Embarrassing video shows Sheriff’s deputy doesn’t know what a sharrow is or what it means

They should be embarrassed.

Or maybe we should, since the LA County Sheriff’s Department is supposed to work for all of us.

Yet as this new YouTube video from WesHigh shows, at least one Sheriff’s Deputy has no idea what a sharrow is. Let alone that bicyclists aren’t required to ride to the ride on a non-sharable lane.

As the video points out, sharrows are not just wayfinding symbols that indicate a Class III bike route, but indicate the preferred position for bike riders within the lane. While you’re not required to ride on the sharrows, if you position yourself on the point of the arrow, you’ll be in the exact spot traffic engineers think you should be within the lane.

Those charged with enforcing the law should know that.

Yet from what I heard from other bike riders, the Deputy’s misconception, while an extreme example, isn’t that unusual for the department.

Many riders have complained about Sheriff’s Deputies demanding that they ride as far as possible to the right, in violation of CVC 21202, which only requires bicyclists to ride as far to the right as practicable. And then, only when traveling below the speed of traffic.

If you’re riding as fast or faster than the vehicles around you, you can legally ride anywhere you damn please, as long as you travel in the direction of traffic.

Yet even if you’re just crawling along, there are countless exceptions to the requirement to ride to the ride — including riding in a non-sharable lane, which is defined as any lane too narrow to share with a motor vehicle. And that includes allowing for sufficient space to avoid the door zone, which is one of those hazards the law refers to.

Which means that virtually every right lane in the Los Angeles area should be considered non-sharable. Especially if it allows parking on the right.

The officer is also mistaken in his insistence that the rider was obstructing traffic. Under California law, that only applies on two lane roadways, and by definition, requires five or more vehicles stuck behind the slower vehicle and unable to pass. If drivers can pass, or if there is another lane to the left they could use to pass if they chose to do so, the rider is not legally obstructing traffic.

As the video shows, this was a four lane street. And drivers were able to pass with ease — including the officer who dangerously chose to speak with a moving cyclist without pulling over to the curb first.

Unfortunately, this brings up a much bigger problem.

While the LAPD has worked with local bike riders to clarify the laws applying to cyclists, and developed a training session to train their officers in just how to — and how not to — enforce traffic laws relating to cyclists, the LASD, to the best of my knowledge, has not.

Just what training their officers receive in bike law isn’t known outside of the department and the officers who actually receive it. Or not.

And while the department may feel their officer training is adequate, this video — and complaints from bike riders around the county suggesting a lack of knowledge and inconsistent enforcement in various areas of the county — would suggest it isn’t.

It’s long past time for the Sheriff’s Department to step up and work with cyclists to ensure their officers understand bike law and enforce it correctly, and fairly.

In the meantime, this video prepared by the LAPD in conjunction cyclists participating in the department’s bike task force remains the state-ot-the-art for bicycle traffic law training among SoCal police agencies.

Even then, it’s only as good as department’s commitment to ensure every officer views it.

And learns it.


  1. boyonabike says:

    As with the recent incident in Gardena, another example of law enforcement not understanding the law when it comes to bicyclists. I wonder if Lt. Marjorie Jacobs of the LASD, who was a panelist at LACBC’s bike safe discussion a couple of months ago, should be made aware of this.

  2. Wow, that’s almost an instance where I would invite a ticket so I could go fight it in court and have that LASD officer have to show up and show how invalid that ticket was.

  3. jnpaget says:

    It is frustrating enough that the driving public is so unaware of other people that use the road, but when it is a public safety officer who is enforcing the wrong interpretation of the law, it is just maddening. Also, the double standard is evident when vehicle that runs the red. The driver behaves in a way that is within reason if not within the law but when bicyclists behave within law and reason we get chewed out by drivers (and pedestrians sometimes) and get reprimanded by the law officers. double standard. If we trust drivers to execute within reason, we must trust cyclists the same way.

