Cop tells seniors not to ride in the street — then tickets them for riding on the sidewalk

Sometimes, it seems like you can’t ride anywhere.

According to the Orange County Register, four OC senior citizens were stopped by a police officer for riding on the sidewalk — just moments after the same officer warned them not to ride in the street.

As they rode along a restaurant-filled section of PCH, the four riders passed a motorcycle cop as he finished writing a ticket, and made a comment about the busy street. The officer responded by saying he wouldn’t ride there, so they took to the sidewalk — legally, as shown by a sign indicating that the sidewalk was a designated bike route.

So imagine their surprise when the same officer roared up a few blocks later, lights and siren blaring, and — incorrectly — told them that riding on the sidewalk is against the law in California. He specifically pointed to CA Code 12.56.30 (A) NBMC, which doesn’t seem to exist in the Vehicle Code.

In fact, the only California Code I could find by that number is one that assigns responsibility for the unauthorized release of hazardous materials.

Maybe he just scared the crap out of them.

Oddly, only two of the cyclists were cited by the officer, while the other two — who apparently committed the same infraction — were let go.

As it turns out, the cyclists were technically in violation of the law because riding on the sidewalk is allowed next to PCH before Riverside Ave, but banned immediately after crossing the street — even though there’s no sign indicating that the bike route ends or that riders must leave the sidewalk.

Amazingly, Lt. Bill Harford of the Newport Beach Police Department defends the officer.

“The officer did cite them appropriately, and they need to go through the process,” Hartford said. “They’ll have their day in court — that’s the purpose of it. It’s up to the judge to look at the circumstances and make a decision.”

It seems far more likely that the department owes them an apology, and should do everything in their power to get the tickets dismissed. They should also work with the city to get proper signage installed instructing riders to leave the sidewalk once the bike route ends.

And a little common sense wouldn’t hurt. Because the police can observe the letter of the law.

And still be very, very wrong.

Update: I may have been overly harsh in my criticism of the officer who wrote the ticket. TC points out in the comments below that the code he cited is part of the Newport Beach municipal code, rather than state law. We don’t have the actual ticket for reference, so there’s no way to know if the officer actually said it was a violation of state law, or if the riders misunderstood him or inferred he was referring to state law.

As a result, I’ve toned down some of my comments, and apologize for my earlier criticism that the officer involved was ignorant of the law.

However, I still believe that a warning would have been appropriate under the circumstances. Most cyclists aren’t familiar enough with local ordinances to know where they can and can’t ride on the sidewalk, and it’s virtually impossible for cyclists to know when they’ve moved from one area where it’s allowed to another where it’s banned without adequate signage, particularly after having just passed a sign saying it was legal.


Meanwhile, LADOT Bike Blog continues its excellent examination of local sidewalk riding ordinances; maybe they’ll go south of the Orange Curtain and take a look at those wacky folks in Newport Beach.

And Gary points out that if Santa Monica wants to ban bikes from the sidewalk, they should defend cyclists who ride in the street.


The Mayor’s office has created a Facebook page for his upcoming Bike Summit on Monday; if you’re not one of the 5,696 people invited so far, invite yourself — or just show up.


The next Bikeside Speaks takes place Saturday, August 21st in conjunction with Santa Monica’s Cynergy Cycles, Specialized and the Disposable Film Festival; the above mentioned Gary of Gary Rides Bikes will be one of the speakers. Beverly Hills Patch looks at local cycling instructor and bike activist Ron Durgin. The Times’ Chris Erskine names Lance Armstrong to his all-ego team. Claremont Cyclist says even if L.A. builds the 40 miles of bikeways each year that they’ve promised, they still have a very long way to go. Cyclelicious looks at how to get local traffic engineers to enforce the state law requiring traffic signal actuators to recognize bikes. Los Altos cyclists and drivers compete for space on the roads; according to the writer, bikes are entitled to the full lane but should keep to the right of it. Huh?

Chicago calls its bike share trial a success and plans an annual return each spring; DC’s starts next month. A leaner, meaner — and cheaper — approach to bike share. A Wisconsin driver faces a $114 fine for violating the state’s three foot passing law by running over and killing a cyclist; thanks to Witch on a Bicycle for the heads-up. Consider a Tour du Fromage through the Wisconsin’s cheese country. A Boston cyclist is killed; police say it’s just an accident. A mean old rich guy wants Boston area cyclists to stay the hell away from his yard. Keep pandas away from your bamboo bike. A cop tells a Tennessee cyclist to get off the road. Even a helmet advocate like me agrees that avoiding crashes is the most important factor in avoiding serious injury; meanwhile, mandatory child helmet laws apparently reduce injury rates by keeping kids off their bikes.

Vancouver business owners are up in arms over a proposed bike lane. A former world junior champion struggles to come back from a near fatal collision. The president of the World Anti-Doping Agency wants to ban your morning eight cups of espresso. A Brit bike messenger claims to have delivered a document 125 miles in five and a half hours. Town Mouse has her head turned observing a rare Pederson bike. A British law firm wants to increase the understanding between cyclists and truck drivers; how’s this for an understanding — just don’t kill us, okay?

Finally, Pinarello has replaced the Porsche as official status symbol of the mid-life crisis.


  1. danceralamode says:

    Ted, will you be able to make Monday’s meeting?

    • bikinginla says:

      Are you kidding? I’ve been waiting five years to hear the word “bicycle” come out of the mayor’s lips — I wouldn’t miss this.

  2. TC says:

    The officer did cite the correct code…It’s Newport Beach Municipal Code or NBMC 12.56.30 Operating Bicycle on Sidewalk, A. Prohibition. No person shall operate or ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk in the City..
    ( )

    Just this year, State law allows bicycling on sidewalks and crosswalks unless prohibited by local ordinance… ( )

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks, TC. I took a quick look last night for the state law on riding on the sidewalk, but couldn’t find it. It had been legal before to ride on the sidewalk unless prohibited by local ordinance, but the new law clarifies that it’s legal to ride in the crosswalk where sidewalk riding is allowed.

  3. The Trickster says:

    Just as a note after reading the story about the grumpy old white guy in Mass.

    The really sad thing about it is that he’s not rich at all, he’s a retired teacher spending his pension on trying to stop this. While I don’t agree with him at all, I guess you have to be impressed by how far he’s willing to go to push for something he believes in.

  4. […] senior citizens not to ride in the street and then giving them a ticket for riding in the sidewalk. Cop tells seniors not to ride in the street — then tickets them for riding on the sidewalk and Scofflaws cited for cycling on sidewalk I believe the word for this is […]

  5. LisaNewton says:

    One really cool thing I’ve noticed recently is more seniors on bikes. The other day, I was in Santa Monica and saw a 70ish woman riding in the bike lane wearing a black skirt and blouse with a very large pink hat.

    I wish I’d taken a picture. After I passed by, I just smiled.

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