Getting Hasseled by The Man

It’s the middle of the day. Hardly any traffic and I just got pulled over for not riding on the “right side” of the roadway. I’m no racer but 15mph on 2nd Street in Long Beach 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.

For those that are curious, the CVC as pertaining to bicycles is the following. I was exercising my right (3) because I was avoiding the rather unpleasant “fixed object”…aka door, but also because when I ride as far as the right as practical, I always get buzzed too close. Hence, riding more “practicable.”

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.


  1. leaf May 5, 2009 5:41 pm 

    Also, was the lane you were riding in wide enough to accommodate you, three feet of passing space, and his car, even if you were as far to the right as possible?

    I think you have a really good chance of getting this tossed in court.

  2. Corey Porter May 5, 2009 6:06 pm 

    “Bicyclist must right to right of roadway” is pretty cool. Does that mean that you’re supposed to ride backwards?

  3. Ghost Rider May 5, 2009 6:46 pm 

    Contest it…you’ve already done the CVC homework — now go show that cop a thing or two about the law!

    Practicable vs. possible — no question there. As long as you’re not obstructing a high flow of traffic, YOU get to make the decision about where on the right-hand side you should be, not the cop.

  4. BGri May 5, 2009 7:12 pm 

    I feel my blood pressure climbing. I am in the same situation all the time but haven’t been ticketed. Good luck.

  5. Bike Chic May 5, 2009 7:27 pm 

    Can I say it…what. a. dick. Is he LAPD?

  6. jamesmallon May 5, 2009 8:38 pm 

    Donut eating scum.

  7. climbinskier May 5, 2009 8:42 pm 

    Boo! Are you going to fight it? I would for sure. You were definitely in the ‘right’. Pun intended.

  8. BlackBear May 6, 2009 3:30 am 

    I would contest it at well. Having said that, I seriously doubt that you’ll get your “in your face” moment with the officer. Chances are MUCH better than even that he won’t show up in court and it’ll only serve to make you waste a morning. This happens to me here in NC at least once a year.

  9. Eric May 6, 2009 5:02 am 

    Questioning the officer’s actions is very disrespectful and unlawful. He is enforcing the law and knows the law up and down. Accept the ticket and read up on the law. I am so sick of the police bashing on this site.

  10. Franklin May 6, 2009 5:15 am 

    Eric, Did you not read the article? Russ read and understands the law and how it pertains to him. He was right given the situation. By the sound of it he has accepted the ticket, but will be fighting it (hopefully).

    And plus people always vent in some weird ways. lol.

    On the other note, I find it amazing that everytime I hear about this the local law enforcement doesn’t know the bike laws, or has a very limited understanding of it. Hopefully as bikes become more “popular” the law will be understood a bit better.

  11. Ken Sturrock May 6, 2009 5:42 am 


    It’s a good thing that you’re planning to leave the country. Screw court, just finish your packing and head for the border. It’s obvious that “your kind” isn’t welcome here. :)

  12. Iron Man May 6, 2009 6:22 am 

    I share Eric’s respect for police officers but not his understanding of a citizens right to proper interpretation of the law. I don’t dismiss cops as “donut eating scum,” nor do I abandon my rights simply because they flash a badge. It is not beneath a cop to get the law wrong, particularly when it comes to cycling. I suggest Eric and all cyclists read up on Velonews columnist and lawyer Bob Mionske’s book “Bicycling and the Law.” Cops know a good deal about the law of course, but there are limits to that knowledge. Russ is perfectly within his rights to contest this.

    Russ will most likely get off the hook due to the judge being overwhelmed by the most amazing evidence photos he’s ever seen. :)

  13. Crazy Commuting Cyclist May 6, 2009 6:30 am 

    It is typical of at least 80% of the police out there being ignorant on the laws when it comes to cycling. If the cop is smart he will drop the charge by not showing up in court. Otherwise he will suffer the verbal slapping of a judge. What really sucks is that when they need to apply the law, like in a bike/car accident where the car is at fault, they seem to get it wrong there as well

  14. Russ Roca May 6, 2009 8:15 am 

    I’m generally respectful of the law. I’m not going to argue the nuances of penal codes with a police officer. I will, however, respectfully disagree when it is obvious that they don’t know the laws regarding cycling and are giving me a ticket.

