Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cyclists claim their Rights, Smokey writes a Ticket


As thousands of cars idled in gridlock that resulted in miles of parked cars, LA's Park Rangers focused on the arrival of 50 cyclists, complete with General Services Bike Police escort, and stood prepared to enforce a law they couldn't identify, following the orders of people they can't identify, and finally writing me a ticket for "FAILING TO COMPLY WITH TRAFFIC CONTROL OFCR."

Friday, December 18th, marked the end of the pedestrian nights at the Griffith Park Festival of Lights and the beginning of the vehicular nights. To the city's credit, there were 14 pedestrian nights and there will be 13 vehicular nights, marking the first time in 14 years that the car-free nights outnumber the vehicular nights. As for cyclists, there was the token press conference "Bike-Night" and then nothing but the traditional "it's for your own safety" exclusion from the vehicular nights.



For the last four years, cyclists have ridden the Festival of RIGHTS, decorating their bikes and howling at the moon, riding the Festival a few rounds and challenging the prohibition on cyclists. This year was no different. Well, not much. When we arrived at Mulholland Fountain for the traditional milling about and socializing, there were two General Services Bike Cops who were very polite and friendly and who told us it was their responsibility to escort us safely through the Festival of Lights.

We rode, we howled, we enjoyed riding Griffith Park and we made lots of friends along the ride. At least that's what it sounded like as the cyclists and the people stuck in gridlock exchanged holiday greetings.

As we regrouped at the Zoo parking lot, we encountered Sgt. Kilpatrick of LA Rec and Parks. He artfully moved his vehicle so as to block us and then gave us a series of explanations on why we couldn't ride the streets of Griffith Park. I asked him under whose authority he was prohibiting cyclists while we watched the public drive their cars on the street right behind him. He said they were Rec and Park streets and they could exclude cyclists. I invoked State Law, pointing out that Los Angeles may be a big city but it hardly trumps State Law and CVC 21 is the Uniformity Code and it guarantees me the right to ride the streets that are open to the motoring public.


Sgt. Kilpatrick then invoked the special event argument, I responded by asking for the permit. He had none. I asked for his supervisor, he said he was it. I asked who gave the instructions to prohibit cyclists, he didn't know. We chatted for a while and he was very polite but firm, he said he would cite us if we violated the ban on cyclists in the park during the Festival of Lights. I asked what law would be violated and he didn't know. He really didn't know what law because when he wrote the ticket, it was for failing to comply.

Here are a few problems:

1) "It's for your own safety!" is code for getting cyclists out of the way of the motorists. It's not about our safety or the streets would be cleared of motor vehicles, intersections would be grade separated and motorists would be banned from the park. It's about moving motor vehicles and the plan was prepared by engineers who can't conceive of what to do with all of the humans.

2) Simple attempts to restrict cyclists must be resisted as a matter of principle. Los Altos went so far as to paint "NO BIKES" on El Monte Road before cyclists protested and won. Pasadena drafted an ordinance restricting cyclists from riding two abreast, making it to the second reading before cyclists again prevailed. In both cases, CVC 21 was invoked and used to demonstrate that local municipalities don't have the authority to restrict cyclists unless specifically articulated in the CVC. (Bike licenses, sidewalk riding and cyclists on the freeways are the exceptions) The Griffith Park prohibition is one of tradition and it is inappropriate and illegal.

3) The prohibition has no "Owner" and there is no accountability. Did Councilman Tom LaBonge direct the Park Rangers and the LADOT to prohibit cyclists from the Festival of Lights? Did the DWP determine that the Festival would be safer with no cyclists? Was it the LADOT who prepared the traffic plan for the Festival and determined that the two hour trek through the gridlock would be safer for the motorists if the cyclists were banned? Was it the Park Rangers who banded together and proposed a cyclist-free Festival? Why is it so hard to find the person behind the directive?

