It Never Ends

Law enforcement officers—at least in California—just can’t seem to be bothered with actually learning the laws they are charged with enforcing. Consider the Los Angeles Police Department, which has been enforcing a non-existent law against perplexed USC students. Or the California Highway Patrol officer who didn’t see any problem with a driver who turned into a cyclist’s path—yes, the cyclist was riding on the sidewalk, contrary to local law, but the driver also violated the law by failing to look before turning. Then there’s the Redondo Beach Police Department, which has been enforcing a law against riding two abreast. The only problem is, there is no law against riding two abreast.

And now there’s CHP Officer Al Perez, who has his own newspaper column, “Ask a Cop.” The problem with asking this particular cop about the law is he just doesn’t know what the law is. In his recent column, Cyclists in crosswalks aren’t pedestrians, Officer Perez recounts an incident he observed while off-duty:

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Non-Existent Laws, And The Cops Who Enforce Them

In September, I wrote about an enforcement action jointly conducted between the Los Angeles Police Department and the University of Southern California Department of Public Safety. Their target? Law-abiding cyclists who are legally riding within crosswalks. Despite the law-abiding nature of the behavior that has been targeted, the LAPD invented a non-existent “law” prohibiting riding in the crosswalk, and began slapping USC students with tickets carrying a $250 fine.

Not to be outdone by their next-door brethren, a reader in California informs us that the Redondo Beach Police Department has been ticketing cyclists for riding two abreast:

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The Return of The Usual Suspects

Kevin Connell was from Miramichi, the largest city in Northern New Brunswick, with a population of just over 18,000 residents. The youngest of six children, he had grown to a tall man, with red hair, a thick red beard, and a love of music. He left his hometown to attend Thomas More College in New Hampshire. After graduating in 2008 with a B.A. in literature, Connell had briefly returned to his hometown, but left again in March of 2009, this time for Montreal, where he intended to pursue his music career.

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The Blind Eye of Injustice

“Cyclist At Fault In Crash With Car”

That was the headline of a minor article on the “Cops and Courts” page of the Santa Cruz Sentinel recently. It was also the conclusion, dutifully reported by the Sentinel, of the investigating officer from the California Highway Patrol.

It caught my attention, because I have friends in Santa Cruz. And because I’ve seen the freewheeling ways of Santa Cruz cyclists, it didn’t seem improbable to me that the cyclist might actually be at fault. 

Except as I read the newspaper’s account of the crash, I began to realize that the conclusion drawn by both law enforcement and the media was what an impartial person might call “one-sided.”

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An Exercise In Absurdity

In Bicycling & the Law, one of the issues Bob addressed under the rubric of anti-cyclist bias was police bias against cyclists. Anti-cyclist bias within law enforcement manifests in several ways. One manifestation of this bias is the one-sided investigation. This occurs when the officer investigating a crash between a cyclist and a motorist interviews the motorist, but not the cyclist (who may be too injured—or dead, even—to be interviewed), and based on that one-sided investigation, concludes that the motorist was not at fault—or worse, that the cyclist was at fault. In some cases, the first contact the cyclist has with law enforcement is in the hospital, when the officer presents the cyclist with a ticket.

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The Usual Suspects

It was a Sunday morning in July; the five cyclists, ranging in age from 26 to 45, were on their regular weekend ride. On this particular Sunday morning, they planned to ride from Kanata, on the outskirts of Ottawa, Ontario, to Pakenham, and back again, a round trip of about 57.5 miles.

They never made it out of Kanata.

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