    I took the 2 day class that the League of American Bicyclists offer. We talk about the law, our rights and responsibilities EXTENSIVELY (which I recommend everyone take). In all honesty, I don’t think police officers get that much training about the subject.

    I’m not police bashing here. I gave the police officer very reasonable responses to which he didn’t want to listen to. It seemed as if he was dead set on just writing me up for something. That, I think shouldn’t be taken sitting down.


  15. Clancy May 6, 2009 9:27 am 

    Jerrod, thanks for posting that(beat me to it).

    Russ, I have no doubt with some calm and collected attitude that this will pass. The LAB instructor (from Jerrod’s link) in Boise had this same ticket in Feb. and finally just settled his ticket- not guilty. It has some great information that may be of help to you.

    He also was engage the Sheriff’s dept. for further education of their deputies.

  16. Mark May 6, 2009 10:17 am 

    You won’t need to take this to trial to have it thrown out, the ticketed court date is a plea date and the officer will not be there for that. You will have two options either go before the judge and plea not guilty and he will set a trial date so the officer can be subpoenaed to court. That will be a long day/waste of your time.
    Or you can plea guilty with reason to the judge and he will give you a chance at that moment to explain the circumstances of the ticket and ask him to release you from the citation…
    99% of the time when a judge see’s this kind of citation and you explain that you were in the right as far as your interpretation of “letter of the law vs spirit of the law” they will throw it out but if you get an aggravated negative judge and he says “no but he will cut it in half” then you ask to change your plea to not guilty.
    Traffic court is very subjective and there are only a few citations that a judge can not touch (this is not one of them) but if you go before a judge and then decide to pay it you could be hit with court fees that can be upwards of 150% of the original fine! yikes! I’ve seen it happen many times.
    Good luck!
    Or If you are like many people and it will cost you 3 times the fine to take most of the day off work to listen to some “high and mighty glorified judge” spew his ridiculous rhetoric which will just lower your opinion of the legal system even more… then just pay the $20 or $30 bucks and right it off like a flat tire. :)

  17. Pam Thorne May 6, 2009 10:50 am 

    We had similar issues in Columbia Mo until our Bicycling Education Director convinced the entire police force to take our training session. We had an LCI out teaching a class when a police officer stopped them and suggested they were in violation when indeed they were not. The LCI quoted the law to the officer and she had no idea what he was talking about. Now we are working in conjunction with the police and things have been better. You can’t always assume they know ALL laws and it’s not disrespectful to ask that they get training in specific areas such as cycling. We want our community to be safe for cycling and the best way to do this is to get the police to ticket unsafe cyclists the same as they do unsafe motorists.

  18. Raiyn May 6, 2009 11:14 am 

    That’s so frustrating.

  19. Eric May 6, 2009 12:47 pm 

    An officer should not have to explain his actions to a civilian. He decided you broke the law and cited you for it. The police are here to protect us from criminals and enforce the law of the land. They do not have listen to a civilian complain about a ticket. The money from the ticket will go into making your community better. I love cops and would never question their authority.

  20. Ghost Rider May 6, 2009 12:53 pm 

    Eric…man, I hope you’re being sarcastic for humor’s sake.

    If not, well, good luck next time you get into a law enforcement tangle!

  21. Dominic Dougherty May 6, 2009 2:23 pm 

    Eric is right.

    Cops are just like priests – they are above the laws and never do anything wrong and are completely infallible.

    The officer didn’t cite the wrong vehicle code, nor did he make any grammatical errors in writing the ticket – with these facts, we can only assume that he is completely accurate in every decision he has ever made.

