Boorish behavior by bicyclists could lead to a CHP crackdown in the Santa Monica Mountains

There’s no excuse for boorish bike behavior.

Especially when it could lead to a crackdown on every cyclist in the Santa Monica Mountains.

A conversation last week with Leland Tang, Public Information Officer for the CHP’s West Valley Area, revealed that they’re planning to start ticketing cyclists for riding violations throughout the area.

All they’re waiting for on is funding to put extra officers in the field.

And to give bike riders one last chance to clean up their act.

According to Tang, the CHP has been getting a large number of complaints about group rides that refuse to play nice by failing to ride single file, not letting motorists pass, riding on both sides of the roadway and not allowing drivers to exit their driveways.

Never mind that I disagree strongly with the CHP on whether it’s legal to ride two abreast.

It’s not mentioned at all in the California Vehicle Code, and it’s a standard precept of common law that anything that is not expressly forbidden is permissible under the law. Not to mention that riding two abreast is safer under many conditions that require riders to take the lane, such as avoiding road debris on the right shoulder or riding on roads with a substandard lane width where lanes are too narrow to safely share with a motor vehicle.

The LAPD considers it legal to ride two abreast anytime a rider has to take the lane, or other situations where the riders aren’t blocking traffic, such as riding in the right lane of a four lane roadway where drivers could use the other lane to go around.

The CHP, however, interprets CVC 21202, the law requiring cyclists to ride as close to the right as practicable, as banning riding abreast, reasoning that the rider on the left is not as close to the right as he or she should be.

Or as a friend of mine put it recently, “Your honor, I couldn’t ride any closer to the right. There was another bike there.”

However, that’s a discussion I’ve had with the CHP for some time now, and not one I expect to win outside of a courtroom.

On the other hand, there’s no excuse for riding on both sides of the road, especially on blind curves where drivers coming from opposite direction may not be able to see you. Or continuing to block the roadway and preventing drivers from passing when it’s safe to do so.

And it’s only common courtesy to allow other road users to enter or exit their own driveways if it doesn’t interfere with your own safety, or the other riders with you.

Cyclists at the back of the pack should be on the lookout for cars coming up from behind, and call out for the riders ahead to fall into single file if it’s safe for the vehicle to pass. Or signal to the driver to wait if it’s not, then waive them around at the first opportunity.

We don’t make any friends by needlessly blocking the road or inconveniencing the others on it.

Admittedly, I’m only hearing half the story, coming from the people pissed off enough to call to complain. And filtered through the views of the Highway Patrol officers who have to take those calls and deal with that anger.

But it’s clear that more courtesy is called for from all sides.

However, I’m told that the overwhelming majority of complaints stem from a single weekly ride. Fairly or not, a Sunday morning ride over Decker Canyon draws more calls than every other weekend ride combined — as much as 90% of the complaint calls against cyclists in the area, according to Tang.

In fact, Tang himself has sat on the side of the road and watched them go by, riding three, four or more abreast and blocking both sides of the roadway. Which is neither legal nor justified under any circumstances.

He assures me they don’t really want to crack down on cyclists. The CHP would much rather apply their limited resources other places, where they can deal with more dangerous violations by more dangerous violators.

But the sheer number of complaints stemming from this one ride dictate that they will soon have to do something.

And if they do, it won’t just be the boorish behavior of a single group ride that draws their attention. But rather, a crackdown on any violations by any cyclists, anywhere in their jurisdiction.

Which means you could get a ticket simply because someone else refuses to straighten up and ride right.

So if you know anyone on that Sunday Decker Canyon ride, let them know they’re about to face a hard, and undoubtedly unpleasant look from law enforcement.

And because of them, so are you.

One more quick note. A recent complaint to the CHP involved riders swearing at a driver and throwing objects at his car as he passed. I think we all recognize that as a common reaction to a too close pass by a dangerous or threatening driver. But thanks to the veto pen of our governor, a dangerously close pass remains legal, while hitting a car or throwing something at it is not. It may seem justified, but you’re the one who’s likely to face legal action if you get caught.

………

Another bike rider has been shot in South L.A. The shooting occurred when a suspect on foot fired at the rider late Saturday evening near 92nd and Vermont, leaving the victim in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds.

………

Bike Radar offers a look at some of the more interesting bikes at this weekend’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Denver. Bike Biz offers a full list of the winners, while Velo News wonders what it all means. And now there’s no need to get off your bike after pedaling to the slopes.

