Update: Monday’s ride, in which I catch the county breaking the law

Just because they post a sign doesn't make it so.

Just because they post a sign doesn’t make it so.

Sometimes it’s the government itself that breaks the law.

A recent planned ride down to Manhattan Beach was interrupted by construction on the bike path, as barricades diverted cyclists onto busy Vista del Mar at Dockweiler State Beach.

That didn’t come as a surprise. The beachfront Marvin Braude bike path has been undergoing much needed reconstruction over the past several months.

Up to this point, however, riders were directed to virtually unused South Marine Avenue, providing a low-stress detour around the construction work.

However, that changed last week as the construction work moved further south, past the point where Marine Ave ends. South Bay cyclist Jim Lyle gave me the heads-up last week, so I knew the pathway would be closed when I got there.

I knew if I wanted to reach my planned destination, I’d have to ride a street that is notoriously unfriendly to cyclists. And pass the exact point where bike rider George Loudon was killed in a still-unsolved hit-and-run less than two years earlier.

The only accommodation to cyclists forced to detour around the construction were some newly added Share the Road signs on Vista del Mar. Not enough to tame the high-speed traffic, or make most riders feel safe on a roadway already known for dangerous traffic.

Myself included.

So rather than add needless stress to a ride intended to reduce it, I decided I’d gone far enough for one day, and would save Vista del Mar for another ride later in the week.

On a whim, though, when I turned back, I decided to ride through the county-owned RV park along the bike path to see if it would allow me to bypass the construction work. Or at least add a little more to my mileage count for the day.

And that’s when I saw it.

Right at the entrance to the park was a sign banning bikes, in clear violation of state law.

Under California law, bicyclists have all the rights and responsibilities of motorists, and are allowed to use any public roadway where cars are permitted. The only exception is some limited access freeways, where bikes can be banned as long as signs are posted.

And which some cyclists have been known to ride, anyway.

Since there were numerous cars and RVs visible right in front of me, it was clear that motor vehicles were allowed in the RV park. So the only question was whether the park was public or private property.

And a simple look online quickly answered that question.

In other words, an RV park owned and operated by the County of Los Angeles bans bikes from the roads, in clear violation of state law. That presumably applies to people paying to camp there, just as it does to any stray riders looking for a shortcut.

So if someone wants to ride their bike from their campsite to El Segundo or the LAX area via surface streets, and rides on the roadway through the park to get there, they’re in violation of the ban.

Which is in violation of the law.

Even if the RV park is privately operated under a county contract, the roads within it remain public property, and so are subject to state law.

Which brings up the question, when the government itself is either unaware of, or doesn’t care about, the laws of this state, who exactly is responsible for enforcing them?

Let alone protecting the rights of its citizens, on two wheels or otherwise.

Update: I just received the following notice from the county Department of Public Works:

Picture (Device Independent Bitmap) 1ADVISORY NOTICE
The County of Los Angeles will be closing a segment of the Marvin Braude Bike Path for reconstruction work until April 12th.  The limits of the beach bike path closure are from Imperial Highway in the City of Los Angeles to 45th Street in the City of Manhattan Beach.
To accommodate bike path users during this closure, a detour has been provided along Vista del Mar.  The most seaward of the 4 vehicle travel lanes (closest to the beach) will be barricaded and dedicated as a bike lane for both directions of bike path traffic for the duration of the work.
For information contact us at (626) 458-3110, (626) 458-4967 or visit http://dpw.lacounty.gov/bikepathclosures

Good news that they’re going to give cyclists a dedicated lane on Vista del Mar; however, that barricade did not seem to be place when I was there on Monday.

……..

One other quick note.

On Monday’s ride, I found myself chatting with a bike rider who had just flown in from Washington DC earlier that morning, and was enjoying a ride on a beautiful SoCal day.

Then last night, on a ride to a bike meeting in Downtown L.A., I struck up a conversation with a woman riding in her work attire, as she made her way from 7th and Fig to pick up the Gold Line for her commute home.

Nothing extraordinary about either event.

Except I can’t recall ever talking with a total stranger from behind the wheel of a car for any longer than it took for someone to ask directions before the light changed. Or exchange angry epitaphs with another driver.

That’s one of the rare joys of bicycling, as it allows a genuine interaction with our cities and those we share the road with, however briefly.

And helps make our city a better place to live, whichever and wherever that may be.

17 comments

  1. Chris says:

    I got stuck at that same location on the bike path near Dockweiler. It was 8p, I had all my lights on but the speed at which cars were cruising down Vista Del Mar was enough for me to stay off that road & head home so I could live another day.

    The detour they supplied for the public is a suicide mission. It was not even close to being safe especially at night where several people without lights were forced to walk their bikes against traffic on the opposite side of the road.

    Thanks for bringing the issue to light.

  2. Dan K. says:

    The Vista del Mar route wasn’t a problem when I rode Saturday morning. The county used cones close one lane each direction to create a protected bike lane between where the path was closed at Dockweiler State Beach and Grand Ave where it was closed on the other end.

  3. Biker395 says:

    Vista del Mar es no bueno for commuters, particularly in the morning and evening hours. Autos regularly exceed the speed limit by a substantial margin, and there is little shoulder.

    I’ve been bike ‘n hiking the bike path since the construction began. I’ve not seen the sign banning bikes from the RV park, though, and no one has given me grief about riding through it. If they do, I’ll be sure to politely remind them about my right to be there.

    I can also report that as of this morning, the two southernmost repair locations appear to be almost complete. The concrete is poured, smoothed and is now curing. With any luck, they’ll open those two sections up in the near future.

  4. Allan says:

    Oh that sign probably means to stay off the sand. Our government would never break the law. ;-)

  5. Margaret says:

    Last Wednesday, on the way home from work, I was jerrybrowned several times on my detoured Vista del Mar ride. It was such an unsettling feeling that I vowed no Marvin Braude route for me until the bike path construction is finished.

    On March 22nd, I saw a post on the South Bay Bicycle Coalition Facebook page stating that, “…it looks like there will be a north and south lane closure on Vista del Mar this weekend between Imperial Highway and Grand Avenue. This is to allow cyclists to safely get around the bike path repair closures!” Unfortunately, I skipped right over the key word: ‘WEEKEND’. So on Monday, March 25th, I took the beach route home and once again was jerrybrowned on VDM.

    I’m not going to try the bike path again until I see someone post that barricades are permanently in place on VDM during construction.

    Oh, and I cut through the RV park all the time….never saw the sign. I’m going to look for it. Several months ago, the exit from the RV park was updated with a rope barricade so that bicyclists cannot bypass the ‘do not enter severe tire’ spikes.

  6. george-b says:

    Reblogged this on euzicasa and commented:
    I thought I recognized that intersection! thanks for the update!

  7. Robert Prinz says:

    In the East Bay we had a similar problem with Walnut Creek, where along a busy roadway they had installed signs reading “bicyclists must use sidewalk”. After some protesting on the part of the cycling community the city removed the signs and replaced them with new signs reading…. “bicyclists MAY use sidewalk”.

    Even in Berkeley there is a highway overpass on University Ave with signage banning cyclists. The city’s justification was that bans are allowed on bridges and in tunnels, and the overpass counts as a bridge, but I’m still not sold on that one. To be fair, the city has provided a very nice bike/ped bridge a couple blocks away, but keeping the ban sets a dangerous precedent, in my opinion.

  8. Jim Lyle says:

    The lanes were coned on Vista del Mar over the w/e but the cones were gone on Monday & Tuesday. To avoid this dangerous detour, ride up Grand, left on Main, left on Imperial and rejoin the bike path at Dockweiler. This adds 3 miles to your ride with a little climbing and the ambience that is the town of El Segundo.

    Going south, left on Imperial, right on Main, right on Grand and rejoin the path at el Segundo Beach.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks Jim. I may try that tomorrow if the cones aren’t back. Then again, I may try it anyway; I’ve never ridden through El Segundo.

      • Jim Lyle says:

        The cones are returning!

        Mr. Lyle,

        Thank you for your email. The cones were placed on Vista Del Mar over the weekend on a temporary basis to accommodate the bikers with the construction detour. The cones were removed late on Sunday 3/24/13, in order to have all lanes available for the Monday morning traffic. Since Vista Del Mar is in the City of Los Angeles jurisdiction, our permit was limited to the weekend only. However we have since obtained a permit from the City to install the cones on weekdays and we placed the cones back on Vista Del Mar on the west side curb lane earlier today. This lane is shared by the bikers for both directions and will remain in place for approximately two weeks untill that portion of the work is complete.

        Also, for the next phase of the project between Grand Avenue and 45th Street, we will follow the same detour through the completion of the project which is anticipated to be completed by mid-April.

        • Margaret says:

          Thanks Jim Lyle for the update. I’ll resume riding the bike path.

          Ted, If you haven’t been eastbound on Imperial Hwy in a while, then you will be in for a pleasant surprise. FWIW, Jim’s detour is worth checking out. El Segundo has a real small town feel to it.

        • Biker395 says:

          SNATCHING DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY

          Well, I took the Braude bike path home last night and all was well. As advertised, the westmost lane is coned off for bicycle traffic in both directions.

          I was so impressed, I decided to eschew the bike n’ hike this morning and give the bike lane a try this morning. That means riding against traffic, but in a lane entirely coned off for cyclists, it seemed acceptable.

          The problem is that some nitwit decided to allow three large gravel trucks to park smack-dab in the middle of the bike lane, blocking it in both directions, and forcing cyclists into oncoming traffic or to a non-existent sidewalk. Worse yet, they are parked adjacent to the parking lot where the hang gliders take off from. Why the heck didn’t they simply park there?

          Lovely. I sure hope no one gets hurt this morning.

  9. mahythesis says:

    What hideous nonsense!
    Who was it who said “Where the people lead, the leaders will follow.” – ?
    Clearly, that sign needs a bit of refurbishment. What’s holding it onto the post? Screws or rivets? Surely nothing a good Philips screwdriver or sledgehammer can’t dramatically improve! … Either that, or, a little superglue and an image of a noisy, smelly, dangerous, GHG-polluting motor vehicle.

  10. Shy says:

    The barricades on Vista del Mar may not be enough to make the alternate bike path feel safe for cyclists but they were PERFECT for snarling southbound commuter traffic on Thursday evening. Because the cars are down to one lane, it backs up traffic not long after you pass Playa and well before you hit Imperial.

    Lots of red taillights and at that time of day (7p), less than a dozen cyclists benefiting from the bike lane while cars crawled along. So I shared the road through gritted teeth while cyclists got VIP treatment.

    No mention of the lane closure anywhere, but when I googled “bike lane on vista del mar 2013″ I found this site. At least I know what’s going on now, so thanks for the explanation.

    • Biker395 says:

      We’re hardly getting VIP treatment. All they are doing is providing us with an safe alternate route while they are doing construction on the bike path itself.

      Because there is inadequate shoulder on Vista del Mar, cyclists are entitled by law to ride in the middle of the lane to avoid motorists passing with an unsafe margin.

      The problem is, when they do that, they get harassed and buzzed by impatient commuters who mistakenly believe that the cyclists are somehow breaking the law or not entitled to be where they are. The point of coning off the lane is to prevent that. Perhaps if so many motorists weren’t ignorant of the law or self entitled, it wouldn’t be necessary.

  11. [...] County Bars Bikes from Park Where Cars Allowed. Whoops. That’s Illegal (Biking In L.A.) [...]

  12. billdsd says:

    The violation here is of CVC 21, which prohibits local governments from changing the rules of the road, except where explicitly permitted in the CVC. CVC 21960 is the only law that allows banning bikes, but it only applies to controlled access highways (freeways). It would not allow them to ban bikes from the roadway here.

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