Update: Bike rider illegally ticketed by pissed-off cop for non-infractions on Venice bike path

Give Yo! Venice! credit for reporting this one.

The popular website broke the news yesterday that a bike rider on the beachfront Marvin Braude bike path was ticketed by a cop for a made-up violation — simply because he pointed out the LAPD officer’s motorcycle was blocking the pathway last Thanksgiving weekend.

According to the site — and backed up by a helmet cam video of the interaction — Venice resident Chris J. was slowly riding north on the pathway when he encountered the officer blocking the entire southbound section of the bikeway, at the same time a girl on a tricycle was blocking the north side of the path.

So after going around, he — politely, evidently — informed the officer his motorcycle was blocking the path, to which the officer responded “I can give you a ticket for that.”

Next thing he knew, the cop was following behind his slow moving beach cruiser with lights flashing.

And that’s when it gets interesting.

The cyclist turned on his helmet cam and recorded the officer fumbling for something, anything, he could ticket him for. And admitting on camera that the only reason he was writing up the rider was because he had argued with him.

Politely asking a cop not to block the bikeway may not be smart, but it sure as hell isn’t arguing.

Kind of violates the meaning of “To Protect and Serve,” doesn’t it?

First the officer threatens to write up the cyclist for riding on the wrong side of the bike path. Which, to the best of my knowledge, isn’t illegal; if the same traffic laws that apply to motor vehicles also apply to an off-road, Class I bikeway — a multi-use pathway in places — this is the first I’ve heard of it.

If so, the department could make up the state’s entire budget deficit just by writing tickets on the bike path. Starting with pedestrians walking on the bike-only sections, since people generally aren’t allowed to walk in the street, either.

Of course, it would also require cyclists to signal their lane change every time they pass someone. Along with a host of equally absurd requirements never before enforced on this bike path, or any other that I’m aware of.

So Chris argues that there’s a dotted yellow line dividing the two sides of the path in that section, rather than a solid yellow line, legally allowing him to cross over it in order to pass someone.

When the officer can’t argue that point, the cop switches gears. And instead, writes a ticket for violating the state’s Basic Speed Law, for — wait for it — riding 5 mph in a 10 mph zone.

Never mind the fact that the officer appears to have made up the 10 mph speed limit, which is not posted anywhere along the bikeway. Or anywhere else that I can find, for that matter.

Instead, let’s consider that the Basic Speed Law, CVC 22350, refers only to a speed greater than is reasonable under the circumstances. It says absolutely nothing about going too slowly.

Basic Speed Law

22350.  No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.

And to the best of my knowledge, a bike path is not a highway.

But I could be wrong about that; I’ll let you know if I see a semi-truck and a few speeding SUVs rolling down it when I’m out that way this afternoon.

Maybe the officer meant to write a ticket for CVC 22400, the Minimum Speed Law. Except that pertains only to highways, as well.

Not bike paths.

And part of which only applies to vehicles subject to registration.

In other words, not bikes.

Of course, had the officer written a ticket for that, he likely would have been laughed out of court when the case comes up before a judge on Friday. As he should be for attempting to make up traffic laws on the spot in order to cite a bike rider simply because the rider pissed him off.

Which is not exactly what we should expect from a trained officer sworn to uphold the law, who should have known better.

Or at least, known enough not to admit it on camera.

And I should also point out that it’s not against the law to argue with a cop. Although it’s seldom a good idea.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, take the ticket. Then take it up with the officer’s superiors, or fight it in court.

I’ve reached out to the LAPD’s bike liaisons for the West Traffic Division to see what they have to say on the subject. So far, I haven’t gotten a response; I’ll let you know if I do.

Update: According to KNBC-4, Detective Gus Villanueva of the LAPD’s Media Relations Section says the ticket was canceled “in the interest of justice,” and that the department was conducting an investigation into the officer involved.

Yo! Venice!, which has done a great job keeping on top of this story, reports that the officer involved works out of the West Traffic Division; still no response from the bike liaison from that Division. 