4) Sgt. Kilpatrick is in his third decade of service as a Peace Officer. How is it he stands prepared to enforce a ban on cyclists on the streets of Griffith Park, yet he can't identify the supporting law, he can't identify the authority who gave him his orders and he can't even offer up a reasonable defense of the absurd policy. He is the guy in charge. I would hope that he is enough of a professional to recognize that a man of his experience and his level of authority is of value because he thinks, because he asks questions and because he does what's right, not just what he's told. We are so far beyond the "I'm just following orders." days and the City of Los Angeles deserves better from those who operate under the color of authority. Putting on a badge and a gun means stepping up and doing what's right, not simply what is anonymously passed down as a directive.

5) The City of LA is in the midst of the worst budget crisis in our lifetimes. Rita Robinson, the GM of the LADOT, just met with the neighborhood council reps to tell them that the year-long Memorandum of Understanding meetings would not result in an MOU because she was unable to make any commitments in the middle of the current budget and staffing crisis. How then does she find the money to pay LADOT Traffic Officers to work Griffith Park wrangling the tens of thousands of motor vehicles that jam up the park and the surrounding community. Who is paying for the LADOT staff?

6) Rec and Parks stands to lose over 200 members of their staff as a result of the Early Retirement Incentive Plan. The department is in turmoil and local communities are being told that their parks are in danger of being closed and services restricted, all as a result of the budget meltdown. Meanwhile, the Park Rangers are out in Griffith Park with all of the trucks and gear, looking for cyclists who threaten the stability of the eco-system with their nefarious plan to ...ride their bikes on Crystal Springs Drive, the one with the bike lanes that get decommissioned during the holiday season to make room for more cars. Who is setting the Park Ranger priorities and who is directing them during the Festival of Lights?

7) The DWP has hosted the Light Festival ever since then-City Council President John Ferraro helped them think of it 14 years ago. How does the DWP get to host the Festival of Lights without pulling a permit, without paying fees that other organizations would have to pay if they wanted to put on a special event and dramatically impact the operation of the park as well as the surrounding community. How did the DWP avoid the rules and regulations and fees that apply to all other community groups and non-profits and special events?

8) The traffic on the 5 Freeway gets congested all the way back to the 134 Freeway, requiring mitigation and supervision from Caltrans and the CHP. In the last 14 years, have the operators of the Festival of Lights taken responsibility for evaluating the impact of the Festival on the freeway and on the safety of those who are caught in the congestion? Are Caltrans and the CHP voluntary partners with the Festival of Lights or are they simply responding to the disruption of service on the freeway?



Councilman Tom LaBonge of CD4, Jon Kirk Mukri of Rec and Parks, Rita Robinson of LADOT, and David Freeman of the DWP are all, at some point in time, referred to as the authority and the one in charge when it comes to the DWP's Festival of Lights in Griffith Park.

One of them needs to step up and take responsibility for the Festival of Lights.

That person needs to reconcile the current Festival of Lights with the Mayor's commitment to making LA the Greenest Big City.

That person needs to reconcile the current Festival of Lights with the City's current budget crisis.

That person needs to reconcile the current Festival of Lights with the Mayor's recent acknowledgment that he and the City of LA don't do enough for cyclists.

Most of all, that person needs to rise to the occasion and give the people of LA hope that even in the midst of these dire straits, there are people within the City of LA who will do what's best for the people of LA.

Happy Holidays and I look forward to seeing you on the streets of Griffith Park.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or does this issue smack of the type of discrimination that African-Americans went through in the fifties and early sixties?
So bicycles are only allowed during certain times only? Separate but equal? Even though the law clearly gives bicycles equal rights, the authorities can and will determine when bicycles can exercise their rights? Kudos for taking one for the team, but how long will it be before bicyclists are truly treated with the respect and equality per the State law?

Trev said...

I'm speechless. Unbelievable.

Kristin Sabo said...

Stephen,

You know I'm totally on your side and I luv ya, man, but this isn't really fair.

Look at your ticket - you were cited for two things in the vehicle code I think:

Going against the flow of traffic, and disobeying a traffic control officer.

Come on man.

Nothing about special events.
:-)

ranger k said...

Stephen,

If you're going to post comments please at least make them accurate. The only locations where you were instructed not to ride were against the flow of traffic (21650.1 VC), and in the emergency lane which is closed to all pedestrians and vehicles except for service vehicles and shuttles. All of the other legal roads were (and are) open to bicyclists.

These restrictions are no differant than those required of all visitors who drive cars or walk through the Festival.

I invited you several times to return to the Festival entrance and ride through as a group or singly as many times as you wished, so your comments about being banned from the roads of Griffith Park and discriminated against are not true.

Please don't forget that you asked me (practically begged me) to cite you before the event.

Ranger K

SoapBoxLA said...

Riding south in the southbound lane, the same lane used by the southbound vehicles, can hardly be construed as "going against the flow of traffic" and the instruction to use the River Bike Path is an inappropriate instruction and violates CVC 21.

Sgt. Kilpatrick exceeded his authority when he separated cyclists from those on the street and told them to leave.

His arguments went the range, from Rec & Parks authority over its streets, to special event to emergency vehicles only (kinda like the shuttle is an emergency vehicle)

When he ran out of steam and ideas, he fell back on "failure to comply" which is a big cop-out.

Under what authority do they open the event to the public but restrict cyclists?

Crickets chirp and noone will step up to own the prohibition.

SoapBoxLA said...

Ranger K,

Great to hear from you.

The Griffith Park Festival of Lights is not open to cyclists. Holding traffic and escorting us through the festival is an effective way to diminish the impact of our "protest ride" but it can hardly be promoted as a concession.

Bike lanes were decommissioned and cyclists were banned in order to make room for more motor vehicles. If safety was a concern, the event would be car free and people would be the focus. (ADA compliant of course!)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Festival of Lights is closed to cyclists through the remainder of the Festival?

If so, anyone who upholds this ban is violating the law. Simple.

I appreciate your commitment to your position and your hard work serving the community.

On that note, Happy Holidays to you and yours!

jericho1ne said...

Dear Sgt Kilpatrick,

Parks, especially in urban areas are a way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and in places like LA or NY, it's a great chance to inhale some clean air. If anything, you should be working to prevent people from driving to the park.

I hope you will, at some point in your life, realize how utterly fucking ridiculous it is to do anything BUT welcome cyclists with open arms to a fucking park, regardless whether it's a special event or just another day.

There is nothing you can quote or say that will ever excuse the ticket you gave out. I'm sorry, but you should seriously question whether you've truly used your current position of power for the greater good of the people.

Sincerely,

Mihai Peteu.

ranger k said...

Stephen,

Merry Christmas /Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you and your family also.

Scott said...

I biked the ride from the fountain to the zoo and didn't see my fellow cyclists have ANY problems with law enforcement until they tried to double back against traffic (at which point I bailed). When the decision was made to double back against traffic in a lane closed to all vehicles, the ride overstepped its stated (righteous) purpose of "reclaiming our rights" - full access to a lane open to vehicular traffic - and lost the moral high ground.

Alex said...

Sorry I missed the ride. It would have been my honor to stand up for cyclist's rights in a city that kills a bicyclist nearly every week, in a city poisoning itself with car exhaust, in a city run by half-competent administrators and bureaucrats who are only beholden to the power players behind the scenes. Life is going to get much worse for angelenos as a result of the budget crisis. People will be turning to bikes en masse once the roads fall apart and become impassable to all cars. LADOT has their head up their ass. In a town bursting with failed departments and bureaus, they take first prize for the department that's ruining Los Angeles the most!

Anonymous said...

Scott is absolutely correct, and the indignation by anyone not seeing this also lessens your cause.

Because the overall cause is just doesn't mean every action taken by its fighters is just. This is one of those cases. When cyclists reversed direction and went against the flow of traffic, it was wrong.

Save the outrage for when it is really needed.

GriffithRunner said...

It's crazy the Light Festival is not 100 percent vehicle-free! It's a PARK. Aren't PARKS the ideal places for pedestrians and cyclists! DWP's pledge of "going green" is a bunch of crap and reeks of being bogus. How much longer is the City of LA going to convey the message that "it is OK to pollute in the Festival of Idling Cars?"

Enci said...

Anonymous #2 and Scott, apparently you didn't read the entire post or didn't pay attention when you rode with us. The cyclists didn't want to "double back against traffic". The lane that the cyclists wanted to ride (and ended up riding) is the lane that is open for reverse traffic. The regular lane that goes southbound on Cristal Springs Drive. That lane has not only a bike lane going southbound but also has a vehicular lane next to the "gutter" bike lane. Plenty of room for cyclists and the law says that any road that is open to motorized vehicles is also open to cyclists.

