Tag Archive for Venice Beach

Update: Bike rider illegally ticketed by pissed-off cop for non-infractions on Venice bike path

Give Yo! Venice! credit for reporting this one.

The popular website broke the news yesterday that a bike rider on the beachfront Marvin Braude bike path was ticketed by a cop for a made-up violation — simply because he pointed out the LAPD officer’s motorcycle was blocking the pathway last Thanksgiving weekend.

According to the site — and backed up by a helmet cam video of the interaction — Venice resident Chris J. was slowly riding north on the pathway when he encountered the officer blocking the entire southbound section of the bikeway, at the same time a girl on a tricycle was blocking the north side of the path.

So after going around, he — politely, evidently — informed the officer his motorcycle was blocking the path, to which the officer responded “I can give you a ticket for that.”

Next thing he knew, the cop was following behind his slow moving beach cruiser with lights flashing.

And that’s when it gets interesting.

The cyclist turned on his helmet cam and recorded the officer fumbling for something, anything, he could ticket him for. And admitting on camera that the only reason he was writing up the rider was because he had argued with him.

Politely asking a cop not to block the bikeway may not be smart, but it sure as hell isn’t arguing.

Kind of violates the meaning of “To Protect and Serve,” doesn’t it?

First the officer threatens to write up the cyclist for riding on the wrong side of the bike path. Which, to the best of my knowledge, isn’t illegal; if the same traffic laws that apply to motor vehicles also apply to an off-road, Class I bikeway — a multi-use pathway in places — this is the first I’ve heard of it.

If so, the department could make up the state’s entire budget deficit just by writing tickets on the bike path. Starting with pedestrians walking on the bike-only sections, since people generally aren’t allowed to walk in the street, either.

Of course, it would also require cyclists to signal their lane change every time they pass someone. Along with a host of equally absurd requirements never before enforced on this bike path, or any other that I’m aware of.

So Chris argues that there’s a dotted yellow line dividing the two sides of the path in that section, rather than a solid yellow line, legally allowing him to cross over it in order to pass someone.

When the officer can’t argue that point, the cop switches gears. And instead, writes a ticket for violating the state’s Basic Speed Law, for — wait for it — riding 5 mph in a 10 mph zone.

Never mind the fact that the officer appears to have made up the 10 mph speed limit, which is not posted anywhere along the bikeway. Or anywhere else that I can find, for that matter.

Instead, let’s consider that the Basic Speed Law, CVC 22350, refers only to a speed greater than is reasonable under the circumstances. It says absolutely nothing about going too slowly.

Basic Speed Law

22350.  No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.

And to the best of my knowledge, a bike path is not a highway.

But I could be wrong about that; I’ll let you know if I see a semi-truck and a few speeding SUVs rolling down it when I’m out that way this afternoon.

Maybe the officer meant to write a ticket for CVC 22400, the Minimum Speed Law. Except that pertains only to highways, as well.

Not bike paths.

And part of which only applies to vehicles subject to registration.

In other words, not bikes.

Of course, had the officer written a ticket for that, he likely would have been laughed out of court when the case comes up before a judge on Friday. As he should be for attempting to make up traffic laws on the spot in order to cite a bike rider simply because the rider pissed him off.

Which is not exactly what we should expect from a trained officer sworn to uphold the law, who should have known better.

Or at least, known enough not to admit it on camera.

And I should also point out that it’s not against the law to argue with a cop. Although it’s seldom a good idea.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, take the ticket. Then take it up with the officer’s superiors, or fight it in court.

I’ve reached out to the LAPD’s bike liaisons for the West Traffic Division to see what they have to say on the subject. So far, I haven’t gotten a response; I’ll let you know if I do.

Update: According to KNBC-4, Detective Gus Villanueva of the LAPD’s Media Relations Section says the ticket was canceled “in the interest of justice,” and that the department was conducting an investigation into the officer involved.

Yo! Venice!, which has done a great job keeping on top of this story, reports that the officer involved works out of the West Traffic Division; still no response from the bike liaison from that Division. 

A minor miracle on the beachfront Marvin Braude bikeway

Finally, the sand is on the side of the bike path, where it's supposed to be.

Did you notice that?

To be honest, I almost missed it. Not because the change wasn’t dramatic, but because things were finally exactly the way they’re supposed to be — and until this year, usually had been.

For the first time in months, the bike path along the beach was virtually clear of sand, all the way from the Venice pier to the northern terminus in Pacific Palisades.

Finally, no sand on the path as far you can see.

Last week, I wrote that even though the county has been very responsive in clearing the sand that had built up on the sections they maintain in Santa Monica and Venice, results from the city had been significantly less impressive.

And the relatively small section the city is charged with maintaining, from north of the Annenberg Community Beach House to Will Rogers State Beach, remained covered with sand that had been there since the storms of last spring.

The telltale scrape marks left by a front loader after clearing the sand.

Scrape marks left by a front loader after clearing the sand from the concrete.

What a difference a few days makes.

On Thursday, Eric B commented that he’d just seen a heavy front loader, followed by someone with a leaf blower clearing away the sand, on the bike path. So I reworked my planned route for the next day to take in that section.

Focused on my ride, I was halfway through before I saw the telltale scrape marks on the concrete. And finally noticed what wasn’t there.

Sand.

Now there's enough room that users in each direction can stay on their own side.

It had been cleared away at last, and the path was open and truly ridable for the first time in months. And like me, no one even seemed to notice.

Which is exactly how it should be.

So thank you, Mr. Haynes, or whoever it was who was responsible for finally getting it cleaned. Now if you can just have those maintenance people come back every now and then to keep it that way, we’ll all be happy.

There's still a little sand spilling over in places, but nothing we can't ride around.

Speaking of which, I received a report this morning from LAPD bike liaison Sgt. David Krumer that he observed police officers advising pedestrians to stay off the bike path in Venice over the weekend.

Politely, I hope.

But still.

And on Friday, I watched as a private work crew worked to remove the broken and battered sailboat that had been beached just off the bike path in Venice for the last several months, after the skipper was tragically killed in one of last May’s storms.

The boat beached after a fatal sailing accident was finally removed on Friday.

So after months of dealing with a barely ridable path — and in the case of pedestrians on the bike path, years of virtual non-enforcement of the bikes-only restrictions — it looks like we’re finally making some progress on Southern California’s most popular bikeway.

Now if someone can just give me the name of whoever is in charge of getting the sun to come out…

No one seem to notice where city assumes responsibility for maintaining the bike path; they just enjoyed a nice ride for a change.

………

Coverage of Friday’s Critical Mass ride and Blood In protest redux; links courtesy of Damien at Streetsblog. Beach bikes cruise PCH to Save the Ta-tas. The Anchorage paper tells drivers and cyclists to curb the temper and share the road. A 14-year old Fairbanks girl is dead and her brother injured after a pickup driver runs a red light. Oregon transit officials turn 8 parking spaces into 74 by trading cars for bikes. A Texas traffic engineer says just push the damn button if you want the light to change. Norman OK considers a three foot passing law after two cyclists are killed in OKC. A bike cop’s-eye view of a popular DC walking and biking trail. Mass Senators talk politics over bikes. Some drivers are jerks around cyclists, some cyclists are jerks around pedestrians. A Indianapolis triathlete gets right hooked by a minivan on its way to a Burger King. Evidently, the Tour de France is nearly as hard on reporters as it is on the riders; thanks to George Wolfburg for the link. A soon-to-be-ex member of Lance Armstrong’s Team RadioShack faces a two-year ban for doping. Belfast bobbies bear down on bike-raging bicyclists. A look at dooring from the driver’s perspective. Just one weekend into London’s new bike sharing program, refunds are already in the works. Biking across Australia in eight days or less. If you need a good laugh, check out the cycling infrastructure failure of the month, courtesy of Bicycle Fixation’s Rick Risemberg.

Finally, a UK cyclist takes one last ride to his own funeral.

True Grit: clearing a path for beachfront bicyclists

See the sand on the bike path? Me neither.

Notice anything different lately?

As you may recall, a couple weeks ago I wrote about the long-standing problem of sand on the Marvin Braude Bike Path along the beach in Santa Monica and Venice.

Then last week, I shared an email that I sent to County Bicycle Coordinator Abu Yusuf, after discovering that the county is responsible for maintaining the bikeway.

Or most of it, any way.

And I promised to let you know when I received a response. Then again, if you’ve ridden the bike path over the last few days, I probably don’t have to tell you what that response was.

To be honest, I didn’t think they were taking me seriously at first.

This is what local cyclists have had to deal with in recent months.

Mr. Yusuf emailed back, explaining that the bike path gets cleared three times a week, and inspected on a regular basis. And their records showed the maintenance was up to date and it was clear of sand.

So I picked up the phone, and said, as politely as possible, maybe you should take another look at those photos.

I explained that I’ve been riding that bike path for nearly 20 years. And this was the first time it had looked more like a sand trap at Riviera than southern California’s most heavily used bikeway — and stayed that way for over two months.

I was prepared for an argument. But his response surprised me.

As late as Monday, the bike path in Santa Monica looked like this.

Yusuf took my complaints seriously — even though they contradicted what he believed — and offered to meet me in Venice to take a first hand look.

Meanwhile, my original email, which had been circulated through the county maintenance department, seemed to be having an effect.

When I rode the bike path last week, it seemed a little cleaner than it had anytime since the storms of last May. Not yet free from sand, but clearly efforts had been made to clean the sand off in a number of places.

Then I rode it again this past Monday. And it showed even more improvement, though it still had a long way to go.

This is how the same section looked on Tuesday.

So Tuesday morning, I rode out to Venice, this time as a representative of the LACBC, to meet with Yusuf and the county’s other Bicycle Coordinator, Kristofor Norberg. I also asked my friend George Wolfberg to join us, since he’s involved in a number of local and regional community groups and bicycle advisory committees.

What we saw surprised us.

Overnight, following the regularly scheduled Tuesday morning maintenance, the bike path had gone from a sea of sand to an actual, ridable bike path. There were still problems, but the cement was cleaner than it had been in months.

It may not be perfect yet, but the bike path hasn't been this clear in months.

Of course, no pathway along the beach will ever be completely free of sand. Daily ocean breezes blow it onto the path, and every beachgoer who tramps across it drags a little sand with them.

But the difference was night and day.

So the first thing we did when Yusuf and Norberg arrived was to say thank you. Then we took them on a little walk to point out some problems that still remained.

They surprised us, too. Instead of the sterotypical SoCal bureaucrats hell bent on defending their department, we found two very polite and friendly men who were clearly committed to solving problems and finding a way to get things done.

In other words, exactly the kind of public servants our city and county so desperately need these days.

Kristofor Norberg and George Wolfberg examine how much of the bike path has been lost to sand.

We showed them places where a malfunctioning sprinkler system washed out the sand bordering the path, sending it streaming across the bikeway in inch-deep deposits. Along with areas where sand had been allowed to overtake the edges of the path, reducing its usable surface by as much as a foot and a half in places.

We pointed out places where pedestrians walk across the bike path, often without looking — and they showed us where warning signs had been removed or covered with graffiti, and where sweeping equipment had worn off the markings that indicated portions of the path were for bikes only.

And we talked about the problems presented by the odd combination of cyclists, skaters, skateboarders, joggers, pedestrians and Segway jockeys who traverse the path on a daily basis. In fact, we watched as a bike rider nearly had to be restrained after colliding with a skateboarder.

And after a tour that lasted well over an hour, our meeting felt more like four friends working together to solve a problem than a couple of cyclists butting heads against the usual brick wall of local government.

This sign used to say something; now it's just bike parking.

In the end, they committed to follow up with the county maintenance staff to make sure the path stays as clear of sand as possible, and to see what can be done about the problem areas and the streaks of sand the sweepers sometimes leave behind.

They offered to look into additional signage and striping to identify the bike-only portions of the path and warn pedestrians to look out for bikes when they cross the path. They also agreed to ask for bike cops to patrol the path from time to time to try to prevent conflicts before they happen.

And finally, they asked for your help.

If you notice any problems on the bike path or areas where the signage could be improved, Yusuf wants to hear from you; you can email him at ayusuf@dpw.lacounty.gov. Or just send them to me or the LACBC, and we’’ll forward it to him for you.

On the other hand, he also made it clear that there are limits to what he can do.

For instance, the county has responsibility for everything on the bike path itself — but anything on either side falls under the jurisdiction of other city or state agencies.

And their jurisdiction ends just north of the new Annenberg Community Beach House, where the city takes over.

Which means we face a whole different set of problems to get that section cleaned.

But at least, this is one clear victory for cyclists.

Clearly, we still have work to do; this is where the city maintained portion of the bike path begins.

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