Tag Archive for Alan Wachtel

An expert analysis of tickets and bike seizures in the Long Beach Critical Mass fiasco.

For the past few years, Long Beach has been the beautiful face of cycling in Southern California, showing the state what a bike-friendly community can be.

But these days, that face has an ugly black eye, thanks to the local police department’s heavy-handed crackdown on the city’s first “official” Critical Mass ride, despite organizer’s repeated attempts to get the city’s cooperation. And many area cyclists find themselves questioning whether any city can truly be bike friendly when the authorities seem to make up the law as they go along, and seize bikes with no apparent legal justification whatsoever.

Recently, Al Williams forwarded me an email written by Alan Wachtel, legislative liaison for the California Association of Bicycle Organizations, in response to that crackdown.

In it, he offered an expert analysis of the citations issued by the LBPD, as well the department’s authority to impound the rider’s bikes — by far, the most detailed and complete examination of the subject I’ve seen. As a result, I contacted Wachtel, and got his permission to share the email with you.


Citations issued to the cyclists included:

  • B240497 – Running stop sign
  • 21201 – No Brakes
  • 1050020 – No Registration;
  • Riding more than two abreast (Code 1048040)
  • Turning off lights after getting pulled over
  • No horns/bells
  • Riding an unsafe vehicle

The Vehicle Code preempts all local regulation of bicycles, except as expressly authorized. The affected cyclists should hire a lawyer not only to get these bogus citations dismissed, but to sue the City for harassment.

B240497 – Running stop sign: This appears to be a citation number rather than a code violation, which should be VC 22450. Whether it’s valid depends on the violation alleged and the facts; however, nothing in the Vehicle Code requires a cyclist to put a foot down in order to make a legal stop.

21201 – No Brakes: Vehicle Code 21201 requires that “(a) No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.” It’s arguable that backpedaling on a fixie qualifies, because the fixed gear itself can be considered the brake. In any case, it shouldn’t matter how the bike is made to skid.

1050020 – No Registration: I.e., Long Beach Municipal Code section 10.50.020, which says that “No person shall ride or propel any bicycle upon any street, alley, park or bicycle path or other public place in the city which is not registered, or for which the appropriate fee has not been paid or which does not bear a bicycle plate as required by the provisions of this chapter.” But the Vehicle Code provides that:

39002. (a) A city or county, which adopts a bicycle licensing ordinance or resolution, may provide in the ordinance or resolution that no resident shall operate any bicycle, as specified in the ordinance, on any street, road, highway, or other public property within the jurisdiction of the city or county, as the case may be, unless the bicycle is licensed in accordance with this division.

Non-residents therefore may not be cited, and the maximum fine for residents is $10 (section 39011). Moreover, the Vehicle Code no longer allows impoundment for lack of registration.

Riding more than two abreast (Code 1048040): I.e., L.B.M.C. section 10.48.040: “Persons operating bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.” Invalid because preempted by the Vehicle Code.

Turning off lights after getting pulled over: Vehicle Code section 21201(d)(1) requires “A lamp emitting a white light that, while the bicycle is in motion, illuminates the highway, sidewalk, or bikeway in front of the bicyclist and is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle” (thus allowing for generators). There is no requirement to display a light when stopped.

No horns/bells: Seems to refer to L.B.M.C. section 10.48.080: “No person shall operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk unless it is equipped with a bell, horn or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with, nor shall any person use upon a bicycle, any siren or whistle.” But this applies only on sidewalks (and if it did include the street, it would be preempted by the Vehicle Code).

Riding an unsafe vehicle: Vehicle Code section 24002 provides: “(a) It is unlawful to operate any vehicle or combination of vehicles which is in an unsafe condition, or which is not safely loaded, and which presents an immediate safety hazard.” But a bicycle is not a vehicle, and this section belongs to Division 12, “Equipment of Vehicles,” which does not apply to bicycles.

Impounding vehicles: Vehicle Code sections 22651 through 22711 set forth the authority to impound a vehicle, such as when it’s abandoned or illegally parked, or the driver is incapacitated or arrested. But I see nothing that would authorize what happened in Long Beach. Even in the case of a bicycle that was arguably unsafe for lacking brakes, Section 24004 provides that “No person shall operate any vehicle or combination of vehicles after notice by a peace officer . . . that the vehicle is in an unsafe condition or is not equipped as required by this code, except as may be necessary to return the vehicle or combination of vehicles to the residence or place of business of the owner or driver or to a garage, until the vehicle and its equipment have been made to conform with the requirements of this code.” So the cyclists should at worst have been allowed to ride home–except that this provision, too, belongs to Division 12 and doesn’t apply to bicyclists.


