Tag Archive for illegal tickets

Update: Busted for going too slow? Or Biking While Brown in Gardena?

Update: Here’s video of the  incident. I wonder how many motorists are frisked or searched for weapons for a simple traffic violation?

Something tells me a white, middle-aged man like me would have have been treated far differently under similar circumstances.


We’ll hope it was just a mistake.

On Wednesday night, a group of bike riders were on their way for a meeting with the Gardena City Manager when an apparently over-enthusiastic police officer pulled the entire group over. And ticketed them for a violation that didn’t apply under the circumstances.

From the Los Riders Facebook page

From the Los Riders Facebook page

Representatives of the United Riders, made up of members of Los Riders and East Side Riders, were on their way to city hall with relatives of hit-and-run victim Benjamin Torres in their continuing fight for justice in the still unsolved case. As well as  to discuss the issue of ghost bikes following the removal the memorial for Torres.

In the absence of a bike lane or other bicycling infrastructure, they were riding in the right lane, outside the door zone — as they are legally entitled to do — when they were pulled over by a squad car on the 15400 block of South Western Avenue.

According to the Los Riders Facebook page, they were told to sit on the curb while the officer waited for her Sargent to arrive with another four patrol cars in tow.

All for a handful of bicyclists riding slowly  on their casual cruiser bikes.

Maybe too slow for the officer in question, who, after consulting with her superior, ended up citing the group for impeding traffic under CVC 22400.

Yet according to the LAPD, the standard for impedance requires a minimum of five vehicles stuck behind the slower moving vehicle and unable to pass, which was not likely in this case. And it doesn’t apply on roads with two or more lanes in each direction — like Western, for instance — where a driver could simply change lanes to go around the slower vehicle.

Or bike.

Or group of bikes.

In other words, despite the presence of at least six patrol officers, including a police Sargent, they couldn’t come up with a valid violation to cite the riders with.

And it’s pretty well guaranteed that those six patrol cars impeded traffic far more, and far longer, than a group of slow moving bike riders would have.

Meanwhile, the riders eventually got to city hall for their meeting. And ran into Gardena police chief Ed Medrano, who promised to talk with the officers in question.

No word on whether the tickets will be rescinded, however.

Which brings up the question of whether the riders were really stopped by an officer who didn’t understand the law because they were riding too slow.

Or because they were profiled based on their appearance and attire.

That’s not a question I can answer.

But its one I wish I didn’t have to ask.

Thanks to Danny Gamboa and Lynn Ingram for the heads-up.

Impeding Traffi Ticket

Update: The five vehicle standard in found under CVC 21656, which also notes it only apply on two-lane roads; thanks to billsd for the heads-up.

Meanwhile, Streetsblog’s Sahra Sulaiman offers a detailed look at what happened. 

Update 2: According to my records, Gardena has had at least three bicycling fatalities since 2010, including two in the last nine months — a horrible record for a town of under 60,000 people. And all of those were hit-and-runs.

They have far bigger problems than a few bicyclists riding in the traffic lane.

Is it time for a cyclists’ legal defense fund?

A few months back, someone contacted me looking for a lawyer to represent a cyclist who’d been injured in yet another of the city’s steady stream of hit-and-runs.

I wrote back asking for a little more information before I reached out to my contacts; meanwhile, they found someone to take the case. But it started me thinking that L.A. should have a referral service for cyclists who need legal assistance.

In fact, one of the ideas I intend to address with the LACBC is the possibility of creating just such a service, where cyclists could find a lawyer knowledgeable about cycling issues and with experience in bicycle law. And who would agree to accept an occasional pro bono case or offer legal advice now and then in exchange for referrals on potentially more lucrative cases.

Take my own case when I was a victim of a road rage assault.

I spent a couple of days calling one attorney after another looking for help, only to be repeatedly turned down because a) I’d given the driver the finger before she hit me, and b) my case simply wasn’t worth enough to compensate a lawyer for the time he or she would have to put in.

Although how any word or gesture justifies an assault with a deadly weapon is beyond me.

That last part I understood, though, as frustrating as it was; lawyers need to make a living like anyone else. I finally got help through one of my in-laws; but if he had charged a normal rate for the legal services he provided, I would have owed him far more than the meager amount the insurance company finally settled for.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m very grateful for the help I received, and appreciate that my attorney’s fee barely covered his expenses.

But a referral service could have put me in touch with someone who specialized in bike cases, and had a better understanding of how bikes work and how the rights we’re supposed to enjoy on the road are frequently infringed by dangerous and uncaring drivers.

