PDF of it here)
"At no time, did anyone tell her she could not ride her bike."
— Police Chief Matt Bailey
To briefly recap, on August 25th a 10-year girl biking home from school was stopped and driven home by a police officer because he felt it was unsafe for her to be doing so. The officer then spoke with Ms. Tryon and ended up referring the case to Child Protective Services. (If you're interested, here's a Google Map of the intersection where the girl was stopped)
"I informed Ms. Tryon that I believed the child should not be riding her bicycle to and from school unsupervised at her age."
— Officer who stopped the 5th grader, quoted from the official incident report
In a story published yesterday by the local Elizabethton Star, Police Chief Matt Bailey said the whole thing was a "misunderstanding." Bailey also said, "At no time, did anyone tell her she could not ride her bike."
However, in the police report, the officer who stopped the young girl clearly states that he told Ms. Tryon that her daughter should not be riding her bike at all. Here's the excerpt from the report:
"In my opinion, this section of roadway is not a safe place for a child of her age to be riding unsupervised... I informed Ms. Tryon that I believed the child should not be riding her bicycle to and from school unsupervised at her age."
The Police Chief also claims to be working to find an alternate route for Ms. Tryon's daughter, however she says not only does an alternate route not exist, but that she is yet to hear from the police regarding the case.
A look at the location where the girl was riding shows that there are very few, if any, alternate routes she could have taken. It's also worth noting, that while the police say they observed several close calls while the girl was riding, the street she was riding on looks relatively calm. Ms. Tryon says the road has a generous shoulder.
I asked Ms. Tryon to share how she feels about the incident at this point:
"I am frustrated as can be that one officer's "judgment" has left me with an open CPS [Child Protective Services] case, drug me through the media with conflicting information from the police report I received regarding the issue; causing chaos and sadness to me and my children. My ultimate goal is to incorporate an SRTS [Safe Routes to School] program in this school, so that not only my daughter - but ALL children (and their parents) who attend this school can ride/walk to school with a certain peace of mind."
What strikes me about the police report and their quotes in the media is the classic, "It's all about the child's safety" mantra. That's all fine and good, but it seems they are focusing their effort on the wrong thing — the safety issue here is being caused by people driving cars, not by an experienced 5th-grader who is riding her bike legally on a public road.
— For more on this story, read the detailed comments on the Bike Walk Tennessee blog where it was initially reported.
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