Long Beach PD harassing cyclists

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)

Alex Thompson

Bikerowave co-founder, Cyclists' Bill of Rights co-author, President of Bikeside, and Math Phd. HULK SMASH straight from Michigan!

24 thoughts on “Long Beach PD harassing cyclists

  1. Time to make some phone calls. When you’re a police officer and you don’t *know* the law, then you’re not doing your job.

    We’re looking for a cultural shift here (after all, in Amsterdam the police usually takes the cyclist’s side), but for now, let’s rattle some cages.

  2. I agree! Some police here just want money and don’t care for others as they should be in the first place. It’s not LAW over PEOPLE.

  3. This email was sent to Council Member Robert Garcia today 10/20/2010

    Hello Council Member Robert Garcia,

    I came across an article on http://www.bikesidela.org/long-beach-pd-harassing-cyclists/ were one of our own bicyclist (Mash LBC) is being harassed by Long Beach Police only because he waved him down to clarify the California Vehicle Code. If you click on the link I provided, you will see were the officer states “You know what, because you’re argumentative, I’m gonna give you another ticket. And then you can fight two tickets.” this type of behavior by our own force is unacceptable. I request that the officer be suspended for threating someone with a ticket only because he was trying to clarify the vehicle code. The responsibility of LBPD is to protect and serve us and not to harass us with this kind of verbiage. All we want, is to be able to ride in our streets of downtown Long Beach with the same rights as any other Automobile. As a bicyclist myself I try to attend rides presented by Mash LBC every thursday called ” Team Epic’s – Spoke n Ride” in downtown Long Beach (please see attached flyer). This ride attracts many riders who not only live in our beautiful city of Long Beach but riders from other cities. We are not looking for trouble with LBPD and all that we ask is for officers to support us and be on our side. I do not know if you are aware of the monthly ride that happens in Los Angeles called “Critical Mass” but usually there is about 500-100 riders in the streets of L.A, Hollywood, and surrounding cities. At some point we would like to have our own Long Beach Critical Mass were riders from other cities can ride and see what our city streets are all about. I thank you for taking the time to read this email and hope some actions can be made regarding this incident.

  4. So many of us have experienced similar incidences on the streets of LB with cops.
    *that is me “trying” to talk to the police… and not let them to continue to run circles around how out of line they can be.
    We need to continue pushing for our rights on the daily! My heart goes out to all cyclist who continue this!
    Thumbs up on standing up!

  5. I had to turn it off. I couldn’t stand to watch any more. Arguing with the cop is useless. They [think they] know everything. They need to get correct info from their higher ups. info needs to go top down to make a difference. Some bicyclist on the side of the road knowing more than a cop, HA. That’s what he’s thinking.
    Ugh…Where’s that City of LA video…

  6. “Above all – ask for suspension of the officer – threatening someone with a ticket because they argued for their rights is unacceptable bullshit.”

    Come the fuck on. This sentence is an insult to anyone who has ever been victim to police brutality. You don’t get their rage.

  7. Cant have a bike friendly city when all cops h wants to do is write tickets to ensure job security.harras people for no reason. This kid is trying to flag the cop to share Info and the cop wants nothing to do with it. The mayor needs to get these cops in control. It is well known that they are targeting this guy.This kid is the best asset LB has for organizing bike rides and he knows how to get it done. He is a great guy with a big heart but soon he may need a big lawyer and the suport of hundreds of faithfull riders. The guy has not broken laws to date, its just that cops are anoyed by the bikes. This cop on the video had a second lane to go around the two bikers on the residential st. of the peninsula. He chose to get behind the bikers hunking horn and ordering them to get out of the way. So welcome to Russia.

  8. These are marina cops, that do have arresting authority, but may not know the laws as LBPD. Why is he flagging down cops?

  9. While the cop is wrong on THAT law, he did miss an opportunity to write the cyclist a ticket for a bicycle equipment violation. I know it’s not cool to have a brake on your fixie, but the law, and common sense, requires one.

