Downtown L.A. cyclist encounters the worst of the LAPD — and the best — at the same time

Funny how things work sometimes.

Just hours before a group of bike advocates meet with the LAPD to discuss changes in the department’s bike liaison program — and just blocks away — we were reminded why the program is so important.

And, despite how far we’ve already come, just how far we still have to go.

A rider who goes by the nom de bike of Cyclepathic — which beats the hell out of bikinginla, if you ask me — saw the worst and best of the LAPD in a single Downtown L.A. interaction.

And posted her story on Facebook just three hours before we met at police headquarters.

LAPD cop almost ran me over after failing to knock me down with his car. Does another illegal lane change just to roll down his window & tell me that I cannot take the whole lane!

The story- I’m going down Broadway from Temple, & a car behind me passes me on the left within inches of my rear tire, it then cuts me off at such a short distance to get in front of me that he almost ran me over.

…but wait! Wait… that’s not it, he then cuts off a Channel 5 news van to get to the middle lane, rolls down his passenger’s window & says, “You can’t be riding in the middle of the road!”

-Before I knew he was a cop-

Me: “Wtf? You have to pass me at a 3-foot distance & you cut me off almost running me over!”

Cop, is now flashing his badge & in an even deeper demanding voice says: “YOU CAN’T RIDE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LANE!!” …now trying to make me aware of his badge and over assuming his position as an officer.

-After I knew he was a cop-

Me: -looking at his badge- “So, you’re still wrong! You have to give me a 3-foot distance and I have the right to take the lane if the lane isn’t wide enough to share.”

He looked behind me checking if there was a chance to pull over but before he could react, we were interrupted by the chirping sirens of an undercover squad (that was a few cars behind me) announcing from the PA:

“The person on the bike has the right of way! You almost hit her and you have to drive safer!”

Me:-looking at the cop through his rolled window- “See!”

Without a word, he rolls up his window and turns left at the next light. I had to pull over to avoid further endangering myself by cycling angry.

Before I could pull over, the undercover who put the cop in his place drove by me, tipped his head & told me to ride safe.

To KTLA Ch. 5 News, I hope you caught that.

Thanks to Alice Strong for the heads-up.

………

Like Schrödinger’s Cat, your experience with the LAPD could vary.

As Cyclepathic’s experience shows, you may get a well-informed officer who understand the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists. Or you could get an officer who ignored the department’s bike training video, or forgot everything he learned the minute he turned it off.

Or both.

Fortunately, they get that, too. And they’re working on it.

Meanwhile, the LAPD now has a bike liaison in each of the four Traffic Divisions to answer your questions and help guide you through the departmental bureaucracy when you have a problem.

I’ll have more on that on LA Streetsblog Wednesday, as I continue to fill in for Damien Newton this week.

But in the meantime, here’s the contact information for each of the department’s four bike liaisons. I’d seriously suggest programming each of them into your phone.

And note that two are different from the list LADOT provided last month, and was repeated here.

 

21 comments

  1. TQ says:

    During last week’s meet-and-greet with the new liaison officers, Commander Blake use the term “accident” not just once or twice, but three times during the meeting. None of the officers or the biketivists present corrected him.

    This isn’t a matter of semantics; it demonstrates that our new liaisons are working within a system that frequently denies even the occurrence of a CVC violation or worse, a deliberately violent act.

    Cyclepathic’s experience illustrates both the uphill battle and the possibility of change.

    • bikinginla says:

      Trust me, we’ve had that discussion before, and we’ll have it again. And again. And again…

      I think there was just a recognition that this wasn’t the right meeting to have that discussion over the use of the word accident yet again.

  2. mark goodley says:

    LOL… a Good note to take away here; we all should practice and learn to ‘flash’ memorize…badge/license/bus numbers… Impossible to do, ‘in the moment’ if not well practiced before hand… TY

  3. [...] LAPD shows it’s best and worst faces to a DTLA cyclist (BikinginLA) [...]

  4. jg says:

    Please, correct me if I am wrong, but cyclepathic repeatedly cited a bill that never became law. The reason cyclists are so pissed off at Gov. Brown is that he vetoed the 3 foot bill.

    The current law is passing at a safe distance, isn’t it? Personally, I don’t think anything less than 3 feet is safe. However, citing a bill that was vetoed (and well publicized as one of only three vetoes, at that) to a LEO is not a smart thing to do. Citing a non-existent law to a LEO does not help the cause of cyclists. It wasn’t until she knew he was a cop that she cited her right to take the lane (while still citing the vetoed 3 foot bill).

    Did it matter here? Probably not. Cop #1 was evidently ignorant of all the laws pertaining to cyclists, while Cop #2 likely did not hear her 3 foot comments. But had Cop #1 known the law (and current events), cyclepathic could have had a serious problem had Cop #2 not been there to diffuse the situation. Remember the well publicized Ohio case? To me this isn’t a good news/bad news story about LAPD. It is another cautionary tale that a yelling match with a driver (especially a LEO) is never a good thing.

    • bikinginla says:

      You’re right, she was wrong about the three-foot law, which was vetoed by our auto-addled governor. However, as you note, while anything less than three feet is not illegal, it is dangerous.

      However, the story here is that the first officer was clearly unaware of the rights of cyclists, particularly the right to take the lane when it’s not of safely shareable width.

      And there’s a good argument that his actions amounted to harassment. If he was just an average driver, rather than a cop, he would have been in clear violation of L.A.’s cyclist anti-harassment ordinance.

      • jg says:

        Very true about the anti-harassment ordinance.

        Discretion being the better part of valor, I think the better course of action (rather than yelling “WTF…”) would be to smile and say have a nice day. All jack&ss drivers are enclosed in a 2+ ton weapon and may be packing additional weapons. Escalating a confrontation is very dangerous when you have no idea who you’re dealing with.

