Morning Links: Alhambra police stop bike rider and search his belongings, for the $5 crime of riding in a crosswalk

It’s like playing Whack-A-Mole.

Once we deal with cops misapplying the law in one area, it pops up in another.

Longtime bike advocate Stephen Box, now Director of Government & Community Affairs for the Transit Coalition, witnessed Alhambra police stopping a bike rider on Saturday in what he calls “overkill for an infraction… that carries a maximum penalty of $5.”

This is how Box describes what he saw.

I watched the entire process, from Officer Alvarez chirping the cyclist and pulling him over to Officer Vega joining the stop to the officers searching the cyclist and his backpack and his bike. When it was over, the cyclist left and I asked the Officers what happened and found the explanation implausible. A westbound motorist (Officer Alvarez) in a stopped car can’t almost hit a northbound cyclist riding in the crosswalk.

Box stopped to talk with the two officers, then called their watch commander. But rather than getting a clear explanation of the officers’ actions, he discovered none of the three seemed to be clear on the Alhambra Municipal Code that laid the basis for the officer’s actions. So he looked it up himself.

Apparently it’s illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalks of Alhambra. (Alhambra Municipal Code 10.04.020) I looked it up and I have three comments:

  1. I’m not a fan of sidewalk cycling, I think it’s dangerous for the cyclist but I understand it
  2. I’m not a fan of local traffic laws that aren’t posted. In this case the public can hardly be expected to know of un-posted restrictions when law enforcement is also unclear on the specifics of the code
  3. If Alvarez pulled the cyclist over for riding in the crosswalk, wouldn’t the appropriate action have been information on safe cycling instead of the three-way search?

His research also led to a couple of discrepancies in the city’s municipal code.

While researching Alhambra’s unposted sidewalk cycling ban, I found two instances where the City of Alhambra appears to be in violation of the State of California’s Uniformity Code which states “no local authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance on the matters covered by this code unless expressly authorized herein.”

  1. Alhambra’s Bike Licensing Law (10.04.040)is a violation of CVC 21. The City of Alhambra does not have the authority to require bike licenses from non-resident cyclists.
  2. Alhambra’s “Five feet from the Curb” law (10.04.030)is a violation of CVC 21. The City of Alhambra does not have the authority to establish a specific distance from the right-side curb for cyclists. Further, the courts have held (Mauchle v. Panama-Pacific Int’l Expo. Co., 37 Cal. App. 715, 719 (1918)) that “The provisions of the law are elastic. They do not attempt to lay down a definite and rigid rule as to the distance which the slowly moving vehicle must keep from the curb.”

As you may have noticed, Stephen Box know his way around state and local traffic laws and enforcement, particularly as it pertains to bicycling.

He co-founded a number of bike advocacy groups, including the now-dormant Bikeside LA, the city’s first — and so far, only — bicycling nonprofit group registered with the IRS as 501(c)(4) to engage in political activity.

He also led the 2009 march on the LA city council that marked the unofficial start of the modern bike advocacy movement in Los Angeles. Setting in motion the events that would eventually lead to adoption of the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights (informally, and sadly forgotten), the Cyclists’ Anti-Harassment Ordinance, and the 2010 LA Bike Plan that’s now under attack in city hall as part of the Mobility Plan 2035.

And he was one of the original founders of the LAPD’s bike liaison program, helping to develop the department’s bicycle training module that was required viewing for every street-level officer.

Box followed-up his repeated, and apparently unsuccessful, phone conversations with the watch commander with an email to the Chief of Police for the Alhambra Police Department, asking for a review of the events he witnessed and the municipal code discrepancies he uncovered.

So, here is the formal request conclusion to this email:

  1. I request a review of the Fremont/Mission traffic stop of a male cyclist that took place on Sunday, June 18, 2016 at approximately 5pm by Officer Alvarez who was then backed up by Officer Vega. Specifically, was the search warranted (reading paperwork in the cyclist’s backpack can hardly be construed as a search for weapons due to safety concerns) for a minor traffic infraction or did it exceed the standard?
  2. I request a review of the Watch Commander’s instructions that I come to the station to file a complaint and that I come to the station to request a record (the field incident report taken by the officers at the traffic stop).
  3. I request a review of the two Alhambra City Municipal Codes (10.04.040 and 10.04.030) that are a direct violation of the State of California’s Uniformity Code.

There is little question from what he describes that the officers’ search exceeded what is legally allowed under the circumstances; the courts have repeatedly ruled that a simple traffic stop does not provide probable cause for an invasive search, whether you’re in a car, on foot or on a bike.