………

I hear Saturday’s first-ever ‘80s Bike Prom sponsored by the LACBC was a huge hit; with luck, that may mean there will be a next one. CICLE’s Wild West Chatsworth Community Bike Ride seems to have been a big success, as well. The NELA and Occidental College Bicycle Art Show opens this Thursday, which is the same day Santa Monica College celebrates the official Grand Opening of their new bike corral. Santa Monica sets a March 16th workshop for the planned Santa Monica Michigan Avenue Greenway project. Redondo Beach considers a major redesign of the area around Hermosa Ave and Harbor Drive, including a two-way cycle track. If you can’t lose weight despite all the miles you put in on the saddle, try trading your electrolytified sugar pop for a handful of dates.

A look at the e-bike revolution at the Terranea Resort. A 68-year old man died of an apparent heart attack in Corona del Mar Sunday morning; police originally though he’d been in a bike wreck. San Diego cyclists get their first ciclovia. The principal of a Vallejo school died Friday of injuries suffered in a hit-and-run while riding in a bike lane on February 13th. A San Ramon attorney has yet to set foot in a courtroom nine months after he was arrested for the hit-and-run death of a cyclist. A Vallejo father campaigns against unlicensed drivers two years after his son was killed. A cyclist was killed on the coast highway in Northern California Sunday afternoon.

An Albuquerque cyclist wants thank the rider who helped rescue him when he passed out and severely injured himself. Still no justice for an Indiana cyclist after 2-1/2 years. South Bend considers their own three-foot passing law. According to the Boston Globe, disregard for the safety of cyclists has reached pathological levels among some drivers. A Mississippi newspaper publisher says education and common sense beat requiring helmet use. Explaining the concept of complete streets to the nation’s deadliest state for cyclists and pedestrians.

London’s deadly cycling zone proves fatal for 14 women and no men; all but one were victims of buses or large trucks. A UK cyclist suffers a broken arm in a road rage incident. A Scot cyclist for 53-years explains that riding single file isn’t always the safest option; something we need to convince the CHP. Town Mouse goes biking in Copenhagen. Belgium’s one-day Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne classic is called on account of snow; weather has often played a role in bike racing. Temecula resident Sarah Hammer won her second gold medal at this year’s track cycling world championships in Minsk, and the sixth of her career. An Indian environmentalist is riding across the country on a seatless bicycle, averaging over 60 miles a day to spread his message. Aussie cyclists are fighting back against road rage with helmet cams. A Sydney man throws everything but the kitchen sink — including a bicycle — at the police outside his fifth floor apartment. Over half of Queenslanders think bike riders should be licensed, though a slight majority think motorists are at a fault in disputes with riders. A Kiwi cyclist is lucky to be alive after being rear-ended at over 60 mph.

Finally, you do not want to get run over in Montana.

Trust me.

16 comments

  1. billdsd says:

    The fundamental flaw in the CHP’s “logic” is that it assumes that bicyclists must always ride as far right as practicable.

    CVC 21202(a) ends with the following words: “except under any of the following situations” which means that if any of the situations described in CVC 21202(a)(1) through (a)(4) are present, then bicyclists are not required to ride as far right as practicable.

    Any time that any condition exists which satisfies any of the exceptions in 21202, then bicyclists are not required to ride as far right as practicable at all which means that they can ride anywhere in the lane that they want including riding side by side.

    This is basic reading comprehension. Anyone who graduated elementary school should be able to understand it.

    Most lanes are not wide enough for a bicycle and a car to travel safely side by side within the lane. When that is true, then bicyclists are allowed to ride side by side under the law.

    Apparently the people at the CHP who are trying to distort/interpret the law are functionally illiterate or willfully dishonest.

    • Jim Lyle says:

      Unfortunately, the CVC only broadly defines a “substandard width lane” as a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane. Texas, on the other hand, has a clear definition of any lane less than fifteen feet wide. CA needs to clarify its statute…and get Gov. Moonbeam to sign a three-foot-passing law.

    • Biker395 says:

      CVC 21202(a) also begins with the words:

      “Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time”

      That means that when two cyclists are the only people on the road, they are entitled to ride two-abreast. All that is required is for them to single up when they hear/see traffic approaching from behind.

      My belief is that most of those complaints are from people who don’t know the law or just don’t want to share the road. And it’s my experience that most of the residents of the Santa Monica Mountains are actually very courteous to cyclists, some of them even providing water spigots for our use (and they have told me so).

      Personally, I welcome the extra attention from the CHP. Although few in number, there are many out there … motorists and cyclists alike … who need need to be more courteous.

      I was riding out there yesterday, and descending Scheuren, I had someone in a BMW pass me at high speed around a blind corner with another cyclist coming up the other way on the shoulder(!) I don’t want to think about what might have happened should anyone had been driving up the other side. And all he had to do was wait another 2 seconds, and the road would have straightened out enough for a safe pass. Utterly stupid behavior.