    Equipment Requirements. VC 21201

    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.

    Notice the law requires a “brake” so your ability to cause a skid virtue of the bike being a fixie does not meet the requirement. A brake iS required!

  10. John – that’s not how LAPD interprets the brake law, nor is it how most bike experts interpret it. A brake is simply an means to slow down the bike, and as such, a fixed gear qualifies. From a physics perspective, it doesn’t matter. That’s precisely why the standard of getting a wheel to skid is included, to provide a distinction.

  11. Traffic Code was written to protect vulnerable users of roads (inc. cyclists) from MOTOR VEHICLES. Moving around on public property under your own power is simply motility; any restriction on this basic right is tyranny.

    This continual, unwarranted, and widespread persecution of bicyclists (not bikers) is a HATE CRIME. Big Oil doesn’t want people to discover that it’s a lot more convenient for most trips to ride a bike than drive a car. Too bad. The 3 worst scourges of society are heart disease, cancer and vehicle crashes, all linked to motoring and petroleum use.

    Don’t pay the tickets. What can they do to you? Suspend your license? You don’t need a license to bike because it presents no danger whatever. Supreme courts in every state have overturned such convictions.

    Only motorists need regulation. It’s easy to tap he brakes in a labor saving machine, but power corrupts. Extend a little authority and people go mad. Protect and serve… everyone equally.

    Read velorutionary book Bike&Chain, free on-line at my website.

  12. “Braked” is an adverb, no? A wheel in the process of being braked via skidding a fixed gear rear wheel can be judged by some as satisfying the CVC’s requirement.

  13. I hope there will be a favorable solution for all in this situation. I can understand that these young people are just trying to spread awareness of their existence and at the same promote a different lifestyle than we are accustom.

    As a driver, I can honestly tell you that I don’t always look out for cyclists on the road. A little reminder now and then can’t hurt. Drivers do need to be more aware that there are cyclists on the road and at the same cyclists do need to obey the law.

    There’s going to be that argument that cyclists are the main cause of accidents. Obviously that isn’t true. There are way more cars on the road than bicycles. According to to this article http://www.research.utoronto.ca/behind_the_he… less than 10 percent of accidents are cause by cyclists.

    Los Angeles did have a Critical Mass and had the support from LAPD just as long as they followed the rules, so I can’t see why LBPD can’t do the same. http://lapdblog.typepad.com/lapd_blog/2010/09


  14. I recently got a ticket for parking in a legal spot on a Sunday, which was clearly marked restricted Mon – Fri (only). They ticket cited a nonexistent fire hydrant. When I stopped to question this clear error politely (unlike cyclist in video), I was treated rudely, banned forever from town, issued in retaliation a court summons for having a bike rack on my vehicle, which minimally restricted sight of its license plate, and threatened with bodily harm and immediate imprisonment. Of course, judge dismissed the charge but upheld this ridiculous statute. All public busses run under state subsidy have racks with similar visibility issues. So, state can violate, but individuals can’t.

    This is an example of what some officials do with their small amount of authority. Having relatives who served with distinction as both fire chiefs and police officers, not all are as courteous. When soldiers are recruited they sometimes can’t separate foreign hostiles from law abiding citizens, who make convenient targets for insatiable revenue raising, while real criminals get away with murder and worse.

  15. @Labann,

    If you feel like LBPD overstepped their boundaries, you ought to consult legal counsel. I’m not sure if the information you’ve provided is enough to make a case, but it does seem a bit out of control to be making verbal threats.

  16. One thing people have to remember. don’t argue with the cop or antagonize them. Take the ticket and make sure you get badge numbers of all officers present. Note time, traffic conditions, any witnesses. Go to court, and challenge. Whining and arguments over the law will get you no where. Looking at the video, it is a good lesson in what not to do.

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