Tag Archive for Long Beach Critical Mass

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.

Last chance to influence the bike plan, Karabian pleads no contest, cyclecross comes to Griffith Park

Your final chance to comment on the latest draft of the 2010 bike plan comes at 8:30 am on Thursday, when the Los Angeles City Planning Commission meets in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

However, you may not want to rush, since it’s item 10 on a very crowded agenda. You may want to pack a lunch.

LADOT Bike Blog says the long process is finally coming to an end, while Joe Linton examines what a long, strange trip its been.

Damien Newton says TranspoComm chair Bill Rosendahl promises that he won’t let the plan leave committee until the cycling community is happy with it, but it’s better to fix it now — and notes there are still problems to fix.

The ultimate local cycling odd couple of CicLAvia meister and LACBC founder Joe Linton and Bikeside President Alex Thompson join with Bikeside’s Rach Stevenson to say cyclists will be worse off if the bike plan is adopted, and offer a detailed evaluation to back it up.

Stephen Box says when it comes to the bike plan, the city Planning staff is guilty of embellishing reality. And Josef Bray-Ali had previously called it the best looking pile of horseshit he’s seen in ages.

The LACBC contends no plan is ever perfect, and this one includes a number of hard-fought recommendations — including giving priority to projects that will benefit low-income riders and provisions for accountability — and deserves our support.

My take is that, as it stands now, the plan provides a decent framework to move forward, but could still stand significant improvement. Whether or not it will make a difference on our streets depends entirely on what kind of support it gets at City Hall, and how it’s interpreted by the next head of LADOT.

If Mayor Villaraigosa can somehow entice New York’s Janet Sadik-Khan or Long Beach’s Charlie Gandy to come to Los Angeles, this plan could make L.A. a cyclist’s paradise. But if the city promotes or hires someone with the same old auto-centric focus that has destroyed the livability of so many parts of our city, it will be a roadmap to failure.

But the real question is, what do you think?

If you can’t make it Downtown on Thursday, you may want to drop into room 280-A of Beverly Hills City Hall to hear an update from that city’s new Bicycle Ad Hoc Committee; the meeting begins at 9 am.


Walter Karabian, the former State Assembly leader who drove his car into a parking lot attendant at a USC game — apparently intentionally, since he hit her several times — pled no contest to a lesser charge on Tuesday. He was sentenced to a paltry 40 hours of community service and three years probation.

So the next time a parking attendant won’t let you into a full lot, feel free to run her/him over; evidently, it’s really not that big a deal.


The Long Beach Post interviews Ronnie Sandler, one of the organizers behind Friday’s failed Long Beach Critical Mass, who details their many attempts to get a permit for the ride — the lack of which was cited as a primary reason for the heavy-handed police crackdown.

The article also states that Long Beach courts have already ruled that fixed-gear bikes don’t need a separate brake, since they are able to comply with the requirement that a bike be able to leave a skid mark on clean, dry pavement — which seems to be one of the key issues here.

It will be interesting to see how the city attempts to rebuild the bike-friendly image that has been shattered virtually overnight, or if they simply ignore it and hope we’ll all forget.

And there were problems with the Los Angeles Critical Mass, too, as bike cops reportedly waived cyclists through red lights while motorcycle cops ticketed the riders for following their instructions.


USA Cycling considers a ban on helmet cams, and carbon bikes for junior riders. UCI president Pat McQuaid says the ban for doping cyclists should be doubled to four years. Disgraced ex-Tour de France winner Floyd Landis and his coach face charges for hacking into the French anti-doping lab. The Los Angeles grand jury not officially investigating Lance Armstrong will hear from long-time teammate Yaroslav Popovych today. The first-ever champions of the new Colorado High School Mountain Bike League.

And clear your schedule for the weekend, as cyclecross racing comes to Griffith Park this Saturday.


LACBC joins with LADOT and other city officials to examine the proposed 4th Street Bike Boulevard, while Stephen Box points out the city’s failure to fix the roads extends even there. LACBC introduces their new and improved bike valet. LA Streetsblog has a new Facebook page. The Daily Bruin says riding to campus just got easier, thanks to UCLA’s new bike library. Will timelapses his ride through the Arroyo Seco, parts of which seem more mojado than seco. Flying Pigeon offers a new online store. A view from Canada at the Wilbur Ave road diet dispute doesn’t bode well for that country’s cyclists. If you’re looking for work, Felt needs a Demo Driver Sales/Tech Rep in Irvine/Ontario. In yet another case in which cyclist discourtesy has nothing to do with Orange County collisions, a Placentia rider is hit by a red light running driver. Momentum offers a look at cycling in San Diego, from one of my favorite writers at Bike San Diego. A new bike advocacy group takes root in El Dorado Hills.

More than $1 billion in federal funding for bike and ped projects this year; don’t count on that next year with the GOP in control of the House. The 50,000 mile interstate bike route may become a reality. How to safely use a bike lane. Daily exercise such as cycling can improve your immune system, cutting the risk and severity of colds. The country’s most bike-friendly city still doesn’t have a single singletrack trail. Mas macho advice on urban commuting.  A Kansas lawyer warns drivers that some cyclists know the law. A Carolina cyclist hit while riding on her birthday dies 10 days later. The hard part of vehicular cycling is feeling guilty because you’re in someone’s way. An American set a new world record by riding a stationary bike 222 hours, 22 minutes and 22 seconds.

Bell’s newest helmets feature built-in headlights, but is that enough to overcome the geek factor? The Guardian looks at the race to improve nighttime visibility. Great Britain’s transportation department wants children to play a game where they get run over if they aren’t wearing bright colored clothes — even if they do everything else right. A 10-year old cerebral palsy victim has a life-changing operation that may allow him to fulfill his dream of riding a bike. An Aussie police chief says cyclists who ride without headlights are just as dangerous as drivers who don’t use them; as the Witch on a Bicycle points out, he could use a refresher course in physics. Cyclelicious looks at Japan’s mamachari blog focusing on that country’s Mama bikes.

Finally, Dan Maes, the tinfoil hat-wearing candidate for Colorado governor who suggested that Denver’s bike share program was a UN plot, may not have been the night’s biggest loser, but with just over 10% of the vote, he was close. And the bike-friendly Denver mayor behind the program was elected as the state’s new leader.

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