Speaking of Long Beach, Mobility Coordinator Charlie Gandy says the city is moving in the right direction, though maybe not as fast as some people would like. The Long Beach Press Telegram provides a quiz on bike rules, along with tips for motorists and cyclists. And Bike Long Beach offers a two-part bike traffic skills course; maybe they can offer similar training for the police department.


After the Vail District Attorney refuses to press felony charges against a hit-and-run driver because it could jeopardize his job — as if everyone charged with a crime doesn’t face that problem — Cyclelicious calls for a boycott of the city, and asks the organizers of the Quiznos Pro Challenge to drop the planned Vail stage of next year’s inaugural race. Works for me.

Meanwhile, People For Bikes directs your attention to a petition asking the Eagle County CO District Attorney to protect all road users, and BikePortland calls it yet another black eye for bikes in Colorado.


Thanks to soon-to-be former Congressman Jim Oberstar for his support of cycling issues. Not surprisingly, conservatives are already gearing up to push for an auto-centric transportation policy; meanwhile, Richard Risemberg, writing for Orange 20 Bikes,  says fiscal conservatives should be big fans of bicycling.


L.A.’s proposed cyclist anti-harassment ordinance goes before the full City Council at 10 am this Wednesday, November 10, at Downtown City Hall. As long as you’re Downtown, you can join in on the third, and hopefully final, Ed Magos Ride for Justice that takes place on Wednesday at noon.


It only looks like the Give Me 3 posters are starting to come down; then again, you can always download your own poster. Despite claims, L.A.’s bike plan is surprisingly non-ambitious. The students who live in North Westwood Village face some of the worst streets in Los Angeles; thanks to Be A Green Commuter for the link. The Claremont Cyclist offers great photos from the first day of L.A.’s first Griffith Park Cyclocross — as well as a photo of a competitor’s bike that was stolen after the competition; there’s a special place in hell for bike thieves — and here’s another great shot from dudeonabike. Sometimes, it’s not hard to tell that the people responsible for placing bike racks don’t ride themselves. Robbers push a Pasadena teenager off the bike he was riding, and steal it and his cell phone; meanwhile, San Francisco bike thieves slash a cyclist who resisted their robbery attempt, but get caught a few blocks later. Critics file suit against a proposed project to widen Highway 101 through Ventura County — not because in would increase the highway from four to six lanes, but because it includes a bike lane on the ocean side.

Cyclists need dedicated pathways, not shared-use paths that don’t work for anyone; South Carolina cyclists could face a 20 mph speed limit on a popular bike path. The problem with treating bikes equally with other traffic is that traffic laws weren’t written with bikes in mind. A Facebook group says we’re people on bikes, not lifeless obstacles in your way. Do we need a special slowpoke lane on bike paths and sidewalks? Portland plans to upgrade bike boulevards to Neighborhood Greenways. A Utah mother forgives the driver who killed her 11-year old bike riding daughter. A look at the Denver premier of Race Across the Sky, a movie about the 2010 Leadville 100 mountain bike race won by Levi Leipheimer. A Tampa Bay hit-and-run victim shows that no life is unimportant.

UCI rules Alberto Contador will face disciplinary action over his failed drug test. Aussie researchers call for scrapping the country’s mandatory helmet laws. An 18-year old Aussie cyclist, a gold medalist in the Commonwealth Games, is suspended after drunk driving collision that left a friend with serious injuries. Australian police force a teenage cyclist to deflate his tires and walk home after catching him riding without a helmet. A Kiwi cyclist asks if it’s unreasonable to expect off-road riders to be considerate of other trail users — and their dogs.

Finally, No Whip does the inconceivable and discovers the seemingly impossible by riding a bike to LAX to catch a flight, and discovering a bike rack in front of Terminal 1 — and actually finds his bike safe on his return four days later.

And best wishes to Claremont Cyclist, who succumbed to the national job layoff epidemic of today; let’s all hope he gets a bigger, better job soon.

%d bloggers like this: