Lemons into Lemonade

I received an email from Chief Batts (Chief of Police in Long Beach) to call the office and describe the incident. After doing so, I wrote this email to the Chief:

Dear Chief Batts,
I called and spoke with a Sergeant regarding the citation and he is looking into it. With regards to your incident, I don’t think that is the same “gentleman” we’re talking about. This incident occurred on Anaheim as he was commuting to work. He is also a trained cycling safety instructor.

What I hope to come from all this is the start of a dialogue between the bicycle community and the police. I know that there are many lawless cyclists out there and they SHOULD be ticketed. Cyclists riding the wrong way. Cyclists blowing through red lights. Cyclists on the sidewalk. Cyclists under 18 riding with no brakes and a helmet. They should be ticketed. I think we have so many with an utter disregard of the law because there is NOT ENOUGH enforcement.

That said, the police should also be sensitized to identify what is lawful and safe riding. Riding as far to the right as you can is NOT safe. Riding closer to the middle of the lane IS safe, it increases visibility, lets the rider avoid the door zone, etc., The phrasing in 21202 allows for this, cyclists only have to ride to the right as long as it is “practicable” (a big difference from “possible”). “Practicable” allows us to claim the lane when we deem it unsafe to ride to the right. Many cities make this point clear with signs that say “BIcyclists allowed full use of the lane.”

I believe that the police is one of the most important keys to making Long Beach bicycle friendly. Without proper enforcement we will just see a rise in unlawful cyclists and more hostile interactions between motorists and cyclists that will escalate into violence (there are many incidents of this happening in Los Angeles right now). That is why it is paramount that officers on your force that work in areas with a high concentration of cyclists (downtown, Belmont Shore, CSULB) should receive training to differentiate when a cyclist is lawfully riding in the street (claiming the middle of the lane when need be) and when they are putting themselves and others in danger. Further, I would also like to see the bicycle mounted police follow the CVC. It is very difficult for me to defend my rights to a motorist who is yelling at me to “get on the sidewalk” or “you don’t belong here”, when the bicycle mounted police can often be seen riding on the sidewalk, against traffic or in the door zone.

If you are willing, the bicycle advocacy group I work with, The Long Beach Cyclists, has trained bicycle safety educators from the League of American Bicyclists. We would very much like to set up a program with the police department to slowly train the force with issues regards to bicycles in traffic. The League offers a curriculum specially tailored to law enforcement. I think this would more quickly and efficiently make Long Beach more bicycle friendly than any thing else we can do.

Thank you once again for responding to me personally. I hope you will seriously consider bicycle training for some of your force.

Sincerely,
Russ Roca

10 Comments

  1. Eric May 6, 2009 10:51 am 

    Bravo!

  2. Raiyn May 6, 2009 11:15 am 

    😀

  3. TimK May 6, 2009 11:59 am 

    Excellent letter, Russ! Well done.

  4. Elizabeth May 6, 2009 5:30 pm 

    Awesome! Every area law enforcement agency needs a letter like that sent to it. I want to see more safe cycling out there, too, and the proper enforcement of the rules to make our roads safe for all users.

  5. BGri May 6, 2009 7:40 pm 

    Woohoo!

  6. Brandon May 7, 2009 5:32 am 

    Perfect. I hope it works out. Lord knows Richmond Va needs that.

  7. Tom Bowden May 7, 2009 10:59 am 

    Well Said – Brandon – you and I should talk.

  8. Tim K May 8, 2009 9:15 am 

    Love the offer to “instruct” — even if they are too proud to take you up on it, it gets the message across.

    As a recent recipient of an unjust ticket in my car (my first ticket), I can sympathize with your feelings. I know the _man_ has a tough job, but that one encounter really changed my feelings toward cops. I can’t imagine how traumatized I’d be if (when?) it happen(s) on the bike.

    Keep us posted.

  9. Robert Anderson May 10, 2009 2:06 pm 

    A VERY well thought-out and phrased letter. I hope you are successful in realizing “lemonade”.

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