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Old 01-03-06, 01:30 PM   #1
Helmet Head
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Is advocating for the right of cyclists to get in the way of cagers important? How important?

Consider this account of a recent event in Los Angeles (I got it by email):


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While leading a weekly group of 100+ riders, descending Mulholland Hwy at nearly 40 MPH a CHP officer pulled up behind us and used his PA to order us out of the roadway. At the time of his request, I was riding on the edge stripe. The shoulder lane was minimal, perhaps, just a couple of feet and in poor condition. The lane width is probably 12 feet. In my opinion, I was riding in the furthest right position on the road in regards to safety. I understand the street was signed for 35 MPH so I was slightly over the speed limit. But realistically speaking I/we were moving at the "normal flow of traffic". Anyway, as we approached another rider I merged left 2 feet to overtake the slower rider. This sent the CHP officer into a road rage. The CHP officer then ordered the entire group to pull to the side of the road.

The group complied and began slowing and moving into the shoulder lane. At this point the officer sped in front of me, abruptly pulled to the right, (now being in front of me) and then applied the brakes extremely hard. (leaving skid marks on the roadway). The group and myself, not expecting such an unpredictable maneuver, wound up running into the back of the officer's car. The injuries to the riders were all minor, cuts/bruises etc. (but who wants to race a 15 lb bike, applying sprinting forces to a machine that has had unengineered forces applied to the forks, handle bars and head tube). Numerous, CHP officers flooded the scene and none of them were willing to pull out their CA VC so I could read 21202 with them and discuss the situation. One officer said, " I don't care about the letter of the law. The spirit of the law says cyclists need to stay out of the way of cars". The SGT on scene said he was too upset by the situation to discuss the matter. But he did claim that we have just seen the end of group bicycle rides in California.
What do you think of the opinion of this CHP officer... " I don't care about the letter of the law. The spirit of the law says cyclists need to stay out of the way of cars"?

Cyclists need to stay out of the way of cars? Do you agree or disagree?
Is this just the opinion of one rogue officer, or does it reflect the opinion of many officers, perhaps the majority, not to mention the opinion of the vast majority of the public, and even the majority of cyclists? How important is it for cycling advocacy to change this widespread opinion?

How can we cycling advocates argue against the notion that cyclists should stay out of the way of cars while "advocating" for facilities like bike lanes whose primary purpose is to give cyclists "our own space" out of the way of cars?

Is not advocating for bike lanes, any bike lanes, supporting the notion that cyclists should stay out of the way of cagers? Is that a notion that bicycling advocates should be supporting?
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Old 01-03-06, 01:36 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helmet Head
What do you think of the opinion of this CHP officer... " I don't care about the letter of the law. The spirit of the law says cyclists need to stay out of the way of cars"?

Cyclists need to stay out of the way of cars? Do you agree or disagree?
I think it sucks, bad. But law enforcement stating "I don't care about the letter of the law" is par for the course these days.
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Old 01-03-06, 01:43 PM   #3
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I think the CHP officer is pretty dumb, and should be reported.

Cyclists don't need to stay out of the way of cars. They need to be where it is safe to cycle, and overtaking vehicles need to pass safely.
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Old 01-03-06, 01:43 PM   #4
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A couple of years ago there was an effort to change the CA law to make it clear not only in the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law, that cyclists do not have to stay out of the way of cagers, but the bill died in committee, mostly because the CHP and AAA opposed it.
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Old 01-03-06, 01:44 PM   #5
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It's time for Cal. roadies to do a CM.

However, I don't see this as "the end of group riding." More likely, one hot-headed cop whose fellow officers and sergeant wanted to appear to back him up. But this is an important issue IMO and needs to be addressed. Civil suits are definitely in order! I know you Cal. riders will keep us posted.
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Old 01-03-06, 01:48 PM   #6
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I am beginning to think that group rides are very bad. . .and am personally going to stop. The last two rides I have been on included some 40 folks with a wide range of skills strung out over maybe 100 yards with no real attention paid to stop lights/signs, etc. If the first few go thru then everyone seemed to follow. . .several times the group made dangerous turns, etc with little regard to the laws or the motorists. I think this type of behaviour (that seems inherent in any ride of more than 6-8 folks) leads cops and motorists to not like us. . .
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Old 01-03-06, 01:49 PM   #7
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After thinking about it, the key fact here is that it's a CHP officer, and not a normal LAPD officer or LA Sheriff. Those guys normally don't have any problems with cyclists. Now that you mention the CHP is a major opponent of pro-cycling laws, this makes a lot more sense.

