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No word on whether the tickets will be rescinded, however.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