Then there are cases where legal rights, rather than a monetary award, are the issue. And where a lawyer’s assistance is every bit as necessary.

Like defending cyclists ticketed for imagined violations that aren’t actually against the law.

Or take the recent case in Flagstaff AZ, where a rider was brushed by a city bus. Yet amazingly, the local authorities concluded the driver didn’t violate that state’s three-foot law because he was in a bike lane — even though the right side of that lane was blocked by snow, forcing him to ride near the traffic lane on the left.

Then there’s the case of a Massachusetts LAB-certified cycling instructor stopped repeatedly and arrested for the crime of riding in the roadway on a state highway, rather than on the shoulder. Or the Texas rider who has been cited, arrested and convicted for impeding traffic even though drivers could easily pass using the other lane, and now faces trial in another jurisdiction for the crime of riding on the roadway.

A New Mexico writer makes an intriguing suggestion that could offer a solution for cases like this.

His idea is for a legal defense fund that would be operated by the League of American Bicyclists, supported by the deep pockets of the bike industry.

As he envisions it, this would operate as sort of a legal strike force, evaluating cases for merit and importance, and providing assistance where warranted anywhere in the U.S.

The benefit for cyclists should be obvious.

As is the benefit to the bicycle industry, which would profit from the expansion in ridership that would undoubtedly follow the expansion and protection of riders’ rights.

It’s certainly worth considering.

Because our right to the road is only as good as the willingness of the police and courts to enforce it.


Drivers often say bikes should be registered to pay for their place on the road; places that do it say it just doesn’t pay.


More on last weekend’s StreetSummit.

Damien covers the plenary speakers (if, like me, you had no idea what plenary means, click here), and covers the Bike Plan workshop, including BAC Chair Glenn Bailey’s comments that the revised plan looks better, but still needs work.  And Gary says the time is now, let’s kick some ass.


Metro’s Orange Line bike study kicks off this week; there’s still time to volunteer. Danceralamode says ladies, learn to fix your own bike like she now does. Congratulations to Ted’s Manhattan Cycles in Manhattan Beach, celebrating its 50th Anniversary. A British perspective on the South Bay — aka Marvin Braude — bike path. Santa Barbara curb extensions are credited with making a key street safer for cyclists and pedestrians. A DC councilman says we’re being too easy on drivers who kill. A rider on motorized bike is hit by a car, then run over and killed by an SUV as people tried to help. U of Maryland cyclists are allowed full use of the lane, and encouraged to stay off the sidewalk. As the Witch on a Bicycle astutely points out, how can a group of cyclists impede traffic when they are traffic? It’s time to stop peddling road rage over the airwaves; maybe it’s time to ban the term avid cyclist, too. And come to think of it, bikes aren’t alternative transportation, either. Yellowstone’s snowmobile season is over, so it’s time to break out the bikes and bear spray; just don’t ride into Canada loaded for bear. You don’t have to stink after riding your bike to work. It’s time to pull on your woolies and ride. Despite the rash of cycling deaths, London’s new 20 mph speed zones are saving lives. A London cyclist is charged with involuntary manslaughter after a fatal collision with a pedestrian at a busy intersection. Brits question why bike cops need 10 hours of training before they hit the streets. Two Kiwi cyclists credit their helmets with saving their lives over the weekend. Is a person on a bike worth less than one in a car? French President Sarkozy doesn’t have to ride those darn French bikes anymore. Now that’s what I call bike parking.

Finally, Albuquerque unveils a new bike safety campaign with the theme Easy to Miss, because we are with just a little effort; an L.A. version of their 10 Things Drivers Should Know should be mandatory reading for local drivers.

A not-so-brief lesson in social protest.

Let’s spend just one more day discussing the recent crosswalk protest in Santa Monica. Or more precisely, the reasons behind the protest and what can be done about them.

As Alex points out in his post about the crosswalk protest, the Santa Monica CM riders have tried everything they could think of to get the city manager, council members and police to work with them to in finding solutions that would work to everyone’s benefit. The only result was more tickets, and more ham-handed police tactics, as if this was the most important item on their agenda.

So what can be done, if nothing has worked?

Start by thinking like a politician. While there are some elected officials who really do want to do the right thing, what matters most to most pols these days are A) the votes they need to get re-elected, and B) the money they need to get those votes. Yes, it sucks, and yes, we all like to pretend that’s not the case, but that’s the system we’re living with these days. So deal with it, already.

And judging by the reaction, the city is more concerned about the people who complain about Critical Mass, than they are about the votes they might lose from CM riders — many of whom live outside the city.

