Update: Busted for going too slow? Or Biking While Brown in Gardena?

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.

From the Los Riders Facebook page

From the Los Riders Facebook page

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 bike.

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.

Impeding Traffi Ticket

Update: The five vehicle standard in found under CVC 21656, which also notes it only apply on two-lane roads; thanks to billsd 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.


  1. billdsd says:

    The 5 vehicle thing is in the law, it’s just not THAT law. It’s in CVC 21656 and as you note, that law only applies in situations where motorists can’t move over to pass.

    CVC 22400 cannot properly be applied to bicyclists. Its only requirement is maintaining the speed of traffic at that time. However, CVC 21200(a) says that bicyclists are not subject to laws which cannot be applied to bicycles due to their nature. You cannot require a bicyclist to go 35mph because most bicyclists cannot make a bike go that fast except down hill and none can maintain that speed for very long. You cannot require a bicyclist to ride a pace faster than they can reasonably and safely maintain.

    These riders should get a lawyer. CVC 22400 defenses can be tricky. Many judges don’t easily get it either so you want a professional, preferably someone who at least partially specializes in bike cases, arguing your case.

  2. Actually, in this county, the easiest thing to do is to request an extension and night court arraignment. Buy yourself some time – sometimes three to six months depending on how backed up the courts are. Then trial by declaration this – one attorney should be able to write a good declaration for all ticketed riders – and then do a trial de novo and present your case to the judge. In the meantime, prior to the declaration stage, also bring this up at City Council meetings and through the political process. This will increase the chances that the cops will say “forget it” and not write the declaration, in which case you win by default.

  3. JD says:

    Their constitutional right to freely move about has been violated.

  4. D. D. Syrdal says:

    Amazing that they would go after a bunch of cyclists on custom bikes as if they were the LA chapter of the Hells Angels. I hope they all fight it.

  5. Robert Prinz says:

    Wow, this video really makes my blood boil. Kudos to Gardena PD for providing an example of racial profiling, bicyclist subjugation, ableist assumptions, and windshield perspective all in one!

    As part of the bike safety program I organize east of San Francisco I have the opportunity to work with local police departments and brief them on the practical application of California bike law, and have found that the same misconceptions and biases we hear so often from ordinary citizens often also extend to those responsible for applying and enforcing the law, unfortunately. The PDs with intelligent leadership at least recognize this and are interested in working with us to provide more nuanced training, since they get that having their officers write inappropriate or inaccurate tickets which will eventually just be thrown out in court is a waste of everyone’s time.

    Going one step further, the best thing we can do to encourage more sensitivity and understanding of the challenges bicyclists face among law enforcement officers is to get more of them on bikes, and for transportation not just exercise. This can be done either through increased bike patrols or through bike commuter incentive programs and facilities within the PD. No matter how they try, a police officer who drives to work and then drives around all day in a squad car is at a psychological disadvantage when it comes to identifying with any person on a bicycle, and to understanding the application and nuances of traffic law as it applies to bicycling.

  6. Metro has an entire campaign on every lane being a bike lane, does Gardena not feel the same way? How fast does one have to pedal in that city in order to not be pulled over? I travel Western home daily and always see them with a black person on a bike pulled over. I will start taking pictures and send in!


  7. Let us not forget that the Gardena’s mayor, Paul Tanaka, also has a neo-nazi tattoo on his person. Does he train/authorize Gardena PD to profile minorities?


  8. axlmarx says:

    they’ll probably win the case against the Gardena PD. I’d like to see the video go viral. . .

  9. Margaret says:

    I just showed my support to the East Side Riders by purchasing a patch from their store.

    • CeeJay says:

      All this for people peacefully and lawfully riding their bikes….
      There should be a lawsuit filed for harrassment.

      “harass |həˈras; ˈharəs|
      verb [ trans. ]
      subject to aggressive pressure or intimidation”

  10. With the five-vehicle impede standard applying to drivers of vehicles. It could be argued that the Gardena officers incorrectly cited the cyclists for 22400 CVC since bikes under 39000 CVC are classified as “devices,” not vehicles.

    • billdsd says:

      No. It couldn’t be argued on that basis.

      First, CVC 21200(a) says that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as the drivers of vehicles with respect to division 11 and certain other parts of the vehicle code. CVC 22400 is in division 11.

      Second, CVC 22400 says nothing about 5 vehicles. CVC 21656 is where the 5 vehicle rule is.

      Third, there’s no indication that these cops said or thought anything about 5 vehicles or that there were even 5 or more vehicles waiting behind them on the road. Given that there’s another lane in the same direction, I seriously doubt that there were.

      CVC 22400 doesn’t apply because you can’t require bicyclists to go faster than they are capable of going and CVC 21200(a) exempts bicyclists from requirements that can’t be properly applied to bicycles due to their nature.

      22400 also contains an exception for grade. The grade prevents the bicyclists from going faster.

      • billdsd says:

        I forgot about another problem with using CVC 22400 to prohibit bicyclists from using the roadway.

        They are attempting to argue that bicyclists can’t ride on the road if they can’t keep up with traffic.

        CVC 21202 specifies what bicyclists should do when they are travelling at less than the normal speed of traffic at that time. CVC 21202 does not specify that bicyclists are ever prohibited from using the roadway. If CVC 22400 prohibited bicyclists from using the road due to the inability to keep up with motorized traffic, then there would be no reason for CVC 21202 to exist. CVC 21202 implies that bicyclists are expected by the California state legislature to be travelling on the roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic.

  11. precious_pup says:

    I know this is begging the question but were the cyclists riding en mass or single file? On the other hand, maybe the Gardena PD needs to be informed about the dangers of cyclist riding too close to cars – i.e., “the dreaded door prize” (cyclists running into a car door). Also if you look at the Crime Mapping Data (http://www.crimemapping.com) the Gardena police department’s data is missing? It would be interesting to cull the Gardena PD’s data in pulling over bicyclists? Good luck to these riders.

  12. Micheal says:

    and we are a ‘POLICE STATE’ !!!

  13. calwatch says:

    The next Gardena City Council meeting is July 23 at 7 PM. This would be a good opportunity for any relevant persons to make their opinions heard by the elected officials.

  14. daniel says:

    Since I first seen this story Saturday am, I made 5 or more videos in the gardena police lobby. In one, I play this video for cops, then question them about the law and their policy. Another, I am stopped and falsely cited en route to the station. Then finally one with Sgt Pepper who acts like a professional, admiting he has no specific knowledge of the cvc, but promising to look knto it…and last, Lt Steve Prendergrast calls me on phone, claims he understands the cvc, but proves otherwiise by claiming cyclists are guilty. Check it out. My most recent uploads all deal with GPD, YOU WONT BE DISAPPOINTED.

  15. Love & Justice says:

    Clearly an unlawful search. There was no reasonable suspicion to believe these riders were engaged in criminal activity or were harboring drugs, for example. Look for a civil rights lawyer who will represent you and file against the City of Gardena. Section 1983 action for violation of your 4th Amendment rights.

  16. Love & Justice says:

    *NO* reasonable suspcion!

  17. […] of discussion about the nuances of California Vehicle Code in this […]

  18. […] to this bicycle advocacy site, a minimum of five cars must be driving behind the slow-moving vehicle, unable to pass, for this […]

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