L.A. Streetsblog: Cycling and the Law: Where Does Education Begin?

This news article featuring Bob Mionske has been reproduced here for our media archives. To access the original article, follow the link.

L.A. Streetsblog: Cycling and the Law: Where Does Education Begin?

by Sarah Goodyear on May 6, 2009

What's the law where you are? Photo by tandemracer via Flickr.

Today, in honor of bike month on the Streetsblog Network, we hear from a cyclist in Long Beach, California, who was forced into the position of (unsuccessfully) educating a police officer about the right of a bike to ride safely out of the door zone. This via the Long Beach Cyclists blog:

Middle of the day. Hardly any traffic and I just got pulled over for not riding on the "right side." I'm no racer but 15mph on 2nd Street isn't going that much slower than car traffic through there.

I tried to explain to the officer that any closer and I would be in the "door zone." He seemed nonplussed.

I cited the vehicle code and told him that it said I was to ride to the right as "practicable" which is a big difference than "possible", because it was up to me to determine if there were any hazards. He didn't seem to care.

I told him that I was riding exactly where the new sharrows would be on 2nd street in a few months. The new wha? I don't see them now.

I was holding him up. Although I was on the right travel lane and he was on the left and he wanted me to know about it.…
I'm about as law-abiding a cyclist as you can get in Long Beach. I ride in the correct direction of traffic. I don't ride on the sidewalk. One of the first things I keep trying to advocate for is that we have to educate the enforcement on the laws regarding bicycling. Maybe NOW might be a good time to start.

Given the rising number of commuting and recreational cyclists in New York and elsewhere around the country, and the welter of conflicting laws in different states and municipalities, education of law enforcement (as well as drivers and cyclists) on cyclists' rights and responsibilities would seem to be an obvious area for police departments to focus on.

But does anyone know of municipalities where this is actually happening in an organized way?

Bonus from bike lawyer Bob Mionske's "Road Rights" column: a story about an encounter between two cyclists and a cop on a rural Ohio road in which a disagreement about the letter of the law escalated into violence; and a thoughtful response from a cop who is also a cyclist, and who says, "Bike-friendly communities around the county were 'built on sugar, not salt,' as they say in the South. They took time, planning and folks willing to do the right thing; forcing legislation probably won’t get us anywhere. You can make a law but if it’s unpopular, enforcing it is something else, à la prohibition." 

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Sign is omits a standard "far right as practicable" phrase and twist into "and, in any event within three (3) feet of, the right side of the roadway exercising due care at all times for his or her own safety and the safety of others." Pure Catch 22.


ORDINANCE 2002- 1: AN ORDINANCE AMENDING BELLE MEADE CODE Section 15-123

BE IT ORDAINED, by the City of Belle Meade as follows: Item1. Subsections 1 and 3 of ~ 15-123 of the Belle Meade Municipal Code entitled "Jogging, Bicycling, etc." are amended to read as follows:

(1) Reflecting clothing and lights. No person shall run, walk, jog, cycle on, or otherwise use or occupy any street or roadway within the City of Belle Meade except when wearing clothing, or a device, capable of reflecting light or, in the case of a cyclist, a battery or generator powered lamp emitting a white light on the front visible from a distance of five hundred feet (500') and a red reflector and red light on the real- visible from all distances from fifty (50') feet to three hundred (300') feet, during the period from one-half(1/2) hour before sunset to one-half (1/2) hour after sunrise and at all other times when vehicles are required to use lighting equipment.

(3) Bicycles. Every person operating a bicycle upon a street or roadway, within the City of Belle Meade, shall ride single file, except when (i) overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, (ii) preparing for a left turn, or actually turning left, at an intersection or into a private driveway, or (iii) when reasonably necessary to avoid road conditions, fixed or moving objects, or other surface hazards that make it unsafe to continue along the right hand edge of the pavement, as close as practicable to, and, in any event within three (3) feet of, the right side of the roadway, moving with vehicular traffic, exercising due care at all times for his or her own safety and the safety of others." Item 2. This Ordinance shall become effective fifteen (15) days after its passage. Passed on first reading: January 8,2002 Passed on second reading January 23,2002 Mayor Peggy Warner City Recorder Dorothy L. Wheeler
# Posted By danc | 9/7/09 9:23 AM