Jessamine Co. bicyclist charged with reckless driving sparks court case

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NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (WKYT) - A bike commuter in Jessamine County says a judge has ruled in her favor.

The county wanted her banned from riding her bicycle on U.S. 27 until her trial in August. Schell has been cited three times for careless driving on her bike. Kentucky law allows the use of bicycles on U.S. 27, but police say Schell is causing a safety concern.

In the judge's order released Wednesday, the judge said the court is not on the trier of fact, the jury possess that power and responsibility and it would be inappropriate to enter a pre-trial order restraining the defendants ability to legally ride her bicycle on U.S. 27 prior to the ultimate findings by the jury. Schell's trial is scheduled for August.

Tuesday night Schill says, her attorney told her, the judge ruled in her favor.

Schill told us by phone, she's relieved and plans to continue commuting by bike on 27.

For the past year, Cherokee Schill has commuted from Nicholasville to Lexington on some of the busiest roads in central Kentucky.

Police say complaints from drivers have forced them to take action against the bike commuter.

"This bicycle is not a toy, it is legally defined as a vehicle," sad Schill who told WKYT's Sam Dick that she's riding her bike safely and is within the traffic laws of Kentucky.

Most of her co-workers at Webasto off Georgetown Road in Lexington leave work in their cars.

"I'll be honest, at first, when I first started cycling, I was scared to death. I was hugging the furthest right side, furthest right side I could hug," said Schill.

For the past year -- even on the coldest, wettest days -- Schill commutes from her home in Nicholasville to Lexington by bike on an 18-miles journey that requires 90 minutes of pedaling.

"I went from last year when I started cycling, I was in a size 22 pants. And just last week I got my size 8s," Schill said.

But fitness is not why, she commutes by bike. Schill describes herself as a single mom with two teenagers who is barely able to financially keep the family afloat.

"Some tough choices had to be made," Schill said. "And as a mom, I thought making sure the kids had food was first priority and other things could wait. So it sits there. My car sits there, and I ride my bike."

Her commute home is on heavily congested roads through downtown Lexington. Her journey takes her along Georgetown Road, Newtown Pike, Maxwell Street, Upper Street and then on Nicholasville Road which is often in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

To ride safely, she says it's important to be consistent so drivers know what to expect. She stays in the slow lane, taking a position in the right third of the lane. "What that does is that makes me visible to traffic. They see me, and they, typically will merge into the passing lane and pass me," Schill said.

Under Kentucky law, bicycles are defined as vehicles and have the right to use state roadways. State law says slower-moving vehicles, including bicycles, must drive as close as practical to the right hand boundary of the road. It does not mean riding on the shoulder of the road which can often filled with glass, stones, and other debris.

As her commute put Schill on one of central Kentucky's busiest roads, WKYT watched as she slowed down lines of cars and trucks by the dozen. Schill says she's been called every name in the book.

"You don't get a thick skin to people wishing you harm," Schill said.

Spurred by complaints from drivers, the Jessamine County Sheriff's Office and Nicholasville Police have cited Schill three times in the last month for careless driving on her bike. They say riding a bike on U.S. 27 in a lane of traffic puts Schill and other drivers at risk.

Now, the Jessamine County attorney has asked a judge to ban Schill from riding on U.S. 27 until her jury trial in August.

"It just creates a very dangerous situation when you've got somebody on a bike that's difficult to see to begin with, on a very highly travelled road, with signifigant speeds and a lot of people don't pay attention to what they should be while driving, so it all compounds itself," said Jessamine County Attorney Brian Goettl.

Goettl says a deputy sheriff responding to a robbery almost wrecked because Schill backed up traffic.

"He was almost in a wreck because of Miss Schill, and so it added to me another element of danger that I hadn't even thought of before," Goettl said.

"I'm not out there to ruin your day," Schill said. "I'm just trying to get home like everyone else, and I'm going as fast as I can. Some days I can go faster than others. The really big thing is, we all need to share the road."

Schill also doesn't have a valid driver's license in Kentucky because of a traffic violation in another state.

The motion to ban Schill from riding on U.S. 27 is scheduled to be heard Tuesday in Jessamine County Court. If the judge blocks her from riding on U.S. 27, a cycling safety expert says it could set a bad precedent for bike riders in the future.

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