In LA, the CHP is mostly relegated to the freeways, of which we're mostly not allowed to be on. Maybe they don't come into contact with enough cyclists to be used to them?
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Old 01-03-06, 01:49 PM   #8
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Police Harrassment, definitely.

I think the CHP is bull****ting about the spirit of the law, but I think this CHP reflects the attitude of the majority of motorists. I think if you want to advocate VC, you have to change attitudes. A large task.

There is no conflict between advocating bike lanes and road rights. No one is advocating that bicycles should be on every freeway, it's acknowledged that there are some facilities that are car only, some that must be shared, and some that are bike only. But to assert that bicyclists do not have rights to the road is bad.
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Old 01-03-06, 01:55 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Artkansas
There is no conflict between advocating bike lanes and road rights. No one is advocating that bicycles should be on every freeway, it's acknowledged that there are some facilities that are car only, some that must be shared, and some that are bike only. But to assert that bicyclists do not have rights to the road is bad.
Let me ask my question in the terms that you're using.

Okay, freeways are car-only (except for shoulders on some), and bike paths are bike-only. No problem.

The issue is regarding "shared" roads, like Mulholland Drive. In particular, on "shared" roads, do cyclists have a legal or practical obligation to stay out of the way of cars?

More importantly, is a bike lane on a shared road an official sanctioning of the notion that cyclists have a legal and/or practical obligation to stay out of the way of cars? Why or why not?
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Old 01-03-06, 02:57 PM   #10
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I think you need to be more carefull when you choose to pass someone!

:^]

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Old 01-03-06, 02:58 PM   #11
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It seems to me that the officer was driving dangerously by deliberately forcing cyclists into emergency stops. He should be reported to his superiors. However, he might be able to argue that the group did not respond quickly and clearly to what he regarded, (however wrongly) to a lawful instruction by him.

As for his opinion about the rights of cyclists vis-a-vis drivers, it might be useful if a group such as the one affected, carried some copies of the relevant California vehicle code.

In addition, the group needs to have some contingency plans for a variety of circumstances, particularly how they deal swiftly with an unplanned interruption in their ride. This is particularly important for a group of that size. If they are not all experienced a group riding, then problems will occur, some of them leading to dangerous manoeuvres or conditions for some or all of the participants.

I have seen even experienced riders in my own area behaving as if the traffic regulations don't apply to them, so it isn't just confined to the US.
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Old 01-03-06, 03:00 PM   #12
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Ps. My remarks shouldn't be construed as a criticism of this particular group, merely as a general comment on the problems involved in group riding
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Old 01-03-06, 03:39 PM   #13
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HH even you stay out of the way of cars. You have described your technique as riding down the center of the lane, checking your mirror periodically for cars approaching from behind, then pulling over to let them pass.
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Old 01-03-06, 03:42 PM   #14
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Moving aside to facilitate easier passing by faster traffic when it is safe and reasonable to do so is very different from feeling/thinking that cyclists have a legal and/or practical obligation to stay out of the way of cars. Understanding the difference is key to being able to navigate in traffic effectively.
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Old 01-03-06, 03:48 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helmet Head
Moving aside to facilitate easier passing by faster traffic when it is safe and reasonable to do so is very different from feeling/thinking that cyclists have a legal and/or practical obligation to stay out of the way of cars. Understanding the difference is key to being able to navigate in traffic effectively.
Right. And in situations when you are riding downhill in a narrow lane at or even above the speed limit there is no reason why a cyclist would not "take the lane". Having a large group doing the same makes no difference. Any driver who attempts to pass would be breaking the law, (speeding, unsafe passing).
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Old 01-03-06, 03:52 PM   #16
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If you read the applicable section of the code:
http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21202.htm

what is interesting is that it is written in a way that easily allows a casual reader to believe that it means exactly the opposite of what it means -- that cyclists do need to stay out of the way of cars. In that way it is similar to many states; I believe the "as close as practicable" language comes from the model uniform traffic code. My suspicion is that it was written that way to get legislators to vote for something that was the opposite of what they were really voting for!

