CHP Officer Perez Reponds to Criticism from Last Week’s Column. Still Hands Out Misinformation.

1_29_10_crosswalk.jpgI took this picture while going the "wrong way" in a crosswalk.

Maybe the Whittier Daily News and other newspapers that syndicate Officer Al Perez’s column, "Ask a Cop," ought to consider changing the name to something else.  Maybe "Ask a Cop, but not about bicycle laws."  Or, "Ask a cop, but be prepared to do your own fact checking."

A couple of weeks ago, the Whittier Daily News published a column by a California Highway Patrol officer that contained such blatant misinformation of state law concerning bicycling law, that the community responded with outrage.  It didn’t take long for the officer to be thoroughly debunked, and earlier this week he responded with another column, chock full of references to state and county law that still manages to get it wrong.  After the jump you can read Streetsblog’s response to this week’s offering.

I received numerous questions, opinions and
comments regarding the last column I wrote. The column was about a
child riding his bicycle in a crosswalk and against the normal flow of
traffic.

Judging by the strong opinions with which some people
responded, it is obvious that bicycle operation is a topic near and
dear to the hearts of many.

I know that feeling, because the safety of everyone using the highway system is near and dear to my heart.

Honestly?  I’m touched.  While I didn’t see all of the emails you received, I have noticed some serious errors with the column as have other cyclists.  i don’t think too many people were concerned that you wanted all cyclists dead, or off the road, but that if you’re not aware of the law, then we’re in trouble since you’re a police officer and we’re not.

Many
of the comments I received expressed a lot of passion. Some interpreted
the last column as a personal affront to their rights as bicyclists.
Please understand that I write this column in order to inform readers
about the rules of the road so that people can move about safely.

What some perceived as an attack on the bicycle community
was in fact my attempt to prevent a child from being run over by a car.

I would like to elaborate on the California Vehicle Code sections that surrounded the scenario given on my last column.

Excellent.

Section
21650.1 states; "A bicycle operated on a roadway, or the shoulder of a
highway, shall be operated in the same direction as vehicles are
required to be driven upon the roadway."

Section 530 states; "A roadway is that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel."

Section
360 states; "Highway is a way or place of whatever nature publicly
maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes

of vehicular travel. Highway includes street."

Section
590 states; "Street is a way or place of whatever nature publicly
maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular
travel. Street includes highway."

Section 275 states: "Crosswalk is either: (a) That portion
of a roadway included within the prolongation or connection of the
boundary lines of sidewalks at intersections where the intersecting
roadways meet at approximately right angles, except the prolongation of
such lines from an alley across a street.

"(b) Any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for
pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.
Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, there shall
not be a crosswalk where local authorities have placed signs indicating
no crossing."

Section 555 states; "Sidewalk is that portion of a highway,
other than the roadway, set apart by curbs, barriers, markings or other
delineation for pedestrian travel."

Excellent.  So far you’ve established that as far as the CVC is concerned, any road that has vehicle traffic is a highway.  Next you’ve established that a crosswalk is an area delineated for pedestrians by markings.  Then you’ve established that a crosswalk, because it has a "marking or other delineation for pedestrian travel" is indeed part of the sidewalk, not part of the highway.

Section 467 states (in part); "A pedestrian is afoot or who
is using any of the following: (1) A means of conveyance propelled by
human power other than a bicycle."

I know this might be a lot of dry material for some of you, but I am hoping that you keep on reading.

Actually, I’m doing great.  But, thanks.

Last
year, Vehicle Code Section 21650 subsection (g) was amended to read
"This section does not prohibit the operation of bicycles on any
sidewalk, on any bicycle path within a highway, or along any crosswalk
or bicycle path crossing, where the operation is not otherwise
prohibited by this code or local ordinance."

Awesome.  So, we now know that the California Vehicle code allows bicycles to ride in crosswalks, which are indeed considered part of the sidewalk as you already established.

It is important to understand that the Vehicle Code did not
prohibit these things before this section was amended. This amendment
came about because the Legislature saw a need to clarify the fact that
these things were not prohibited, with a very important exception;
"where the operation is not otherwise prohibited by this code or local
ordinance."

Furthermore, this section reaffirms that it is OK to ride a
bicycle along a crosswalk, but it says nothing about the direction in
which the bicycle is ridden because that is already addressed by
Section 21650.1 (as shown at the beginning of this column).

And here’s where you make a mistake.  You went to great pains to point out that the crosswalk is part of the sidewalk above, so Section 21650.1 does not apply.  That section applies to highways or road shoulders.  A crosswalk is part of the sidewalk.

I checked with Los Angeles County and verified that there
is in fact a county ordinance prohibiting the riding of bicycles on
sidewalks.