It is discouraging how soft some people became from the old days when messing with ones rights was not tolerated. Thank you Anonymous #1 for pointing out the absurdities of our society in the 21st century.

Btw. this ride was called "Festival of Rights" and there were plenty of posts about it online that one would know what they get themselves into. That's why the cops showed up. If you don't want to fight for your rights, that's okay, but don't diminish if others are fighting for your and our rights.

El Chupacabra said...

GriffithRunner, you need to look one place for that problem:

TOM LABONGE

Scott said...

Enci,

You and Stephen ARE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT to demand that the Festival of Lights be open to bicycles (or better yet, closed to automotive traffic entirely). If we were prevented from riding with vehicular traffic into the event, that would be clear a violation of our rights and worth fighting for - even going to jail for. But that is not what happened.

We were not prevented from riding with vehicular traffic northbound, and the southbound lane was closed to all reverse traffic and being used as an emergency lane (which seems prudent, given the traffic clusterfuck in the northbound lane). You say "Plenty of room for cyclists and the law says that any road that is open to motorized vehicles is also open to cyclists." Of course that is true as a general statement, but Crystal Springs southbound was closed to all public vehicles, automotive and otherwise. I did not see a single member of the public in a motor vehicle heading southbound on Crystal Springs Dr.

It is intellectually dishonest and unprincipled to demand your rights as the operator of a vehicle and then disregard the responsibilities (such as following traffic laws) that accompany those rights. It is discouraging for me as a cyclist to see leaders in LA bike culture behaving this way, as this sort of masturbatory self-righteousness is ineffective and counterproductive to the very real struggle of securing our rights on the road.

best,

Scott

SoapBoxLA said...

Scott,

The southbound lane is a Contra-Flow lane open to shuttles as well as emergency vehicle. (You may have seen the large buses. They are not emergency vehicles, they are shuttles.

Cyclists in LA enjoy a unique position, we can ride on sidewalks (hardly advisable but legal) and motorists can't.

Cyclists in CA ride the streets and 1000 miles of State Highway but pedestians can't.

Cyclists also ride the Bus-Only lanes and Contra-Flow lanes (See spring street and look at the plans for the bus-only on Wilshire) which is something that neither peds nor motorists can do.

The southbound lane in Griffith Park is a contra-flow lane. Nobody rode against traffic but with traffic. It is open to shuttles and it is open to cyclists.

Most disturbing of all, the entire Festival is unpermitted, depriving the DWP (and CD4 the LADOT and R&P and General Services) from the high road as they close streets, restrict traffic, operate a festival and exclude cyclists.

The City of LA is in a budget crisis. When did LaBonge and theDWP get a pass on the permitting fees that the City requires of ANYBODY else for a special event.

"Fast and Loose" is the MO if not the motto for the City of Los Angeles.

It's time for a change.

Green Stealth said...

Checked with the inside folks and either DOT or DWP set up the lane alignment for the Light Festival. Recreation and Parks has nothing to do with this. They don't even get a sign-off.

As for who makes it against the rules to have bikes in the Light Festival? Look to LaBonge, the ex-DWP employee.

This Eco-Moron award winning waste of energy, time, and energy is his personal orgasm - no one elses.

jeremygrant.com said...

For the monopoly of the DWP to get away without paying permit fees and heave the cost of this environmental disaster to the public is a disgrace. To let one man, who is saddled with the responsibility to protect the wildlife environment, keep cyclists out while letting thousands of cars idle for hours is an embarrassment. It is time that we call out the city on it's green washing self praise while it dumps on the true facilitators of environmental conservation. Give cyclists the rights guaranteed by our laws!

FREE THE STREETS!

User1 said...

I saw motor vehicles driven by the public heading south on Crystal Springs Dr. All forms of traffic was allowed to drive or ride south after Griffith Park Dr. So the section of Crystal Springs Dr. in debate is 8/10 of a mile. I would not have rode back on this section if I didn't see those big ass buses doing it. These buses are the same size buses MTA uses. If there's room enough for these buses heading south, then there's got to be enough room for 20-30 riders, right? I mean, if there ever was an emergency, getting 20-30 bikers out of the way would be a hell of alot easier than that big ass bus, right?