  4. grrlyrida says:

    I’m not surprised. Many drivers and bicyclists don’t know what sharrows mean. That’s why drivers are so aggressive on streets like Fountain, because they don’t know why you’re taking up the lane–whether you’re avoiding car doors or skateboarders. It is another reason I find sharrows worthless when it comes to a bicyclist’s safety. They paint them on the street without any education or signs explaining that cyclists can use the entire lane.

    So much for “every lane is a bike lane” educating people.

  5. grrlyrida says:

    Hi Ted,

    Did you see this video about a 90 year old bicyclist getting hit by a hit and run? I guess it happened last night? Unfortunately he died of his injuries. I pray for his family. It’s infuriating to me that this is allowed to continue in LA and there’s no sense of urgency to stop it. Or to do anything.


    • bikinginla says:

      Actually, it happened in April; LAPD is just getting around to releasing it now. I wrote about it here.

      The only things almost as infuriating as the heartless killing of a 90-year old man are the drivers ignoring the body they’re driving around, and the police’s three month delay in announcing the death and asking for help.

    • John says:

      I absolutely agree regarding the horrific nature of the video of the 90 year old, and it’s incredibly disturbuing. But in my viewing of the video, much of the the fault does lie with the cyclist, up to the point of the driver fleeing the scene (imho, because the driver had something to hide).

      As I said in a comment in the other story, I agree with Ted about the reaction from other motorists and peds to just drive/walk away – it’s disgusting. As well as the lack of a real followup by the police to find the a** who drove off.

  6. grrlyrida says:

    How did I miss one of your posts?!! Either I’m slow or you’re posting a lot more collisions. Neither are good. 🙁

    • bikinginla says:

      Yesterday was a bizarre day. Because of breaking news, I ended up posting four separate stores on different subjects throughout the day. It should have been five, but I ended up saving this one for today so it wouldn’t get lost in the mix.

  7. Opus the Poet says:

    Don’t know whether to be glad or sad that ignorant LEOs are not confined to TX.

  8. Joe B says:

    Why are these people driving around with guns? Lane positioning is just Not That Hard. Lane positioning WITH SHARROWS is something a four-year-old can master. Why is this such a difficult subject for police to figure out?

  9. Madeline says:

    I’ve had almost the exact same encounter with an LAPD who is supposedly “trained.” It’s a frustrating situation. Major kudos to the WesHigh for doing EXACTLY what you need to do in this situation. Do not react, get the officers name and go about your ride. I would also recommend for people to have a spoke card with the CVC on it if you do want to have a conversation about the rules of the road.

  10. […] And BikingInLA shows that LEOs ignorant of the law is not jut a TX phenomenon. Embarrassing video shows Sheriff’s deputy doesn’t know what a sharrow is or what it means […]

  11. JD says:

    Sharrows are about as worthless as the banners hanging from light poles and the tiny bike route signs. They’re just trying to skimp on paint.

  12. Ben Loescher says:

    For those as disturbed as I am by this officer’s lack of knowledge of the vehicle code and how it applies to cyclists, may I suggest that you write a polite note to the Sheriff’s department through the contact form below?: http://www.lasdhq.org/contact_us/commendation.html

  13. Stercus Accidit says:

    Good old Fountain Freeway! I live right there and bike commute it every day (to Santa Monica) and it’s always interesting. Cars are routinely exceeding 35mph (thus the freeway moniker) and I’ve been accosted by several drivers there over the years for daring to take the lane (before and after the sharrows were “put in”).

    Parked cars and a very narrow two lane strip make for fairly dangerous riding. I’ve found that the people who use it are trying to avoid SM Blvd so they are not in the mood for anything impeding their pursuit of 70 mph (through a residential neighborhood).

    That cop is akin to the two LAPD guys I caught using the bike lane as a lunch break spot just south of there on SM Blvd recently.

    Unbelievable display of ignorance.

    • Wes says:

      I’m the one from the video and that is my daily commute too, to Santa Monica. If you are interested and haven’t seen http://labiketrains.com/ yet you should check it out. I host the Tuesday bike train from Silver Lake to Santa Monica. Be great to have another experienced rider on board.

  14. Jason King says:

    The thing is he doesn’t have to ride on the right side of the road in that case even if there are no sharrows.

    CA VC 21202

    (3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

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