Tag Archive for Newport Beach Police Department

Actually, the Newport Beach Police Department gets it after all; Gardena may be another matter

No one gets it right all the time.

Myself included

But I have to respect anyone who can accept criticism. Especially when they actually do something about it. And particularly when the problem involves the often troublesome intersection of police and bikes.

That’s exactly what happened recently when I criticized the bicycling webpage of the Newport Beach Police Department.

As you may recall, I took them to task for offering bike safety advice that suggested cyclists should always ride to the right, while ignoring the many exceptions to CVC21202 that allow bike riders to take the lane for their own safety.

As well as disputing their recommendation to ride single file, a requirement which is contained nowhere in the California Vehicle Code.

My reasoning wasn’t just that they were wrong. It was that both bike riders and motorists might get the wrong idea from reading it, needlessly contributing to the conflicts on our streets.

The surprising part came a few days later when I received an email from bike riding NBPD Deputy Chief David McGill.

Needless to say, he wasn’t thrilled my criticisms. But instead of arguing with me, he wanted to reach out to me to work together in addressing the problems facing bicyclists in Newport Beach.

As he put it,

When Jay Johnson was sworn in as our Chief of Police in 2010, he made bicycle safety an important part of the Department’s mission.  As a result, in the past several months the NBPD has increased their efforts to work together with the community and the City’s Citizen’s Bicycle Safety Committee (recently reformed as the Bicycle Master Plan Oversight Committee) to do what we can to help improve bicycle safety for all people who visit, live and work in Newport Beach.  Together with our partners, we have accomplished much in the past few years, but there is always more work to do.

When I took a second look at what I’d written, I realized that I’d come off a little harsher than I had intended for what was, in balance, good advice for bike riders. So I toned down my criticism of their website, while responding to his email to explain my objections.

Then, to be honest, I forgot all about it, as a continuing parade of various issues and crises, both personal and bike-related, took precedence.

But they didn’t.

This week I got another email from McGill saying the department had considered my suggestions. And actually acted upon them.

But more importantly, they got it right this time.

My only suggestion was to add the phrase “when traveling below the speed of traffic” to their advice about “riding furthest to the right.” And when I checked back before writing this, I saw that change had already been made.

Of course, we didn’t win on every count.

While they continue to interpret the vehicle code as not allowing side-by-side riding in most situations, it also seems to be a lower priority for the department. And they’ve removed the instruction to ride single file from their website.

I can live with that.

And you can’t ask for much more than a police department that is willing to listen to — and better yet, act on — criticism from the bike riding public.

NBPD Chief Johnson, and those who work for him, have won my respect.

And my gratitude.


Gardena might be another story.

According to the official version, police responding to a report of a robbery and/or stolen bicycle attempted to stop two men they spotted riding bikes. That’s when a third man ran up to them, and — allegedly — reached into his waist band.

Thinking he was reaching for a gun, the officers shot multiple times, killing him and wounding one of the other men.

But if he really was armed, no one has bothered to mention it yet.

Now witness reports are coming out that the victim, Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino, was actually running with his hands in the air, rather than near his waistband. And he was trying to tell the officers that the two men were his friends, and weren’t involved in the theft.

In other words, he died because it was his bike that was stolen. And he was trying to help two friends who had nothing to do with the crime.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I understand that cops have their lives on the line, and things can go horribly wrong in any contact with the public. And that they have to make split-second decisions to protect both their own safety and those they are sworn to protect.

It’s easy for us to sit back and judge their actions after the fact. A lot harder to make those split-second decisions in real time, in real world situations.

But it looks like an innocent man — one of the L.A.’s area’s many bike riding Los Invisibles — became all too visible at exactly the wrong time, in front of cops who apparently reacted to what they thought was happening, rather than was actually was.

And now a man is dead because of it.

All because he was the victim of a bike theft, and some cops in an area with a large Latino population who apparently didn’t understand Spanish.


On a related note, KPFK’s Michael Slate Show will interview Sandra Cotton, sister of Terry Laffitte, who was fatally shot by police who initially attempted to pull him over for riding without lights last month.

The broadcast will air today — Friday — at 10 am on KPFK 90.7, streaming live at www.kpfk.org.


Finally, just a few more quick notes.

Nearly forgotten in the dust-up over New York’s bike share program is the fact that L.A.’s Bike Nation bike share program was supposed to be up and running by now. Streetsblog’s Damien Newton explains why it isn’t and maybe never will be.

The new mayor of Compton is young, female and an actual urban planner.

Volvo designs a safety system that can recognize a bike rider and apply the brakes before a collision can occur; thanks to Jeff White for the link.

An Alexandria VA bike advocate effectively rebuts the myth of the scofflaw cyclist; link courtesy of Kent Peterson.

John Grotz forwards a link to a video currently making the rounds showing a New York bike rider repeatedly cut off, then threatened in a Hassidic neighborhood before another man comes to his rescue. He notes this is the same neighborhood that successfully lobbied to have new bike lanes removed a few years back.

A Victoria BC mountain biker is nearly decapitated when a wire is strung across a bike trail in an apparent sabotage attack.

And a Brazilian billionaire’s son gets community service, loss of his license for two years and a nearly half million dollar fine — chump change for his family — for running down a bike rider in his $1.3 million Mercedes SLR McLaren.

And yes, he’s planning to appeal his very generous slap on the wrist.

