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A police officer saw a lorry driver going the wrong way down a one-way street, but did not make any move to stop him. Why not?


Let's see if I can make this puzzle not "too broad":

  • there's no emergency going on, nor any justification for breaking the traffic laws
  • the police officer is not related to the lorry driver; there's no conflict of interest involved
  • the police officer is perfectly cognizant of the fact that this is a one-way street and of the laws restricting passage along it
  • the police officer is not physically restrained, occupied with arresting someone else, or otherwise incapable of stopping the lorry driver
  • no alien intervention or supernatural activity is involved; this incident is perfectly plausible and could easily have happened today.
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  • $\begingroup$ The meaning of 'stop him' seems quite ambiguous and open to interpretation. Also traffic laws are dependent on your location, which can also be interpreted differently. $\endgroup$ – Mark N Jun 23 '15 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ I'm guessing "he's just not a very good cop" doesn't count? Even good cops look the other way on minor offenses in many cases. $\endgroup$ – Set Big O Jun 23 '15 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ This type of riddle always seems to end up getting closed as too broad. Which is really a shame, I still consider it a viable riddle. The goal just isn't to find the one single solution, it's to find the solution fitting best out of a huge number of candidates, possibly providing an answer considered even better than the one the author had in mind. Maybe we should introduce a special tag for this, something like "open-ended", "fuzzy" or "too broad"? $\endgroup$ – Moghwyn Jun 24 '15 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Moghwyn You could raise this in a meta question, though I think most people will be against it. Note that there is already an [open-ended] tag, which means something a bit different. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 24 '15 at 11:32
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Quite simply,

The lorry driver is on foot.

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    $\begingroup$ This is certainly the expected answer that I have heard before. However, seeing it again causes me to wonder: Does it count as going the wrong way down the street if the driver is on foot? Unless there are very odd local laws, there is no wrong way down the street for a pedestrian. $\endgroup$ – Engineer Toast Jun 23 '15 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkN I don't know traffic laws in England - in which I presume the incident took place because it's a lorry and not a truck - but bicyclists are required to follow the same traffic laws as cars and motorcycles in the U.S. $\endgroup$ – Engineer Toast Jun 23 '15 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ @EngineerToast I'll make it an answer and see what happens... $\endgroup$ – Mark N Jun 23 '15 at 12:19
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My guess:

The lorry driver was reversing.

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  • $\begingroup$ Damn! I did actually think of this possibility and the necessity of excluding it while I was writing the question, but somehow forgot to exclude it. I wonder if I should edit the question to exclude it, or accept that there are two possible solutions? I'm pretty sure there are only two (so in that sense it's not ridiculously broad), and this one is a nice loophole as well. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 23 '15 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ Surely, going backwards down a one-way street is also illegal. At least, it is where I live. There's probably an exception for just maneuvering, rather than actually going somewhere... $\endgroup$ – Carmi Jun 23 '15 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ Manoeuvring is what I had in mind - perhaps parallel parking or reversing into a driveway. $\endgroup$ – user2674 Jun 23 '15 at 12:34
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Pretty sure Matt's got it, but another one that came to mind is

"A police officer saw a lorry driver [while the officer himself was] going the wrong way down a one-way street, but did not make any move to stop him. Why not?" Why would he? The lorry driver was going the right way.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your answer would be a correct interpretation (and nice loophole!) if there was a comma after "lorry driver", but without a comma the sentence is unambiguous. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 23 '15 at 10:21
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not disputing that this answer is wrong, but I don't think the sentence needs a comma to become ambiguous. e.g. in the sentence "I saw a man going to the theater" the person who's going to the theater is ambiguous: it might be the man mentioned or it might be the narrator. Linguists might disagree but I doubt a casual native speaker would. $\endgroup$ – Player One Jun 23 '15 at 11:03
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, the sentence is ambiguous without the comma and might not be correct with the comma. The answer isn't the intended one, but it's definitely viable. $\endgroup$ – Samthere Jun 23 '15 at 12:21
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The police officer is not in service, when he saw the lorry driver, he was just an ordinary pedestrian.

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Another guess:

The road was under construction or under repairs so it was closed and only reachable by the people who worked here like the lorry driver (bringing bitumen , materials,etc...) .

Or

Another police officer already stopped the lorry driver

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    $\begingroup$ I like the second one, but the first may be covered by the riddle's first bullet point, "there's no emergency going on, nor any justification for breaking the traffic laws". $\endgroup$ – Kevin Rubin Jun 23 '15 at 14:24
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Depending on the local laws:

The Lorry driver was on a bicycle, going the 'wrong way' (Possibly on the sidewalk).

Alternately if possible:

The street is only a one-way during certain hours of the day. This event occurred while 2-way street rules applied.

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  • $\begingroup$ The first one is a minor variant of Matt's answer. The second one is covered by the 1st bullet point. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 23 '15 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor, there are streets that can be one-way during peak hours, and 2-way during off hours..I don't think this would be considered "breaking the traffic laws" if it is during off hours? $\endgroup$ – Mark N Jun 23 '15 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ I posted the first as a variant as it can better suit Engineer Toast's comment (on the current top answer) "Does it count as going the wrong way down the street if the driver is on foot? Unless there are very odd local laws, there is no wrong way down the street for a pedestrian." $\endgroup$ – Mark N Jun 23 '15 at 19:29
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Maybe the cop

saw it on Television

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  • $\begingroup$ Nope - check the 4th bullet point. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 23 '15 at 10:06
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor for clarification, is the officer fully aware that the lorry driver is going in the wrong drection? $\endgroup$ – user2990472 Jun 23 '15 at 10:27
  • $\begingroup$ Yes; this follows from the 3rd bullet point and the fact that he saw the lorry driver. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 23 '15 at 10:29
  • $\begingroup$ maybe it was being towed and was positioned reversely making it looks like going into wrong direction? $\endgroup$ – user2990472 Jun 23 '15 at 11:02
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I suspect that:

The lorry driver was obeying a direct instruction from the policeman, which would make it legal.
Perhaps due to a diversion, works in the road or the marathon being run today.

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    $\begingroup$ "...nor any justification for breaking the traffic laws" probably covers this. $\endgroup$ – Oliphaunt - reinstate Monica Jun 23 '15 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ Where I live (granted it's not exactly civilized) there is a clear precedence in law of a policeman's orders over a posted sign. Therefore, following a police order against the normal direction of traffic is not breaking the law. I agree that this not may be in the spirit of the question, and was aiming for a loophole answer, as I think they are valid and amusing. $\endgroup$ – Carmi Jun 23 '15 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ Actually I think that should hold for most jurisdictions (and it crossed my mind). And I agree loopholes are fun. Perhaps the rule would have been clearer if it had been phrased as "…nor any justification for deviating from the normal traffic laws". $\endgroup$ – Oliphaunt - reinstate Monica Jun 23 '15 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with @Oliphaunt on this one. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 23 '15 at 19:24
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Manual transmission on a hill. The Truck became stopped due to traffic and was slowly rolling back down the hill before proceeding.

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  • $\begingroup$ Isn't this covered by the 1st bullet point? $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 23 '15 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ I think that it is in the same vein as the reversing and being on foot. They are not breaking the law, therefore there is no justification for them breaking the law. $\endgroup$ – Agamemnon Jun 24 '15 at 17:16

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