        Believe me, I want to yell and flip the bird at jack&ss drivers as much as the next guy. And I used to do just that, until I had a guy get out of his truck with a bat after I flipped him off (he yelled first not that it really matters). Since then I kill them with kindness.

        • bikinginla says:

          Agreed. My advice is to pull over and let the jerk drive off. Better to sacrifice your right to the road than end up roadkill.

    • billdsd says:

      Since the law requires maintaining safe distance, passing at an unsafe distance IS illegal. The issue is what the definition of unsafe distance is. In my opinion passing within less than 3 feet IS illegal, because it is unsafe.

      The purpose of the bill was to define unsafe distance because idiots don’t understand what an unsafe distance is.

      • bikinginla says:

        Very true. I’ve confronted drivers who Jerry Browned me, and gotten the sarcastic response “I didn’t hit you, did I?”, implying that anything that doesn’t actually cause contact is a safe distance.

        Too many drivers don’t get that a too-close pass can frighten a cyclist and cause them to over react, resulting in a spill that can cause serious injury. Or worse.

        And the slipstream from a large or fast-moving vehicle passing too close can suck a rider into the side of the vehicle or into its wake. And just how close is too close varies with the size and speed of the vehicle.

        • billdsd says:

          In my opinion, the important part is really about judgement errors and wobble. If you try for 3 feet and make a mistake of 1 foot, you still miss by two feet. If you try for 1 foot and make a mistake of 1 foot, you make contact. Most people are not very precise in their car control.

          There is also the issue of wobble. Most bicyclists wobble at least a little bit. A lot of times it is barely perceptible but it is pretty much always there. Add in a rock or an odd crack or bump in the road and it gets bigger.

          In any case, this driver violated CVC 21703 (tailgating), 21750 (close passing) and 23103 (reckless driving) and well as CPC 245 (assault with a deadly weapon). He should really lose his driver’s license and be do jail time.

        • encephalopath says:

          My analogy for a driver who says “I didn’t hit you, did I?” with a close pass is, if I fire a gun in your direction, narrowly missing your head, and then respond to your objections with “You’re unharmed. What are you complaining about?” you would accept and be comforted by that explanation, right?

  5. Is there a pedestrian liaison, or can the bike liaisons double for this duty?

    Recently my girlfriend was walking on a street with no sidewalks (it’s in a hilly neighborhood) and experienced threatening behavior from a motorist because she was a pedestrian. As my girlfriend was walking, there was oncoming traffic from the west on the street and it was not wide enough for for two-way travel if a car were approaching from the east. As it happened, a car did come from the east and the driver was irritated that my girlfriend was “in the way”– the driver was following my girlfriend very closely and honking and gesturing at her to move (there was nowhere to move, the driver just needed to wait until there was no west oncoming traffic.

    My girlfriend called the police when she got home to report the driver. When the police showed up and after listening to what she described happened they told her “the driver didn’t do anything illegal. as long as the driver didn’t hit you, they didn’t do anything illegal. Avoid walking on that street, for your own safety.” Of course, the driver did several things wrong– tailgating, reckless driving, misusing the purpose of the horn, non-verbally threatening and harassing my girlfriend. The police just repeated the same things over and over when my girlfriend tried saying that the driver was behaving dangerously and possibly illegally ( I heard everything because my girlfriend called me and left the phone on so I could hear everything the police were saying). Unfortunately, my girlfriend was too shaken by the occurrence and intimidated by the officers to further press the issue with them.

    • I should note the driver’s behavior continued even after there was no more oncoming traffic. My girlfriend had to stop in her tracks and tried being “as out of the way” as possible until the driver passed.

      • bikinginla says:

        Best advice is to contact the Watch Commander the officers she talked with works for as quickly as possible. He or she is the one responsible for how the officers do their jobs and has the power to overrule their decisions, as well as correct their misinterpretation of whether the driver broke the law.

        However, the more time that passes, the less they can do.

        Bear in mind, though, that police are limited in what they can do in a situation like this if they didn’t actually see the incident. Without physical evidence of a crime or independent eye witness testimony — and not just her word — there’s not much they can do.

        • Thanks, this was about a month ago, probably too late to act but the post reminded me that it was issue I’d like to hear your opinion on should something similar happen again.

          • TQ says:

            Hmmm… an LAPD Pedestrian Liaison. Maybe this would be worth suggesting at next month’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting.

  6. Mark Elliot says:

    There are too many stories of misinformed police to call out. But here’s one where one of our Beverly Hills police seemed to be making it up to a group of PTA parents in a bike safety forum.
    One parent asked, “Are bicycles allowed to ride on the sidewalk?” The Sargent replied, “Except for the business triangle, yes they are.” She followed up. “Is it specifically the triangle, or any street that has a high density of businesses?” “It is specifically the triangle” the officer said. (The right answer: it is prohibited in BH in commercial districts throughout the city. Our municipal ordinance then points to the CA code to define that district, which is greater than 50% commercial purposes by linear measure. That should also apply to multifamily districts, which the city seems to define for planning purposes as a commercial zone.)
    Elaborating on the sidewalk ordinance, he added that riders elsewhere on sidewalks must “give pedestrians the right of way and ride safely….and they have to get off the bike and walk it across the street.” An example, he said, would be riding in off the south-side curb into the crosswalk going west. “You can’t be on your bike,” he said. “You’re going against traffic” which on the south side of an E/W street heads east. Follow up question: “Is that specifically in the Beverly Hills municipal code?” He replied, “It’s in the California vehicle code.” (Not. Crosswalks are not directional and are considered extensions of the sidewalk, I seem to recall.)
    ALWAYS READ THE STATE AND LOCAL ORDINANCES.

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