One would think that those about to break the law would be discrete about it, but when law enforcement and municipal authorities get busy abusing rules and violating rights, some of them do it with bravado and confidence, announcing their actions with confidence.
The City of Los Angeles recently released a flyer and an accompanying email that informs the public "No bicyclists allowed within the construction zone along PCH" which violates the California Vehicle Code and the Caltrans standard for access and accommodation. It is incumbent on the City of LA to provide for all modes and taking one group off the street is not a solution, no matter how well-intentioned. It demonstrates that those in charge are either cavalier or uninformed. Either way, it's not only illegal, it's unsafe and the variable K-Rail traffic plan is a tragedy waiting to happen.
The City of Malibu takes a different approach to breaking the law, allowing the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD), which is responsible for PCH through the City of Malibu, to enforce laws that don't exist. In response to a complaint that cyclists were not riding single file (not required to, no such law) the LASD incorrectly advised the City Manager that riding side-by-side was illegal. In response to a complaint that cyclists weren't riding on the shoulder (not required to, no such law) the LASD incorrectly advised the City Manager that cyclists are required to use the shoulder when one exists. This novel approach to law enforcement has further exacerbated an already tense environment by adding confusion and misinformation to the mix.
The City of Santa Monica has a unique style for breaking the law, taking valid laws and then cranking them up to the point of absurdity. Santa Monica, as permitted by state law, cites cyclists for not having bike licenses. But then Santa Monica goes on to exceed their authority by requiring anyone riding through the city to obtain a permit (state law limits bike license requirements to residents) and then applies a penalty that exceeds the state mandated $10 maximum with a threat of six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
The City of Thousand Oaks finds California Vehicle Code very confusing and gets highways and roadways mixed up, applying both inappropriate and fictional standards to cyclists who ride bikes "the wrong way" on sidewalks, explaining that cyclists must ride to the right of vehicular traffic traveling in the same direction. (sidewalks are non-directional) The penalty for this offense is $180.
The City of Los Altos Hills is one of the proudest offenders, they actually took paint to the street and wrote "No Bikes" in very large letters on El Monte Road, a popular cycling route. To their credit, Los Altos Hills quickly reversed their ways and removed all the offending paint, disappointing the cyclist who pointed out that simply removing the "NO" would leave a nice affirmative on the streets.
The City of Pasadena chose the public hearing process as the venue of choice for their assault on the law, scheduling not one but two readings of their proposed restriction on cyclists, all as a result of congestion and conflict at the Rose Bowl. Invoking the non-existent rights of a municipality to restrict cyclists from riding side-by-side, the City Council twice weathered the storm of public outrage that ran into the late night hours before conceding defeat.
The City of Burbank adds a stern touch to the Chandler Bikeway with their "Walk Bike" signage at crossings, enforcing a non-existent law with white rectangular regulatory authority. While their stated intention is "safety" for the cyclists, perhaps it would be safer for all concerned if the motorists were instructed to exit their vehicles and push them through the intersection. Meanwhile, the conflict on the Chandler Bikeway can be found...on the path.
violating a warning! The LADOT installed the signs and the LAPD supported the effort by working with USC's Department of Public Safety to enforce the mythological law. This dubious partnership has resulted in an empowered DPS which now operates with an inflated perception of their legal authority, to the dismay of those who know the law.
The City of Los Angeles is no stranger to the controversy over cyclists riding in the crosswalk. Last year a cyclist rode across the street in a crosswalk in a residential community, only to be struck by a right turning DWP truck and killed. The LAPD determined that the cyclist was the "primary cause" of the incident because "she was riding a bike in a crosswalk in violation of CVC 21200 which requires a cyclist to obey the rules of the road." the LAPD PIO went on to explain that "Cyclists must either dismount at crosswalks or ride on the right side of the road with traffic." The City Attorney's office continues to support this position, even when contradicted by CVC 21650. Meanwhile, the City of LA and the Metro continue to build bike paths such as the Orange Line that take cyclists across intersections in crosswalks.
The City of Los Angeles is in good company when it comes to misunderstanding crosswalks. Conor Lynch was recently killed while crossing the street midblock. The LAPD was quoted by the LA Times in pointing out that Conor was not crossing the street in a crosswalk. This may have been true, but it reflects a misconception that midblock crossings are "jaywalking" violations but they're not. Streets are for crossing unless between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic signal devices or law enforcement.
The City of Long Beach went beyond inappropriate flyers and signage, selecting YouTube as the appropriate venue for a demonstration of their creative law enforcement strategies. Some might cringe when hearing the LBPD Officer state "You know what, because you’re argumentative, I’m gonna give you another ticket. And then you can fight two tickets." A punitive ticket, clearly explained by the offending law enforcement officer!
The LBPD officer sets the tone for the interaction by informing the cyclist "You were impeding my traffic." In doing so he clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of CVC 21656 "On a two-lane highway...a slow-moving vehicle...behind which five or more vehicles are formed in line, shall turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the authority having jurisdiction over the highway..."
The LBPD officer goes on to misquote the law, telling the cyclist that the California Vehicle Code says "‘bicyclists must ride to the right side of the road." It doesn't. CVC 21654 says "...any vehicle proceeding upon a highway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at such time shall be driven in the right-hand lane for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb... "Or" is a mighty big word.
Cyclists in the LA Area are acutely aware that the legal landscape is quite uneven. Different agencies, authorities, and departments vary greatly in their interpretation of the law and their enforcement strategies. LA County is home to 88 municipalities and the number of different law enforcement authorities is quite large. Within the City of Los Angeles, a cyclist may encounter officers from departments that include CHP Troopers, State Park Rangers, County Sheriffs, Harbor Police Airport Police, School Police, Library Police, General Services Police, City Park Rangers, and of course, the Los Angeles Police Department. Collectively, they enforce the law. Individually, they operate according to their own priorities and interpretations.
This is why the cyclists of LA need the Cyclists' Bill of Rights, a document that starts the conversation affirmatively, with a foundation of rights that are already codified in the constitution, the CVC, departmental directives, policies, and municipal codes.