Anyway, this episode, while sad, is an opportunity for advocacy -- cool, reasoned advocacy.
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Old 01-03-06, 03:56 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atbman
It seems to me that the officer was driving dangerously by deliberately forcing cyclists into emergency stops.
No kidding. The CHP hates bikers. At the last Critical Mass they were there, obviously pissed with us, and the deliberate recklessness with which they rode their motorcycles among the bikers scared me, and will make me resent the CHP for a long long time to come. They are *******s, they are essentially the security guards of the graveyard that is the freeways, and they make a large part of their living off the racket that is the ticketing system. Hiding in the bushes waiting for some poor chap to come along who can be given a ticket - great going, Ponch. You're a real hero now. Don't you have a bicycle to run over now and harrass the biker? **** the CHP.
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Old 01-03-06, 03:57 PM   #18
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Was this a Club Lagrange group ride? I used to ride with them weekly, up Nichols Canyon, across Mulholland, down Benedict Canyon. As we climed to Mulholland, we became so spread out that motorists had no problem passing small groups of 2 or 3 of us, one at a time. We also chose a time of the week, just after dawn on a weekend morning, when traffic was particularly light.

If the cyclists in the group ride cited by Serge had been similarly spread out, rather than in a Critical Mass like formation, I doubt the CHP officer would have had any issue with them whatsoever.

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Disclosure: I generally ride solo. I do occasionally participate in SMALL group rides, but I specifically avoid large group rides, for various reasons stated by others in this thread.
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Old 01-03-06, 04:00 PM   #19
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This thread raises several interesting, important issues. Do we have a right to use the main travel lane, particularly when the shoulder is dangerous or nonexistent? Yes. Do we have the right to impede traffic unnecessarily? No. Did the CHP officer create a dangerous situation by stopping so abruptly, and should he be reported for so doing? Absolutely.
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Old 01-03-06, 04:05 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John E
This thread raises several interesting, important issues. Do we have a right to use the main travel lane, particularly when the shoulder is dangerous or nonexistent? Yes. Do we have the right to impede traffic unnecessarily? No. .
Can traveling at or above the speed limit be considered "impeding traffic"? I don't think so.

When I'm caging (driving my car) I have for several years now, always abided by the speed limit. If cars are stuck behind me, too bad, it's payback for all the buzzing I've gotten on my bike.
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Old 01-03-06, 04:06 PM   #21
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If I can't use the lane I might as well throw my bike in the dumpster.
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Old 01-03-06, 04:10 PM   #22
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I think an officer who openly says he doesn't care about the law is an officer who needs to find another profession, and soon
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Old 01-03-06, 04:11 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helmet Head
Let me ask my question in the terms that you're using.

Okay, freeways are car-only (except for shoulders on some), and bike paths are bike-only. No problem.

The issue is regarding "shared" roads, like Mulholland Drive. In particular, on "shared" roads, do cyclists have a legal or practical obligation to stay out of the way of cars?

More importantly, is a bike lane on a shared road an official sanctioning of the notion that cyclists have a legal and/or practical obligation to stay out of the way of cars? Why or why not?
The problem is that the scenerio you first present does not exist... On freeways the situation is "cars only." But no where is there a "bicycles only" situation.

On city streets pedestrians are supposed to have ROW, but often motorists take it, on paths and MUPs, again pedestrians are supposed to have ROW; but in no case do cyclists ever have accepted ROW (even where they should, due to traffic laws, cyclists ROW is often challenged by motorists).

A while back someone presented a hiearchy of ROW that was similar to that followed by air traffic and sea traffic... Something along those lines should be implemented for surface traffic.
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Old 01-03-06, 04:15 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scarry
Can traveling at or above the speed limit be considered "impeding traffic"? I don't think so.

When I'm caging (driving my car) I have for several years now, always abided by the speed limit. If cars are stuck behind me, too bad, it's payback for all the buzzing I've gotten on my bike.
+2... I rather really enjoy driving at or slightly below speed limit just for this reason alone.
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Old 01-03-06, 04:22 PM   #25
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- show me the pictures of this incident or another web site detailing the incident...

- provide links to pertinent CA motor vehicle law...

- what was the officer's name and/or badge number?

- was this incident reported in any local papers? were any reporters contacted?

- otherwise, i'm not inclined to believe that this incident is true, especially considering that we're talking about CA...

Ohio maybe, but not Calif....

:-)
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