    I urge everyone that reads this to follow the advice of this highly-educated officer and “right on the right of the road” from now on – with your brakes.

  22. pamida7 May 6, 2009 2:46 pm 

    Personally, I wish that the police would write more tickets. Not to people like Russ who are following the rules, but to the crazy people who don’t follow laws and give the rest of us a bad rap with motorists. I also agree that education is the key. Most people (including cyclists) benefit from knowing the law better. Are there any cycling law education classes in the Tampa/St. Pete area?

  23. Ghost Rider May 6, 2009 3:19 pm 

    Right on the right of the road. That’s a classic.

    @Pamida7, I haven’t heard of any such classes…someone else suggested Bob Mionske’s book, which is a good start. The only other courses offered locally are the League of American Bicyclists “road 1” and “urban street skills” classes that are held periodically. Search the LAB website or just click here:

    for classes being offered. These classes are great — and I agree that more education is needed in both the cyclist and motorist communities.

    More tickets for scofflaw cyclists…YES! Those of us who strive to do the right thing out there won’t be impacted by such a thing, but it will send a message to the rest of the cycling community that if you can’t play nice, you’ll pay the price. Let’s just hope those cops get things right on their citation forms! 😉

  24. Arun May 6, 2009 4:25 pm 

    I say contest it. I’m sure the judge will throw it out, but it’s such a shame you have to go through this type of inconvenience. I would consult the local bike organizations in your local to get some support.

  25. Tracy May 6, 2009 10:32 pm 

    Eric, Shut up Troll.

  26. Franklin May 7, 2009 6:34 am 

    You are allowed to voice your opinion of it as long as you are respectful of it. And give me a break man. The two tickets I have gotten while driving, yes I have taken without complaint becaue I was wrong and knew it. Had I gotten a ticket for something that I was doing legally I would voice it, and take the ticket (if I recieved one). Than get home research it, and contest it at court.

    The argument you pose is ridiculous. Get a few 90 dollar ticket, especially in this time, for something you did legally and tell me you wouldn’t argue it.

  27. Iron Man May 7, 2009 6:47 am 

    There’s a pretty interesting article on Bicycling Magazine’s website concerning a cop vs two cyclists, plus a follow up by a cop from Florida who is also a cyclist. It’s long, but an interesting read. As always it’s a struggle to find the truth with all the “he said” nonsense, but “what would I do in that situation?” would be a good outcome for all who read.

  28. Cartman May 7, 2009 10:21 am 

    Eric is right. You should never question authority. Police officers are like gods and you should be grateful that they have spent their precious time correcting your misdeeds. They are just trying to protect you from yourself. For the good of us all, please do not fight back or even ask questions. You will only draw attention to our community.

  29. Raiyn May 7, 2009 11:59 am 

    When has “Eric” ever contributed something worthwhile?

  30. Paul May 7, 2009 2:23 pm 

    Wow! Are you, Eric and your “followers” for REAL?! Why don’t you all just move to CHINA or better yet, North Korea since those places would surely need more people like you to blindly never question any “authority officer” and help keep them safe from thinking, madly disobedient cyclists like we have in America. I also support LEGIT tickets for both cyclists and drivers who really break traffic laws and here in Austin there are too many of either.

  31. Ghost Rider May 7, 2009 2:33 pm 

    These guys are killin’ me…

  32. Eric May 8, 2009 3:12 am 

    I wave at every officer I see on my commute. They know me I know them. I will never have a confrontation with an officer because I follow the law to a T. As a civilian I know it is not my right to question an officer’s observation of the law.

  33. Tom May 8, 2009 12:07 pm 

    Make sure you go to court on this one, you can probably win it if you present case law, info about cyclists getting killed by dooring, and League of American Bicyclists material regarding the topic of riding to the right.

  34. Tom May 8, 2009 12:10 pm 

    There’s also the issue of if the lane is not sharable by a car & bicycle simultaneously (if you have the 3 foot law) that you have the right to take the lane.

    Who’s this Eric douche?

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