Even if they were legitimately searching the backpack for weapons, let’s not forget that the officers had the rider under their control, and presumably unable to access that backpack, whether for a weapon or anything else. If he could, they need some serious retraining.

And let’s not forget that you have the legal right to refuse an officer’s request to search your belongings.

Box concluded by thanking the chief for all he does to make the streets of Alhambra safe for everyone, “including motorists and pedestrians and transit passengers and cyclists.”

Which is a sentiment I share, having worked with police departments on various bicycling issues over the years, I truly appreciate the job they do to keep us all safe on the streets and in our homes.

But sometimes, as we’ve seen, they get it wrong.

And sometimes, local governments overstep their bounds.


On the other hand, the Alhambra police deserve a round of thanks for recovering an apparently stolen or misplaced silver Condor bicycle. If it looks familiar, contact the department at 626/308-4875.

And either way, let that be a reminder to always register your bike, whether here through Bike Index, or with some other organization.

Thanks to Megan Lynch for the heads-up.


Twenty-two-year old Columbian Miguel Angel Lopez won the nine-day Tour of Switzerland; American’s Tejay van Garderen and Andrew Talansky finished fifth and eighth, respectively.

World champ Lizzie Armistead finished second in the final stage to win the women’s Aviva Tour.

British cyclist Simon Yates gets a four month ban for doping, but swears it was just an honest mistake.

British cycling great Chris Hoy trades two wheels for four, finishing 17th in this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.



Richard Risemberg offers advice on how to ride in today’s 100-plus degree weather.

Former American Idol winner Phillip Phillips is one of us. Or at least he was, since his bike just got stolen from a Burbank recording studio.

Santa Monica’s long, dark California Incline hell may soon be over. And with bike lanes.



A bike-commuting Tustin math teacher has a shot at making the US mountain biking team for the Rio Olympics.

Over 300 people rode to the new Pedego headquarters in Fountain Valley in an attempt to set a world record for the longest ebike parade.

Two dozen San Diego bicyclists ride to Tijuana to preserve a downtown mural.

The only form of human scum lower than the person who stole a disabled 10-year old San Diego girl’s handcycle is the jerk who took her wheelchair. And probably the same person.

A 64-year old Pt. Loma bicyclist was seriously injured when he was left-crossed by the driver of an SUV.

The San Francisco Chronicle looks at the monthly East Bay Bike Party.

Nice move from the East Bay park police, as they donate nearly three dozen unclaimed bicycles to an Oakland nonprofit to replace several dozen that were stolen.

A seven-year old Shasta Lake boy is a double bike-theft victim, as someone stole the bike he was given to replace his stolen bike.



Bike Radar says e-MTBs could ruin it for the rest of us.

A Portland writer says the rapid spread of bikeshare systems allow travelers to see more of a city at a lower cost.

Maybe it moved while we weren’t looking. Shinola’s bikes and watches may be Built in Detroit, but apparently are not made in America.

Thanks to a local Kiwanis club, an Ohio boy is able to ride a bike for the first time since he was severely injured in a car crash.

A Philadelphia cop completes a 3,000-mile journey from Venice to Atlantic City to raise funds after a fellow officer was shot and killed; so far, he’s brought in over three times his original $5,000 goal.



A Winnipeg thief hacked a cyclist with a hatchet to steal his bicycle; the thief was arrested with the bike 20 minutes later.

A UK court tells a bicyclist he should have a “completely clear conscience” after a fatal collision with an elderly pedestrian; the rider tried to hug her as they both fell to the pavement in an unsuccessful attempt to protect her from injury.

Former Boomtown Rats singer and sidewalk cyclist Bob Geldof doesn’t have anything good to say about London’s popular bicycle superhighways.

Grief is worldwide, as a Belfast bike club rides in honor of ‪Kalamazoo.

A Danish moped rider learned the hard way not to snatch a purse from a 75-year old woman on a bike, who chased him down – and into a car — to get it back.

Caught on video: A Malta cyclist was flipped off and nearly run into a rock wall for the crime of riding a bike on a narrow street.

A woman is suing an Aussie state after colliding with a cyclist after she unexpectedly found herself riding in the middle of a bike race.



Every few years, someone invents a bike you pedal with your hands as well as your feet; why should this year be any different? It’s okay to bite your tongue when someone nearly doors you.

And bicyclists find a lot of things while riding their bikes. Fortunately, a badly decomposed body is hardly ever one of them.



  1. Ashley says:

    I was just wondering if you had heard about a 12 hour bike tour taking place in IL this Saturday?

