Bikes Have Rights™
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP
Cyclists biking around the University of Southern California may once again be stopped and cited for riding their bikes in a crosswalk.
The officer stopping them, whether they are from the Los Angeles Police Department or USC security, when asked why they are writing a ticket might reference the sign that reads “Walk Bikes In Crosswalk” as the reason for citing the cyclist. What the officer apparently doesn’t know is that there is no such law, regardless of what the signs says.
At the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Open House a couple of months ago, I met a graduate student who attends USC and who is a cyclist. He told me about this sign at Jefferson and Royal, and a few others like it, near the USC campus. He wanted to know if these signs were accurate and enforceable. A few days later he took and emailed me the accompanying photo.
I knew this wasn’t a question of law as bicycles can be ridden – legally – through crosswalks. So where and how and why was this sign on the street?
We contacted Sgt. Flynn of the LAPD, Central Traffic Division, who said, “I do not know of any California Vehicle Code section that states you can’t ride your bike in a crosswalk. The only section that someone could be cited for, if it is an official sign, would be CVC 21461(a)vc ‘Official Traffic Sign or Signal-failure of Driver to Obey Regulatory Provisions.’”
So where did this sign come from and why is it still there? What we found out after many, many telephone calls and emails, is that the sign is reflective of old laws that empowered officers to cite bicyclists for not walking their bikes in a crosswalk. But that law was taken off the books in 2006.
This is not a new issue, particularly in the USC neighborhood. In September 2009, the Daily Trojan reported that a task force of LAPD officers and USC security was being put together to regulate safety. This would include sting operations set up at intersections to cite cyclists riding their bikes in crosswalks. Citations could cost up to $250.
On Jan. 12, 2010, four months later, Streetsblog wrote a more extensive article on this same topic called “If You Want to Know Bicycle Law, Don’t Ask the California Highway Patrol, Part 2.” Streetsblog reported that, as we know, there was no law that stated that cyclists had to dismount and walk their bikes in crosswalks. Ten years later, since the 2006 change in the law, we’re still discussing these same issues.
Los Angeles Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over most traffic devices – signs and signals – in the City of Los Angeles. DOT employees confirmed that this sign is a DOT sign and it was installed by DOT.
LADOT’s Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowrey was one of the people involved in the 2006 modifications of the California Vehicle Code that resulted in the removal of the law that bicycles had to be walked through crosswalks.
When we asked Mowrey about this sign, she told me that whether or not it is reflecting the pre-2006 law, it is a non-standard sign. Mowrey told us that though the sign doesn’t appear in any Caltrans’ manuals, a black-and-yellow sign, as it is, indicates that it’s a warning sign, not a regulatory sign, which is black-and-white. Citations can be issued only on regulatory black-and-white signs. That’s why speed limit signs are black-and-white and “Share the Road” signs are black-and-yellow.
An LAPD representative said the LAPD was not involved in the signs. We were told their opinion of the sign is that it is a safety recommendation. Our question, then, would be, do LAPD officers know that or are they still ticketing cyclists for disobeying the sign? We don’t have an answer to that question.
We talked to three different people at LADOT about why these signs were up. In essence, they all said that after the law was changed, in 2006, steps were taken to remove signs like these on all city streets. These signs were overlooked, apparently, and it was just an oversight.
Mehrdad Moshskar, LADOT’s central district engineer, was our next stop. We were referred to him to find out how to get the signs removed. Moshskar assured me that all of these signs in that area of town would be removed soon.
People have asked me if I thought the signs originated with USC. I have no idea, and no one knew or was willing to tell me.
The official answer came from Tim Fremaux in the LADOT Bicycle Coordination Department who said, “Anyone can submit any traffic-related request via myladot.lacity.org and it will be reviewed. If DOT approves the request, it will be implemented on our streets.”
There are Traffic Division and Bicycle Liason meetings held on a quarterly basis, which are open to the public. These meetings include representatives from LADOT, USC, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office and other public groups. For more information about these meetings, contact Lt. Chris Ramirez at 213-486-6000.
Meanwhile, if anybody goes past Jefferson and Royal, would you email me at email@example.com and let me know if the sign is still up?
For more than 25 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.