The arguement of being for our safety is such a joke too. Gawd I wish the only thing I had to worry about is cars parked in the middle of the road! Instead my worries are with 2 tons of steel, glass and plastic coming at me at 60 mph. I'll take dodging parked cars any day!

Really the scariest part of riding back to the start, was after Griffith Park Dr. That was the only part where we were dealing with moving cars next to us.

And as far as the Light Festival. DWP needs to turn this into a real festival, and not some sham. Close it off to cars and just let people walk around. Build this up like they would if it was a county fair. If they did it right, it could not only be a tradition that's looked forward to by the city, but also as a money maker.


MR. BOX FOR PRESIDENT OF LA!!!!

User1 said...

I saw motor vehicles driven by the public heading south on Crystal Springs Dr. All forms of traffic was allowed to drive or ride south after Griffith Park Dr. So the section of Crystal Springs Dr. in debate is 8/10 of a mile. I would not have rode back on this section if I didn't see those big ass buses doing it. These buses are the same size buses MTA uses. If there's room enough for these buses heading south, then there's got to be enough room for 20-30 riders, right? I mean, if there ever was an emergency, getting 20-30 bikers out of the way would be a hell of alot easier than that big ass bus, right?

The arguement of being for our safety is such a joke too. Gawd I wish the only thing I had to worry about is cars parked in the middle of the road! Instead my worries are with 2 tons of steel, glass and plastic coming at me at 60 mph. I'll take dodging parked cars any day!

Really the scariest part of riding back to the start, was after Griffith Park Dr. That was the only part where we were dealing with moving cars next to us.

And as far as the Light Festival. DWP needs to turn this into a real festival, and not some sham. Close it off to cars and just let people walk around. Build this up like they would if it was a county fair. If they did it right, it could not only be a tradition that's looked forward to by the city, but also as a money maker.


MR.BOX FOR PRESIDENT OF LA!!!

Joseph Eisenberg said...

Stephen, I have to agree with Scott on this one. You guys should not have tried to ride back in the emergency lane.

It's a shame, because you guys were right. There is no reason bikes should be banned from traveling thru the park with cars. And I also agree that banning all vehicles from the light display would be best, even if that meant banning bikes as well.

truth teller said...

stephen and enci, hate to say it, but you got served on this one. sounds like you messed up on the ride routing. but it's okay, everyone makes a mistake sometime, and at this point, if you'd just own up to it, you might come out ahead by seeming less like an oak tree and more like a slender reed. look, you don't have to be right all the time. in fact, you'll seem a lot more human if you'd just admit your flaws.

i still got your back against tom labonge and the rest though. what you really need to do is take up the fight against john fisher, the queen behind the LADOT throne (queen as in chess, not queen as in rainbow pride. those queens are all good). he is the ultimate bike hating string-pulling shadow lurker. michelle mowery and her minion engineers? or (please) la city planning? they're all just spinning cogs! one day, you'll need 'em on your side. but fisher....he is the dark black magic car-gasmic sorcerer.

now i've told you the real target. sick 'em boy!

Griffith Park Wayist said...

It's unfortunate, but Councilman Tom LaBonge is the impetus behind much of the bullshit associated with the Light Festival.

I'm thinking it is time to look for a representative who:

a) understands and respects the law

b) understands and respects the jobs that departments do, and then actually allows them to do their jobs

c) respects the public and the environment

d) doesn't think Griffith Park is their personal play thing


Feel free to join us on the Griffith Park Wayist blog while we squabble over these issues and work to find the person to run in 2011 who does fit all four of the above.

http://GriffithParkWayist.blogspot.com

GPW

PS - Luv ya Box!

Erik said...

Just heard on the radio that LaBonge is up in arm about smokers who sit outside restaurants and Taco Trucks. He's proposing that the no-smoking zone around eating establishments (and roach coaches) be extended further out to improve air quality. Too bad he thinks all those idling cars are A-OK.

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