  2. James says:

    Alhambra doesn’t have a single bike lane or bicycle friendly alternate residential street. They surely aren’t interested in promoting “savy” or vehicular cycling techniques in traffic. They don’t want you on sidewalks. Sounds like they don’t want people to ride bicycles at all.

    • James says:

      They apparently want you to be a curb hugging cyclist with no sense of self preservation. I assume that in Alhambra you are also expected to use the cross walk at every intersection so that you are not “in the way of traffic,” but that would mean using the crosswalk and sidewalk ramp. The sidewalk ramp and crosswalk are part of the sidewalk. This means that Alhambra’s ideal cyclist is always in violation of the law if they get out of the street at intersections. If a cyclist is forced to “get to the curb” and then “get out of thew way of traffic” at any red light or stop sign then the cyclist has to use the sidewalk at intersections and violate the city’s quaint little municipal code.

  3. James Black says:

    I’m not thrilled with the unobjectivity and blaming by the author of this article. Its a third-hand account of something Box said he saw but has no idea what took place. First of all, if there is a law then police are allowed to enforce it. “Overkill for an infraction” is an opinion and it begs the question what infractions should be enforceable and who decides? If the expectation is you must follow the law or police will write you a citation or detain and warn… then that’s what’s supposed to happen. Also, no infraction is $5 which goes to show you how ignorant Box must be. According to the police department’s website the cost is between $45 and $300.
    There are a million reasons they could have searched the bag but riding a bicycle is not one of them. If the police searched his bag they either had probable cause, consent, or the subject was searchable due to probation/parole. Also, depending on circumstances the police may search for ID if they suspect the bicyclist had ID in backpack and refused to produce it. Box assumes the search was due to the person riding a bicycle and not some lawful reason. He has no idea why the search was conducted and therefore should not make an opinion or assumption. Lastly on this topic, the police can lawfully search the bag if they have probable cause even if the rider is under control and unable to access the backpack. The courts have ruled on this consistently. Just because the bag is not under the immediate control of someone doesn’t eliminate the probable cause. Sorry!
    And of course the police aren’t going to tell him why they searched his bag… its none of his business.
    Regarding Box’s opinions of sidewalk riding he is absolutely wrong. First, sidewalk riding is illegal in almost every city in California and its common knowledge by now that you cannot ride a bicycle on a sidewalk. He accuses police for being unclear on specifics but its really simple… no bicycling on a sidewalk. How much more specific can it get? Also, posting is not required. Bicyclists are required to know the rules like everyone else. I wouldn’t advocate for spending the tens of thousands of dollars to clutter up our streets with a sign on every block reminding people that sidewalk riding is illegal. Remember its your responsibility to know the laws… its not the fault of the police if you don’t.
    Lastly, his actions seem harassing to me. If the cyclist is not concerned enough about the traffic stop to file a complaint then no doubt the police are going to blow off Box’s unobjective and nosey complaints.

  4. Stephen Box says:

    In response to Mr. Black’s thoughtful response:

    Alhambra Municipal Code indicates that here is a $5 penalty for riding on the sidewalk. Bookmark§ 10.04.100 PENALTY.
    The violation of any of the provisions of this chapter shall constitute an infraction and any fine imposed for the infraction shall not exceed $5.
    (’86 Code, § 10.04.100) (Ord. 3651, passed – – )

    Mr. Black relies on the City’s website for information from the Alhambra Police Department that is incorrect information, hardly the foundation for a “Trust the Police” diatribe, especially when I took the time to point out that there are two laws on the books that are illegal. He makes no mention of these illegal laws when he lays down his “if there is a law then police are allowed to enforce it.”

    I appreciate Mr. Black’s support of the Alhambra Police Department but think that his blinders should be removed and that we can apply the “know the law and abide by the law” standard to the police as well as to cyclists.

    Btw, it bears repeating that I am not a fan of sidewalk cycling but it is difficult to keep track of the cities and areas within cities that have restrictions and bans. That being said, it is an exaggeration to say that “sidewalk riding is illegal in almost every city in California and its common knowledge by now that you cannot ride a bicycle on a sidewalk.”

    Truth be told, In LA County alone, there are 12 cities that allow sidewalk cycling, 32 that forbid, 25 that restrict within business districts, and 19 that do not have any clear language within their municipal code addressing the issue. That’s 56 out of 88 cities that allow some form of sidewalk cycling.

    To paraphrase Bernard M. Baruch, “Mr. Black has a right to his own opinion, but he does not have a right to be wrong in his facts.”

    As for me, I’ll see you on the streets!

