Morning Links: CHP motorcycle cop demonstrates his ignorance of the law; meet LADOT’s Seleta Reynolds

One of the primary tenets of the American justice system is that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

That is, you’re responsible for obeying it even if you don’t know something is illegal; it’s your responsibility to know the law.

But what if the one who doesn’t know the law is the person charged with enforcing it?

That’s what appears to have happened over the weekend, as cyclist Topher Mathers was forced off the road by a CHP motorcycle cop while riding downhill on Angeles Crest Highway.

Over the weekend I was cited for CVC 21202 as I was descending Angeles Crest Hwy by a CHP motorcycle officer. Before the officer pulled me over, he told me to get onto the shoulder to allow the cars behind me to pass. To note I was coming out of a series of turns and had yet been able to take my eyes off the road ahead of me to check for traffic behind me. Furthermore, the officer’s command was problematic because there is no real shoulder along the crest, just gravel, debris from car and motorcycle accidents and either the side of the San Gabriel Mountains or a cliff. The manner in which the officer engaged me not only startled me but it in fact endangered me. He did not use his siren or lights, he just pulled up alongside of me (well within in 3ft) and began giving commands. He informed me that my “delaying traffic time was over” and in the process forced me to process the situation and defend my actions all while actively descending a mountain. I informed him “I do not need to ride the shoulder.” Once he decided to pull me over he began forcing me onto the shoulder. He became angered, as he was not satisfied by my bicycle’s slowing speed, apparently not accounting for fact that I’m on a bicycle, not a motorcycle and that I am slowing down onto gravel. He initially indicated that he was going to cite me for impeding traffic but I guess he realized it was too hard to prove (less than 5 cars and they had all passed on by then) and ended up citing me for CVC 21202.

I attempted to question the officer once we came to a full stop but by this time I had my phone out and was filming, he became non-responsive.

I don’t even know where to start.

CVC 21202 does in fact require cyclists to ride as far to the right has practicable. However, nothing in California law requires cyclists to ride on the shoulder or to the right of the right limit line; the traffic lane is to the left of the line, and anything to the right is not legally considered part of the roadway.

In addition, if the officer had read a little further, he would have noticed a long list of exceptions under which CVC 21202 does not apply — including any traffic lane too narrow to safely share with a bike and a motor vehicle, which would include virtually every inch of Angeles Crest.

So much for that ticket.

And as Mather suggests, the standard for impeding traffic is a minimum of five vehicles stuck behind a slower vehicle and unable to pass. Again, if there are less than five cars behind, or if the cars can pass — even one at a time — the law does not apply.

Not to mention that common sense should come into play when a rider is busy negotiating a tricky descent.

More troubling than the officer’s ignorance of the law, however, was his use of a motor vehicle as a weapon to force Mather’s bike off the roadway — ignoring the fact that pushing the rider into gravel at speed could result in a potentially deadly fall, whether off the hillside or back into the path of the trailing traffic.

In fact, any use of a motor vehicle — any motor vehicle — to stop a cyclist should be considered deadly force, and its use banned by every department unless the officer’s life, or that of someone else, is in imminent danger. Which was hardly the case here.

Finally, there’s the officer’s ignorance of the physics of bicycling, as he somehow expected a bike rider going downhill at speed to instantly pull over and stop on a dime. Let alone conduct a conversation with a motorcycle rider violating the state’s new three-foot law.

All of which brings up a problem we’ve discussed many times before.

Virtually no law enforcement agency anywhere in the country trains its officers in bike law, and in how bikes operate.

The LAPD is one of the few that offers any training at all. And that only in the form of a interactive video session that all street level officers were required to view, and few remember.

To the best of my knowledge, the CHP doesn’t offer any bike training at all, either in the academy or after officers are on the streets.

And that has to change.




Help welcome new LADOT transportation maven Seleta Reynolds to LA with a reception Tuesday, Sept 23rd in DTLA.

A while back we discussed a new bike valet program at the Westfield Century City shopping center, which has now been expanded to include changing rooms, lockers and, yes, showers. Although, as Better Bike’s Mark Elliot points out, they could promote it a lot better (scroll down… keep going… all the way).

Bikes secured with cable locks are disappearing from bike racks at CSUN.

The Burbank bikelash has begun, as a letter writer says bikes have made that city’s streets unsafe for the motor vehicles that have made them unsafe for everyone else. Thanks to Adeel Mansoor for the heads-up.

South Bay cities meet to talk bike corrals on Thursday.



New signage and sharrows are being installed on San Diego’s Fiesta Island in the wake of the alleged drunken wrong-way driver who injured several cyclists.

The family of Alejandro Rendon, the unarmed bike rider killed by Indio police officers because he looked suspicious, have settled their lawsuit against the department for an undisclosed — but hopefully very large — amount.

A cyclist riding from Vancouver to the Mexican border to promote Blackburn Designs was injured in a Santa Cruz collision.



New wind tunnel tests confirm shaving your legs can shave up to 7% off your racing times.

Here’s a good idea. A new Crash Sensor can send an emergency test message, including your location, if you’re injured in a crash.

Four US mayors explain why better bike networks matter.

Cyclists call on Wyoming legislators for new protections after four bike riders have lost their lives in the state this year.

Interesting appeals court ruling from Illinois says cities can be held responsible when snowplows block bike lanes and sidewalks, forcing cyclists and pedestrians into the street. Not a problem we often have here, though some parallels could apply.

The New York Post says visit Colorado for a beer and biking biathlon.

Seth Rogen lashes out against Citi Bike on his Twitter account.

New York’s Vision Zero plan gets $25 million in federal funding; to the best of my knowledge, no one in LA’s city government has even uttered the phrase yet.



A separated bike lane in a Vancouver suburb has to be removed after motorists rip out the bollards.

A Brit bike thief trades up, leaving his old bike in place of the new one he took.

Seriously? Australia’s Daily Telegraph calls plans for a protected bike lane on a Sydney street part of the mayor’s jihad on motorists.

Caught on video: An Aussie cyclist defends the magpies that attacked him 14 times in 45 seconds while he rides.

A Kiwi transport researcher says only smaller roads and more congestion will free us from traffic.



Unbelievable. A Louisiana jury acquits a driver in the death of a cyclist — even though he fled the scene, failed to render aid to the victim, was driving without a license or valid plates, and still had a BAC over the legal limit five hours after the collision.

And shockingly, a Salinas woman had yet another crash over the weekend while driving under the influence and on a suspended license. She had 12 prior collisions, including killing a pedestrian — and was found at fault for 11 of them — yet was still allowed to own a car, let alone drive it.



  1. Great post. One point of clarification, however. Let’s not confuse impeding traffic and the turnout law.

    CVC 22400 is the impeding law and one can technically be in violation without impeding anyone; just driving “at such a slow speed as to impede” is enough to be a violation. If someone is driving 25 on an empty freeway, for example, there can be a violation, even though no one is actually impeded at that moment. However, courts in other states have held this law cannot be used against drivers of legitimate slow moving vehicles, including bicyclists. This is untested in California, but the arguments from Ohio and Georgia are persuasive, come from appellate courts, and there is no reason they should not apply here. But bicyclists in CA have been known to be cited for violating 22400. It’s unreasonable. 21202 and 21654 (when 21202 does not apply due to an exception) govern bicyclist positioning. If a bicyclist is compliant with 21202 and 21654, that means he or she is positioned reasonably, safely and legally, even if it briefly impedes others. Citing with 22400 in such a situation is ridiculous.

    Now, the turnout law, CVC 21656, is the one that definitely applies to slow moving vehicles, but even there only on two lane roads. It requires use of a turnout or any safe place to turnout if you’re followed by 5 or more vehicles.

  2. Trikewomyn says:

    Looking at the bright side, the CHP officer didn’t straddle him and punch him in the face 9 times while “helping” him to move to the side of the road. 😉

  3. mark says:

    Two thoughts:

    1. Call 911 first, then start the film rolling… If you state you are a cyclist, and being harassed by a driver, the situation will get attention and be recorded… even if the driver is a police officer. The officer will be embarrassed, educated, and forced to learn the law.

    2. I have been in almost the exact situation on PCH several times; a motor cycle officer yelling at me to move over… I very politely stuck out my arm in front of me, palm open, to indicate “fine, You first”… If HE wants to get doored, that is/was certainly his prerogative… both times the officers road away…

  4. James says:

    In Huntington Beach I regularly see CHP motorcycle officers sit on their bikes and ignore violations of a pedestrian’s right of way in a crosswalk. I’m not sure what they are doing, but if they don’t regard pedestrians and cyclists and legitimate road users they aren’t going to do anything for you. As far as I can tell socal cops will never enforce a pedestrian’s right of way unless his captain puts him on the once a year crosswalk sting duty. The other 364 days of the year pedestrians never have the right of way.

    Last year I was riding in the buffered shoulder on PCH which is routinely used as a bike lane in HB and Seal Beach. That particular stretch may be drawn as a bike lane on the map. A CHP motorcycle officer pulled up along side me and told me I can’t be on the road. No siren or lights, he just pulled up along side me and yelled.

  5. This Angeles Crest stuff is really bothersome. If you’re in those twisty, narrow parts with cars behind you, it’s hard to know what “safe-harbor” distance from the edge would keep you from being cited. I wonder whether this cyclist is planning to contest the charges. More generally, is there anyone at the CHP office who can clarify?

  6. Jason says:

    Also, you’ll note that the officer says, “I wrote you for two things: Not riding as _close as possible_ to the right hand side…”

    This is, of course, not at all legally equivalent as the “practicable” that’s in the code. Practicable has that whole element in it that’s about the operator of the vehicle making the call as to what’s safest for them. (Or whatever… I’ve heard it expressed much more eloquently than I just did).

  7. […] Daily Ted. Morning Links: CHP motorcycle cop demonstrates his ignorance of the law; meet LADOT’s Seleta Reyno… I have to say I got pretty steamed at that video. I loathe LEO who are ignorant of the law they are […]

  8. […] Scary Ignorant CHP Officer Pulls Over Fast-Descending Cyclist (Biking in L.A.) […]

  9. Nik says:

    I wonder how the CHP explains the discrepancy between this officer’s action and the following CHP press release, which specifically states: “Be aware that when a lane is too narrow for vehicles and bikes to be safely side by side, bicyclist should ride in or near the center of that lane to discourage motorists from unsafe passing.”


    Full press release:

  10. sr says:


  11. rick says:

    A request for those working without ears up, at work, etc., this video is better served with a if not written transcript then just a downloadable mp3 as well so we can listen to it later on the bike or whatever more easally even though it’s under a minute I have only watched it so far.

    I would also say that your “see also”* is packing more and more of a ‘five-linked’ punch so much so that if you can whether or not it’s manual now you should consider updating this or perhaps a page on your site beyond the present tag, or at least a new tag, for the full palette of rotting authorities colored by ignorance and false guile if that beyond most -perhaps to automaton not your personally considered ‘curation’ breadth and wallop relevant five.

    “Related Posts:
    Embarrassing video shows Sheriff’s deputy…
    Making the law up as they go along — another SoCal cop…
    LA Sheriff’s deputies ticket PCH cyclists in clear…
    Update: Bike rider illegally ticketed by pissed-off cop for…
    Update: Busted for going too slow? Or Biking While Brown in…”

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