They should be embarrassed.
Or maybe we should, since the LA County Sheriff’s Department is supposed to work for all of us.
As the video points out, sharrows are not just wayfinding symbols that indicate a Class III bike route, but indicate the preferred position for bike riders within the lane. While you’re not required to ride on the sharrows, if you position yourself on the point of the arrow, you’ll be in the exact spot traffic engineers think you should be within the lane.
Those charged with enforcing the law should know that.
Yet from what I heard from other bike riders, the Deputy’s misconception, while an extreme example, isn’t that unusual for the department.
Many riders have complained about Sheriff’s Deputies demanding that they ride as far as possible to the right, in violation of CVC 21202, which only requires bicyclists to ride as far to the right as practicable. And then, only when traveling below the speed of traffic.
If you’re riding as fast or faster than the vehicles around you, you can legally ride anywhere you damn please, as long as you travel in the direction of traffic.
Yet even if you’re just crawling along, there are countless exceptions to the requirement to ride to the ride — including riding in a non-sharable lane, which is defined as any lane too narrow to share with a motor vehicle. And that includes allowing for sufficient space to avoid the door zone, which is one of those hazards the law refers to.
Which means that virtually every right lane in the Los Angeles area should be considered non-sharable. Especially if it allows parking on the right.
The officer is also mistaken in his insistence that the rider was obstructing traffic. Under California law, that only applies on two lane roadways, and by definition, requires five or more vehicles stuck behind the slower vehicle and unable to pass. If drivers can pass, or if there is another lane to the left they could use to pass if they chose to do so, the rider is not legally obstructing traffic.
As the video shows, this was a four lane street. And drivers were able to pass with ease — including the officer who dangerously chose to speak with a moving cyclist without pulling over to the curb first.
Unfortunately, this brings up a much bigger problem.
While the LAPD has worked with local bike riders to clarify the laws applying to cyclists, and developed a training session to train their officers in just how to — and how not to — enforce traffic laws relating to cyclists, the LASD, to the best of my knowledge, has not.
Just what training their officers receive in bike law isn’t known outside of the department and the officers who actually receive it. Or not.
And while the department may feel their officer training is adequate, this video — and complaints from bike riders around the county suggesting a lack of knowledge and inconsistent enforcement in various areas of the county — would suggest it isn’t.
It’s long past time for the Sheriff’s Department to step up and work with cyclists to ensure their officers understand bike law and enforce it correctly, and fairly.
In the meantime, this video prepared by the LAPD in conjunction cyclists participating in the department’s bike task force remains the state-ot-the-art for bicycle traffic law training among SoCal police agencies.
Even then, it’s only as good as department’s commitment to ensure every officer views it.
And learns it.