20 comments

  1. Biker395 says:

    That officer deserves an official reprimand.

    I’m not surprised, though. I am regularly amazed at the ignorance of your average police officer about the law as it relates to the operation of bicycles, and how some of them are downright arrogant about it.

  2. Louie Garcia says:

    I’m also waiting on pins and needles as to what the official LAPD response to this will be.

  3. Chris says:

    LA’s finest!! ; )

  4. Erik Griswold says:

    Glad you are covering this Ted!

  5. I got pulled over by a cop in the West Valley for riding in the middle of the right hand lane. To make matters worse, I was riding ON TOP OF A SHARROW. Like, really, right over the paint of one when they turned on their lights. I was polite and was let of with a warning, but I ended up letting the west valley bike liason know and then getting a call from the west valley sgt (co captain? I don’t know the specific rank…). In the end, I ended up educating the head of the west valley LAPD on sharrows and he was going to make sure his officers would be told in role call. Anyway, I hope the guy who made the video doesn’t get into more trouble for recording the incident. I specifically don’t record audio when on my bike for this reason. Apparently they can charge you with wiretapping or something if you have audio.

  6. Richard Masoner says:

    Sheesh.

    CVC 22350 (California Basic Speed Law) is the standard ticket to write when somebody (anybody either driving or on a bike) annoys a cop. It’s their go-to law to use.

    Local bike registration laws are also a favorite where applicable. More knowledgeable officers might also test the requirements in CVC 21201 (California’s bicycle equipment law).

  7. The great irony is in the second paragraph of CVC 22400(a).

  8. Name Withheld says:

    Yet another instance of the cop mentality. Ugh. I know these guys have a tough job, but do so many of them have to be jerks on power trips with God complexes? The job just seems to attract a certain type. Perhaps the problem is that existing cops are the ones recruiting and training the future cops.

  9. The US Supreme Court recently struck down an Illinois law that made recording of cops in action illegal. It is never illegal to record cops at work, since they are public servants. Or, in fact, pretty much anything else that occurs in public.

    http://tinyurl.com/alxtlq8

  10. Joe B says:

    BTW, a highway is a place open to the public for VEHICULAR travel. (CVC360) Bikes aren’t vehicles. Ergo, bike paths aren’t highways.

    That cop should be flipping burgers for a living.

  11. [...] Everyone Laughs at the Yo Venice Exposed Beach Cop (Biking in L.A.) [...]

  12. Mr. Zacko says:

    Let me just say that officer Gracey did an excellent job and should be commended. Hopefully, my endorsement will be enough to keep him from being transferred into my neighborhood.

  13. Seth says:

    More than likely officer Gracey has been getting away with this type of behavior for years. I bet his peers and supervisors have been covering for him for years. The LAPD is like the Catholic church they cover for their own. Gracey is a rotten cop that got exposed. Chief Beck need to make an example and kick this guy off the force. He is a disgrace to the uniform.

  14. Garry Scarff says:

    The idiot cop is on Facebook.. posted photos of himself from the video.. he’s quite proud & unapologetic for his misconduct.. yup, this is an example of LA’s finest.

    https://www.facebook.com/tkgracey

  15. patrick says:

    Sgt. Krumer would have replied by now.

  16. Peter W. says:

    As an avid bicyclist, I wish to commend Chris J. for possibly the most entertaining video ever posted. Keep on riding!

  17. Marvin D says:

    This one’s pretty simple, folks. No reason to vilify the good police officer. Just ask LAPD to please provide BICYCLE patrols on the BICYCLE path and leave the motor vehicle specialists to deal with motorized traffic.

  18. JD says:

    Maybe they should change the LAPD motto to: “We protect our own”. He should be given community service riding a kiddie tricycle up and down the path for two weeks wearing a Hot Dog on a Stick uniform. A real Keystone Cop trying to be a Hot Dog on a Stick. lol
    :{)

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