So that leaves money. If one or more of those C.M. rider have extra-deep pockets, it’s game over. Just make the maximum donation allowed under law to the re-election funds of every council member, and drop a hint that it would be nice if the police backed off a little. Then just wait a reasonable amount of time, and the council will decide that maybe Critical Mass isn’t so bad after all.

On the other hand, no deep pockets means you’ve got to get a little more creative.

Get the public on your side. People love underdogs in this country, and want to support those who are being treated unfairly by government — especially in a left-leaning community like Santa Monica.

So why aren’t the people on the cyclists side here? After all, the cyclists are the victims here, at least in terms of being unfairly — and possibly, illegally — ticketed. (Hint: protests that keep them from getting home to their families don’t usually help.)

Get some publicity. Tell your side of the story to anyone who will listen. Talk about why Critical Mass exists, and why you ride like relatively well-behaved hooligans through the streets of Santa Monica once a month. And tell everyone who’ll listen about how unfair the city is being.

While Santa Monica doesn’t have a local newspaper anymore, this is a story that’s tailor made for one of the alternative weeklies. You might also be able to get someone at the Times interested, such as Steve Hyman at the Bottleneck Blog.

Call every TV station. Call the radio stations and see if anyone will put you on the air to tell your story — especially Santa Monica’s public radio station, KCRW. Go to the 3rd Street Promenade and the Farmer’s Market and pass out handbills explaining the police harassment, and the city’s refusal to meet with you.

In other words, use every opportunity and forum you can think of to get your side of the story out there — without pissing people off at the same time.

Document your ride. Equip as many riders as you can with small digital video recorders. That way, you will have proof of what really happens if the police crack down again. Just remember, though — they can use it for proof, too.

Invite guest riders. Invite the press to ride along, and bring their notebooks and cameras. Let them see for themselves how harmless the ride is — and how heavy-handed the police reaction. If they see you getting tickets for violations that didn’t happen, they’ll report on it. And the public is a lot more likely to believe them than a group of rowdy riders.

Besides, wouldn’t you just love to see Paul Moyer on a Critical Mass ride?

Or invite a celebrity to join in. There’s no shortage of successful actors, musicians, models, etc., around here, and some of them love to ride. In this town, it often takes a lot less than six degrees of separation to find someone who knows them.

Just the presence of someone famous may be enough to get the police to back off. Let’s hope not, though. Because if you get a ticket, chances are, no one will really care. But if someone like that gets a ticket, it’s the lead story on Entertainment Tonight.

Contact the City Attorney. If the police really are acting illegally, the city attorney’s not likely to be very happy about it. And if you don’t get any traction there, go over her head.

Get a good lawyer. This is America, where litigation — or the threat of litigation — trumps all. There’s no shortage of cycling attorney’s around here; you may be able to find one willing to represent you pro bono through one of the cycling clubs, like Velo LaGrange. Or you might be able to get the ACLU or Common Cause interested; if not, they should be able to refer you to someone who will be.

Apply pressure. While a couple hundred CM cyclists probably aren’t enough to get the city’s attention, a couple thousand angry cyclists will — and that’s still just a small fraction of the riders who live in Santa Monica, let alone the tens of thousands who pass through every day.

So start a letter writing campaign. Ask everyone you know — and everyone they know — to write the Santa Monica city government and demand that they work with you to find a solution that will allow CM to go on, without causing undue inconvenience to city residents.

There’s always a comprise, if the city and the riders are motivated to find it.

Or go viral. Start an email campaign explaining your position, and asking people to email the city government. Then send it to every rider you know, and ask them to pass it on to every rider they know, as well as contacting every CM group in the country. When the city starts getting angry emails from Des Moines and Kalamazoo — potentially effecting their tourist trade — they’ll pay attention.

Use economic pressure. Again, if a few hundred CM riders stop shopping in Santa Monica, no one’s going to notice. But if a few thousand riders stop spending money in the city, people will pay attention — and the threat of a boycott is often more effective than the boycott itself.

So start an online petition. Ask people to sign a statement saying that unless the city stops writing illegal tickets and negotiates a reasonable accommodation allowing the rides to continue, they will stop spending any money in Santa Monica. No nightclubs, no restaurants, no (gasp!) Starbucks, no REI, no boutiques on Main or Montana.

Ask them to estimate the amount of money they spend in Santa Monica each week when they sign, as well. When the city sees the amount of money local merchants could lose, and the amount they could lose in taxes, they will pay attention.

And I’ll be one of the first to sign it.

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