Today’s post, in which I offer a few helpful corrections for the Newport Beach PD

The Newport Beach Police Department offers advice for cyclists riding in the city.

And for the most part, they get it right.

Where they fail is the admonition that bike riders should position themselves farthest to the right of the lane, ignoring the many exceptions to that requirement contained in CVC21202.

  1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
  2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
  3. When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
  4. When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

And never mind that all of that only applies to bicyclists riding below the normal speed of traffic; if you can keep up with the cars on the street at that time — which is usually pretty easy at rush hour — you can ride anywhere you want on the roadway.

All of which explains why the LAPD says “Ride where it’s right, not to the right.”

There is also no requirement under California law to ride single file, despite what some law enforcement agencies will tell you. As long as riders aren’t impeding traffic — which is defined as five or more vehicles stuck behind a slow moving vehicle and unable able to pass — there is nothing to prohibit riding side-by-side in a non-shareable lane.

Especially on a four lane roadway where drivers can use the other lane to go around.

And riding two abreast is often safer than riding single file, allowing bicyclists to control the full lane to prevent dangerous passing where there’s not enough room for drivers to do it safely. Yet many motorists will try it anyway unless riders take steps — like riding abreast — to physically prevent it.

Of course, just because it’s not against the law doesn’t mean they won’t give you a ticket for it.

And no, bicycles are not considered vehicles under California law, though riders are subject to the same rights and responsibilities of vehicle operators.

Thanks to David Huntsman for the heads-up.

Update: This is not intended as criticism of the NBPD, but rather, of the website posted under their name. From what I’ve been told, the Newport Beach Police Department is one of the more progressive departments in Southern California when it comes to working with bicyclists.

However, it remains a common problem that police can misinterpret the laws regarding bicycling, and provide inaccurate information to bike riders and drivers that can cause bicyclists to ride in an unsafe manner, and drivers to think we don’t have a right to the roadway.

When a well-intentioned website like this, which serves to provide safety information for both groups, gives incorrect information, it can do more harm than good and lead to needless conflicts on the road.


Don’t forget to vote for Walk and Rollers for the Lakers’ Youth Foundation March YOU GRANT. This is a great, locally based program to encourage children to walk and bike to school more often, and more safely. And one I endorse without reservation.


LADOT recounts the recent first-year bike plan meetings. Some of these meetings — and projects — were highly contentious; you can still offer support for your favorite bike lanes, which may need it.


A writer for the Wall Street Journal tours L.A. in a Day with Bikes and Hikes LA. L.A. fashion photographer and retailer the Cobrasnake talks tight clothes and L.A. bicycling for H&M; does it hurt my hipness quotient if I never heard of him? This is how you can tell it was a good ride. Gear up for the next battle in the war over parking and bike lanes in North Hollywood. New bike lanes on Rowena Blvd. Santa Monica police bust a bike thief. The Honor Ride for Wounded Veterans rolls in Agoura Hills on April 27th. Manhattan Beach police plan a crackdown on people who walk on the beach bike path, or ride on the Strand; thanks to Margaret Wehbi for the link. The Pomona Valley Bicycle Coalition calls for a Metrolink Bicycle Access Plan. Boyonabike looks at the not-entirely-unexpected Cal Poly Pomona Bike Lane Brush-Off; unless and until parents of students, and prospective students, decide the auto-centric school is too dangerous for their kids nothing is likely to change.

Here’s your chance to apply for the planned Newport Beach committee to oversee development of a new bike master plan. The San Diego City Council unanimously prioritizes bike safety improvements, but misses the point about the city’s deadly freeway onramps. Caltrans will test a fix a popular bike route on Highway 1 north of Cambria, after a recent chip seal ruined it for riders; this is what happens when they only consider the needs of drivers. The World Naked Bike Ride hit San Francisco on Saturday, despite the city’s recent ban on public nudity. GEICO partially blames a San Francisco cyclist for the actions of driver who doored her, despite proof to the contrary; and this is exactly what’s wrong with liability insurance in California, where cases too often end up in court for no apparent reason. Manteca plans to triple the amount of bike lanes in the city. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat calls on drivers to share the road, and for Sonoma county officials to pass the first countywide L.A.-style cyclist anti-harassment law; at least five cities have passed a similar law, but no test case has been filed anywhere yet.

Fat Cyclist deservedly takes a bikewear manufacturer to task for their needlessly sexist and borderline offensive ad and asinine, virtually incomprehensible marketing philosophy. The Bike League offers advice on how to approach political leaders gleaned from interviews with Congressional staffers. After a Denver-area cyclist is killed in a hit-ad-run, the driver calls police to claim he didn’t know he hit anyone; if any driver is so careless, drunk or distracted he doesn’t even know he killed someone, he or she shouldn’t be allowed behind the wheel. More on the NYPD dropping the term accident from it’s traffic investigations; now maybe we can get the LAPD — and the press — to do the same. Nearly 600 cyclists are injured by dooring in Great Britain every year. Former pro Laurent Jalabert was seriously injured when he was hit by a car headed in the opposite direction.

Finally, I’ve often said that Red Kite Prayer’s Padraig writes more beautifully about bicycling than just about anyone else who’s attempted to set pen to two wheels. But today, he offers a heartbreaking perspective, reminding us that some things are far more important than riding.

If you don’t read anything else I’ve linked to today, read that one.

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