If you watch the following video you’ll see an all too familiar situation to cyclists – petulant police officers detaining a cyclist in a Long Beach as, essentially, retaliation for him trying to clarify the vehicle code:
This time it’s Long Beach Police Department, a little outside Bikeside’s typical territory, but it’s so egregious that it’s worth review. The cyclist argues with the officer about the vehicle code, and at 2:14, the officer says:
You know what, because you’re argumentative, I’m gonna give you another ticket. And then you can fight two tickets.
That’s a retaliatory ticket. While the officer is in his car, presumably preparing to cite the cyclist, the cyclist explains that he is fighting a previous ticket, and has been to Long Beach City Council to protest this sort of treatment. He also explains that he is videotaping the officer.
Ah, now the officer becomes more reasonable, and explains that he won’t cite the cyclist because he’s already fighting a ticket for the same thing. The officer explains that he’ll wait to see what the outcome of that ticket is.
It gets worse. At 4:30, the officer states that “the California Vehicle Code section states that ‘bicyclists must ride to the right side of the road.'” Uh, sorry, no. Bicyclists must right as far to the right as practicable IF riding slower than traffic and IF a bunch of exceptions don’t apply:
21202. (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
Not only that, but on a one way street, of which there are many in downtown Long Beach, you can ride on the left hand side if you like:
(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.
If I had to take a guess, that officer has a cheater card – a card with brief summaries of laws (which are therefore approximations) – and he’s reading that. One common summary is “bicyclists must ride to the right side of the road.” However, all cyclists know that in urban areas more often than not a lane should be taken, can be taken, and the exceptions do apply. As well, many times we move as fast as traffic, and therefore have full access to the roadway. Whomever is training these officers needs to get with the program.
So, what’s the strategy? Well you could call the Long Beach PD Watch Commander at (562) 570-7236. Or you could call the District Attorney’s office at (562) 491-6301, or the City Attorney’s office at 562-570-2200. Or you could call the City Councilmembers – here’s their contact info:
- Robert Garcia, (562) 570-6919
- Suja Lowenthal, (562) 570-6684
- Gary DeLong, (562) 570-6300
- Patrick O’Donnell, (562) 570-6918
- Gerrie Schipske, (562) 570-6932
- Dee Andrews, (562) 570-6816
- James Johnson, (562) 570-7777
- Rae Gabelich, (562) 570-6685
- Steven Neal, (562) 570-6137
Whatever you do, do me a favor and make some calls. Let’s support our cycling brothers and sisters in Long Beach and make some noise. Make some calls and then post who you called in the comments! Be assertive, insist on action and accountability. Above all – ask for suspension of the officer – threatening someone with a ticket because they argued for their rights is unacceptable bullshit.
I already know who I’m gonna call.
(PS – if you know who the cyclist is, contact me at contact@BikesideLA.org)