      CHP you say? Welcome! Just make sure they enforce the laws equally.

      • billdsd says:

        Actually they don’t have to single up if any of the exceptions applies, and at least one if not more exceptions apply on most roads most of the time.

        I never cease to be amazed at the number of people, even cyclists, who pretend that the exceptions are irrelevant. They were put there in 1975 for a reason. Those conditions make it unsafe to keep far right.

    • billdsd says:

      Some people can’t wrap their mind around the idea that most lanes are too narrow for a bicycle and a car to travel safely side by side within the lane. Maybe this will help:

      http://iamtraffic.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/widthsx2_short_bmufl.png

  2. [...] CHP Plans Crackdown on Group Bike Rides in Santa Monica Mountains (Biking in L.A.) [...]

  3. D. D. Syrdal says:

    Sadly there are cyclists who do more than ride two abreast. Around here they ride in packs, like the peloton in the Tour de France. Ted, you know I ride, but I’ve had cyclists threaten me from their bikes on days when I was in my car. We were on opposite sides of the street, each in the left turn lane, so would have been heading away from eachother. As the light changed and I started into my turn, this guy came straight at me on his bike, literally snarling at me. I have no idea what his problem was, I just kept driving. He was no newbie to riding, fully decked out in his spandex and helmet on a nice bike. So yeah, there are nutso, badly behaved cyclists out there that make the rest of us look REALLY bad. And unfortunately, those are the ones who remain in the minds of non-cyclists. We all acknowledge there are bad drivers, and good drivers, but somehow bad behavior by cyclists gets us all painted with the same broad brush.

    I still think a media campaign of PSAs on proper riding would do a lot of good. With so many new folks taking it up who don’t know bikes have to obey the same rules of the road as cars there is clearly a need for education. I can’t count how many times I’ve almost nailed someone who came whizzing off the sidewalk, straight through the intersection at a 4-way stop. I just grind my teeth, knowing it’s another brick in the wall of bad PR for cyclists.

  4. Joe B says:

    If one regularly-scheduled ride is generating 90% of the complaints, wouldn’t it be much more efficient to just send a couple officers out for an hour or two a week to ticket riders on that one ride, rather than dispersing officers throughout the entire mountain range?

    OTOH, if the CHP wanted to crack down on more speeding drivers and unsafe passers, I’d welcome them.

    What’s up with the “blocking drivers from leaving their driveways” thing? I’ve never seen that happen. Or are residents just complaining that they might have to wait a few seconds for a group to pass by their driveway before they can pull out?

    • Biker395 says:

      Good point!

      The “blocking driveways” complaint seems odd to me too. Pulling off the road and into a driveway keeps us out of harm’s way (and out of motorists’ way) when we are getting water, food, or putting on/taking off clothes. In the rare instance someone appears in the driveway, we just excuse ourselves and get out of the way. My exchanges with the local residents have been uniformly positive … downright friendly, in fact.

      • Ryan says:

        That’s most likely from Mandeville Canyon, an over-populated urban climb in West LA. There are frequent, large weekday morning group rides that have a lot of interaction with residents trying to go to work. I don’t think cyclists are sitting in front of driveways, but rather a long slow moving chain of riders that get spread out during the climb forcing people sit in their cars, frustrated that they can’t get out of their own driveways. I don’t fully blame them.

  5. Tom says:

    re Gov Brown vetoing the proposed “3 ft passing” law, it was our “friends” at CHP who vociferously complained and pressured Brown to veto it.
    And since Brown is in the tank for all the Gov’t labor unions, no suprise Brown went along

  6. Todd says:

    My home state of Nebraska has long had a law similar to Montana’s proposed road kill legislation where if you hit a deer you could “claim it as food.” It’s surprising how many folks would go that route after a collision.

  7. Opus the Poet says:

    That Boston Globe link is busted.

    • David Holland says:

      You are missing the obvious solution – there needs to be a bike lane on the PCH. It is deplorable that there is no bike on this road already. It is a testament to the haves vs the have-nots scenario. Almost any other community in the U.S. would long ago have had a bike lane along such a road. But not here in Malibu? Hummm… go figure. Solution – but in a bike lane and then ticket cyclists that do not obey it. A standard width bike lane – like the one they just put in recently on Jefferson Blvd. – can allow for two and even (in a tight squeeze) three abreast.

  8. mkadam68 says:

    One of the exceptions to “riding to the right” CVC 21202 is when we avoid… wait for it… “bicycles”. Hmmm…. I wonder… :-)

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