  5. JSmith says:

    Mr Box –
    1) The police don’t write the law, they are told to enforce it so your issue is with the city officials. 2) If they are so inept at their job why don’t you put down your sideline advocate signs and put a badge on your chest and put your life on the line for some thankless people who do not even begin to understand the emotional, physical, and mental demand wearing that badge causes to all those men and women who try to protect and serve.

  6. Stephen Box says:

    JSmith, thanks for pointing out the fact that “the police don’t write the law.” I’m well aware of that fact.

    My original communication was sent to Interim Police Chief Mar because my initial concern was the behavior of one of his officers who conducted the traffic stop that I witnessed.

    I also included City Manager (and former Police Chief) Mark Yokoyama on the email because he advises the City Council and directs the City Attorney so he would be in the best position to conduct a review of the two local laws that are in conflict with state law and to work with the City Attorney to make recommendations for the City Council who I will visit at their next meeting.

    In addition I emailed Lt. Weise and Sgt. Johnson who are responsible for Professional Standards for the City of Alhambra’s Police Department. It is their responsibility to ensure that the APD is conducting itself professionally and legally.

    And…I also included Lt. Rodriguez and Sgt. Mallette who are the Alhambra Police Department’s traffic experts, responsible for the strategies and tactics for ensuring that the streets of Alhambra are safe for everybody, including motorists, pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit passengers.

    As for your second point, I’m not calling anyone inept but I am interested in addressing some serious public safety issues that we all have an obligation to confront. It’s the social contract.

    1) Alhambra receives public funds (local assist) for pedestrian and cycling improvements and a simple survey of the landscape prompts me to ask “Where did the money go?”
    2) Alhambra receives public funds (OTS) for traffic safety that goes to the Alhambra Police Department, prompting me to ask “How much is spend on education and encouragement?”
    3) Alhambra receives public funds for Safe Routes to School projects which support children as they walk and ride bikes to school, prompting me to ask “What about the kids who ride bikes to school?”
    4) Alhambra has a Bike Plan that includes lots of great information and recommendations, including references to the difference between Vehicle Code and Municipal Code and Sidewalk Cycling and the need for education and encouragement and I can only ask “What is standing in the way of implementing the recommendations?”

    In 2011, Alhambra’s Mayor Yamauchi (now Councilman) said he and “several other council members” feel that bike-riders in Alhambra have not been observing basic traffic laws. “Until the bike riders themselves can follow the traffic laws, it would be difficult for us or at least for me to create bike lanes to serve their purpose,” Yamauchi said.


    Is this still the policy of the City of Alhambra?

    I believe that it cuts both ways and that the City of Alhambra and the Alhambra Police Department must obey the laws.

    This is the essence of Constitutional Policing which is the foundation of Community Policing which is when “sideline advocates” are engaged in the solution as partners rather than just relegated to the sidelines as witnesses to the problems.

    Again, thanks for the feedback and I’ll see you on the Streets!

  7. Vincent says:

    I was pulled over in a residential street last year on my bike for failure to stop at a posted stop sign on my pedal bike it was a moving violation and point on my record,there was no reasoning with this officer because truth be told he saw me actually leaving the stop sign from a block away and once in the middle he accelerated toward me with lights,I was completely respectful wouldn’t answer questions regarding ticket or bother to even conduct him self professional I was sat on the curb,searched,profiled and finger printed on site something I couldn’t understand.I have nothing to hide especially since my line of work requires a live scan every 4-6 months from multiple agencies,the issue is why all this harassment of a traffic violations and why not given reason for finger prints.Officer stone was his name.Reason for posting this is I was just pulled over again and told my rear light went out and to totally understand I asked if they would like me to walk my bike home and I was told to sit on the curb and ask permission to be searched was asked multiple questions regarding nothing pertaining to the violation of not having a rear light totally respectful SBA arriving officers what my name was and if I haven’t encountered them before which I would not understand why I would have encountered them and us they have some type of Reason to Believe that I fit the profile of someone with it would come into encounter with a lot which I don’t understand specially working close to 70 hours a week a bit worked up at the moment and not trying to disrespect the department in any way but do not agree one bit with the way they conduct themselves during these stops and feel like I’m being harassed I mean if I’m in violation of something issue me a violation and send me on my way,there’s no reason why I should be drilled when they have my info I’m clean I’ve been searched ,my hands are still being squeezed hard and when I ask why they say he’s responding to my feelings witch were pain because I recently broke my pinky and all I said was I just don’t understand I’ve been nothing but respectful,I was let go but at the end for someone works 12 hour days I rather be issued a ticket and sent on my way rather then being be littled and harrased.

%d bloggers like this: