Big news on blocked bike lanes, Complete Streets and drivers manuals

Turns out, this really is illegal after all. Photo of Venice Blvd bike lane courtesy of Todd Munford.

It took awhile.

But we’ve finally got an answer on whether blocking bike lanes with anything other that a parked motor vehicle is legal.

And it turns out, it’s not.

The other day, along a handful of other local cycling activists, I got an advance look at the new officer training materials currently being prepared by the LAPD. It’s still a work in progress, but promises to be a huge step forward in repairing relations between the city’s police and cyclists.

And ensuring that our rights — and yes, responsibilities — will be respected and enforced.

One thing stood out, though, especially in light of the above photo. So I turned to the LAPD Commander next to me to ask for a little clarification.

A bike lane, he explained, is a lane of traffic. And it is against the law to block any traffic lane without a permit.

Which means that those trash cans and recycling bins blocking the bike lane in the picture up above are violating the law. As are the countless tree limbs, advertising signs, double-parked cars and other assorted hazards we frequently find blocking our way on the few strips of asphalt dedicated to our exclusive use.

Of course, it’s one thing to confirm it’s illegal. It’s another entirely to get someone to enforce it.

As Stephen Box has pointed out, LADOT’s Parking Enforcement Division hasn’t been in a hurry to write tickets for bike lane violations. And while the police can write tickets, it’s not exactly their highest priority, for obvious reasons.

So the next time you find a bike lane blocked, call and complain.

Call LADOT. Call the police (but don’t call 911 — a blocked lane may be a pain in the ass, but it’s not an emergency). Call your local councilmember.

And keep calling until someone actually does something.

Because it turns out, it really is illegal.

Meanwhile, Cyclelicious broke the news last week that big changes are taking place on the state level.

On March 9th, Caltrans Director Randell Iwasaki announced the state’s new Complete Streets Implementation Action Plan that’s intended, along with other measures, “to meet the needs of all users.”

Iwasaki instructs state transportation agency employees to “view all transportation improvements as opportunities to improve safety, access, and mobility for all travelers in California and recognizes bicycle, pedestrian, and transit modes as integral elements of the transportation system.”

In other words, bikes and pedestrians will now — in theory, at least — be taken in account in all future state roadway work.

Which won’t mean immediate changes. But it has the potential to eventually transform every city and county throughout the entire state.

On the other hand, the new 2010 California Drivers Handbook could have a more immediate effect, clearly stating that cyclists have the same right to the road as any other road users:

Bicyclists on public streets have the same rights and responsibilities as automobile and motorcycle drivers. Respect the right-of-way of bicyclists because they are entitled to share the road with other drivers. Here are some critical points for drivers and bicyclists to remember:

Motor vehicle drivers must:

• Pass a bicyclist as they would a slow moving-vehicle. Pass with caution, and only when safe.

• Look carefully for bicyclists before opening doors next to moving traffic or before turning.

• Safely merge toward the curb or into the bike lane.

• Not overtake a bicyclist just before making a turn. Merge first, then turn.

• Be careful when approaching or passing a bicyclist on a freeway.

As Cyclelicious shows, it goes on to clearly spell out the responsibilities of cyclists to obey all traffic signals and stop signs, to ride with the flow of traffic — including riding on the left on one-way streets — and to “signal their intentions to motorists and bicyclists near them,” among other points.

It’s not perfect.

But if drivers — and cyclists — actually pay attention to what it says, our streets could start getting a lot safer.



In yet another case of a UK cyclist dying in a collision with a large truck, emerging British musician and fashion designer Shivon Watson — who recorded under the name Shiv Lizzy — was struck and killed in the London borough of Hackney on Wednesday. Closer to home, no cause of death has been determined for L.A. resident Kevin Brent Cohn, whose body was discovered in the bike path in Ballona Creek on Saturday.


Santa Monica-area cyclists may want to make plans to attend an important Monday night meeting on street improvements to 20th Street and Cloverfield Blvd. L.A.’s second Tweed Ride rolls on Saturday the 27th. Over four thousand cyclists take part in Saturday’s Solvang Century. The Redland’s Classic bike race kicks off on the 25th. Long Beach’s biking expats roll through West Texas on their way to Austin. Why are hipster fixie riders the most pretentious jerks in San Francisco? Also in the Bay Area, you can have your bike stolen — and get it back 30 minutes later. If you’re visiting New York City, you might want to bring your bike with you — or maybe you’d prefer pedaling through Transylvania. A popular Ohio cyclist and bike store owner is found dead on the side of the road; authorities suspect natural causes. More highlights from last week’s National Bike Summit. This year’s Paris – Nice race goes to the same guy who won last year’s Le Tour, for the second time. An Ottawa paper visits America’s most bike-friendly brewery. Calgary has to do more to support cyclists, including getting non-cyclists to pay more attention on bike paths; yeah, that would be nice here, too. Toronto’s leading candidate for mayor says let’s put the bike plan on hold. The 50 best bikes, from a Brit perspective. A South African writer mistakenly believes he’s being clever when he says bicycles are for children and circus bears, and describes cyclists as “pointy headed people wearing disturbingly tight Lycra and gay shoes; evidently, he didn’t read about the three cyclists killed there earlier this week.

Finally, a retired L.A. police officer paralyzed by a robber’s bullet is training to ride in this year’s Race Across America to raise money and awareness for Operation Awareness, an LAPD-based program that has sent 35 young people from gang-infested neighborhoods to college over the last 10 years.


  1. Digital Dame says:

    I don’t do a lot of riding on one-way streets, I think it would feel very odd to be on the left when we’re so trained to stick to the right as much as possible. What is the rationale for riding on the left on a one-way?

  2. Digital Dame, if you’re going to make an upcoming left hand turn on a one-way street is one thing, also, sometimes when you enter a one-way street you are inevitable on the left side, and rather than cross 4 lanes of traffic to get to the right side, it’s just as safe to remain to the left.

    Regarding the trashcans, (okay, NOT defending them at all–I equally hate them), but where are these residents supposed to place the trash cans so that the garbage truck can get to them? If they place them on the sidewalk, then the garbage truck will probably ignore them, right? So are they supposed to be placed in the parking lane next to the curb? And if there are cars parked there, then where are they supposed to go? I think the problem is deeper than people putting their garbage cans in the bike lane, but rather the poor design of where the bike lane is. It seems the residents might not really have any other option of where to place the cans…Unless I’m missing something. (Again, not defending them, just curious where they are supposed to be.)

    • bikinginla says:

      I’ve wondered the same thing about where to put trash cans. It’s more efficient for the trash trucks to be able to just roll down the street and pick up all the bins; however, it puts cyclists at risk — especially when the truck is present. And I have seen cars collide with bins placed in the street.

      In my neighborhood, the trash collectors get off the truck and roll the bins out into the street, then roll them back onto the curb. A lot less efficient, but a lot safer for everyone.

    • ubrayj02 says:

      You put the trash cans next to the curb! That is, park your car in your garage or your property.

    • Easy: you put them in front of your driveway. It’s illegal to park in front of someone’s driveway, so there’s always space there. If you need to get your car out of the driveway, simply move the trash cans temporarily, pull your car out, and replace the trash cans. Simple.

  3. Yokota Fritz says:

    @Dame: Ride on the left isn’t mandatory, but it’s allowed. You need to ride on the left side when (for example) a left turn is coming up, or if your destination is on the left.


    Illegal parking’s annoying, isn’t it? Besides trash bins in the lane, I’ve complained to local police about people who consistently park on the sidewalk and in the handicap access ramp in violation of CVC 22500.

    This guy in Toronto suggests hiring a city cop to issue parking tickets to bike lane scofflaws.

    • bikinginla says:

      I think if I could hire my own cop, I wouldn’t bother with parking violations. I’d just ask him to ride with me for a few days and ticket dangerous drivers along the way.

  4. […] Blocking Bike Lanes Is Illegal in L.A. Regardless of What You Use (Biking in L.A.) […]

  5. max says:

    There’s two blocks of Venice Blvd in Mar Vista where the residents put their bins out into the bike lanes every week – one section going east, and one nearby going west. Because no other blocks do this, I think it’s just a herd mentality problem – they’ve always done it, so that’s how they do it. There’s nothing to suggest that the bin trucks wouldn’t pick up their bins if they didn’t, since no other residents do it.

  6. We should do some DIY enforcement and go tape big yellow signs to their trash cans telling them to place them on the sidewalk or by the curb, but not in the bike lane. Tell them next time it’s a cop with a ticket!!! Or next time we will assume they don’t need the trash cans and will remove them for them…Something sneaky.

    • bikinginla says:

      Hmmmmmm… I would assume that anything left in the street overnight has been abandoned, or left for someone to take…

    • Joe B says:

      Sure. Give them fair warning.

      But then, don’t take the cans. They’re city property, and if you take them, you’re stealing. And do you really want to take posession of a can full of stinky garbage?

      Instead, just do the neighborly thing and move your neighbor’s can out of the roadway and onto their front lawn. Repeat as long as necessary. The stench of week-old garbage will encourage them to place their can properly come next trash day.

  7. Eric B says:

    By the curb, please. On the sidewalk interferes with pedestrians and blocks wheelchair users. That stretch on Venice is horrendous (I commute through there all the time), but let’s remember our friends traveling by foot.

  8. TheTricksterNZ says:

    Victoria in Australia are implementing a similar thing to California at the moment:

    Let alone I come back to a windy, little bit wet and grey Auckland, its things like that which made me want to not get on the plane home on Sunday.

  9. […] vehicles may not block a bike lane. Confidential to Biking In Law: I think that means no parking in bike […]

  10. […] vehicles may not block a bike lane. Confidential to Biking In Law: I think that means no parking in bike […]

  11. Unfortunately, since I have an ‘out of area’ phone number (708 area code, ported from chicago when I moved here 5 years ago) I can’t call the LAPD’s direct line, I *have to* call 911. It’s rather annoying, really.

  12. […] know what is cool? Bike lanes in Los Angeles are cool. You know what is not cool? Blocking bike lanes with trash cans is not cool, moreover it is also illegal. It says so in California Vehicle Code Section 21211: “(b) No person may place or park any […]

  13. […] know what is cool? Bike lanes in Los Angeles are cool. You know what is not cool? Blocking bike lanes with trash cans is not cool, moreover it is also illegal. It says so in California Vehicle Code Section […]

  14. Ben C says:

    I’ve taken to memorizing trash days in neighborhoods that are not my own precisely to avoid this problem. I think any regular Westside biker knows that stretch of Venice Blvd all too well… Nothing compared to getting caught on the PCH on trash day—that was absolutely hair-raising. And there’s no bike lane there of course, thus no legal rememdy.

  15. Joe B says:

    Er…that Monday-night meeting in Santa Monica? That would be Monday, March 15, 2010. It’s July 2011 now.

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