Los Angeles County Code Section 15.76.080 states, "A person
shall not operate any bicycle or any vehicle or ride any animal on any
sidewalk or parkway except at a permanent or temporary driveway or at
specific locations thereon where the commissioner finds that such
locations are suitable for, and has placed appropriate signs and/or
markings permitting such operation or riding."

True, but that code only applies to unincorporated areas of L.A. County.  In other words, if I’m in Marina del Rey, I can’t bike on the sidewalk or crosswalk.  If’ I’m in the City of Los Angeles, I can.  I admit to not knowing the law in every municipality in which your column is published, but since there are several papers that do, I would advise you to stick to a general understanding of California laws and stay away from the municipal ones.

I hope that by including the various Vehicle Code sections
that surrounded the scenario it may help to answer some of your
questions.

It did.  I hope you can read this column and answer some of yours.

  • Get em Damien!

  • VC

    Damien my friend. I don’t think Perez ever said it was “illegal” to ride a bicycle in the crosswalk. A bicyclist is simply not treated as a pedestrian and therefore is not afforded the same protection (right of way) as a pedestrian. I don’t care if you are in Marina Del Rey, city of Los Angeles, or in any county in California, you do not have the right of way in a crosswalk while riding your bicycle. If you are walking your bicycle, you ARE a pedestrian.

  • Let’s take this discussion to a lower level, since we all know that’s where VC wants to go.

    VC is a punk! What now son?

  • VC, what Perez said was “As a matter of fact, the child was in violation of the vehicle code because he was riding against the normal flow of traffic.”

    Um, so violation of the vehicle code=illegal.

    Whoa, Alex! Hitting below the belt now! Punk is a compliment though. I would’ve said pompous ignoramous. =)

  • VC

    Alex – “What now son” Your’re STILL an idiot, nothing has changed

    danceralamode – Um, Perez was right. NOT illegal for being in the crosswalk, but ILLEGAL for riding the WRONG way. Since you obviously didn’t read the article, or maybe you did and your comprehension skills are less than desired, here is a few excerpts:

    “Furthermore, this section reaffirms that it is OK to ride a bicycle along a crosswalk, but it says nothing about the direction in which the bicycle is ridden because that is already addressed by Section 21650.1 (as shown at the beginning of this column)”

    Dancer, this is where you were supposed to go back to the beginning of the column. There, it states:

    Section 21650.1 states; “A bicycle operated on a roadway, or the shoulder of a highway, shall be operated in the same direction as vehicles are required to be driven upon the roadway.”

    Now, I understand schooling is becoming real expensive, but perhaps you should consider community college. Hint, take a reading comprehension class. Oh yeah, be careful where you ride your bike because there are rules on college campuses as well.

    Gooday mate

  • VC, you’re right. He hasn’t said its illegal to ride in a crosswalk, but he did say its illegal to ride the “wrong way” because a crosswalk is part of the highway. That’s not correct, a crosswalk is part of the sidewalk, so whatever local law is in place for sidewalk riding governs how cyclists can or can’t use the a crosswalk for riding.

  • VC

    Damien, as I have wrote in the past, the crosswalk is NOT part of the sidewalk. The crosswalk IS part of the highway. How can it be any clearer than in the definition? You need not read any farther than the first five words. “That portion of a ROADWAY”

    Section 275 states: “Crosswalk is either: (a) That portion of a roadway included within the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of sidewalks at intersections where the intersecting roadways meet at approximately right angles, except the prolongation of such lines from an alley across a street

    Man people get a clue

  • Most likely candidates for VC:

    1) Officer Perez, commenting from his smart phone
    2) Mike Eng
    3) Sarah Palin
    4) Grover
    5) The Ghost of Christmas Past

  • VC

    Most likely candidates for Alex Thompson:

    1) Jackass
    2) Horse’s ass
    3) Obama Bin Laden
    4) Third grader

  • I’m totally staying in tonight to troll VC. He’s so smart and I love the way he quotes long passages of the CVC that I have no patience for.

    My name is Roboma and I approve this massage!

  • I will agree that there is some ambiguity, but allow me to point you to the “bicycle law blog” run by legal experts who have weighed in on this matter.

    http://www.bicyclelaw.com/blog/index.cfm/2010/1/14/It-Never-Ends

    But what about when the cyclist rides off the sidewalk, into the crosswalk? Is it true that, as Officer Perez claims, cyclists in crosswalks aren’t pedestrians?

    No, it’s not true. Under California law, a crosswalk is either an extension of the sidewalk across the roadway, or that portion of the roadway marked for pedestrian crossing. Thus, when a pedestrian enters the crosswalk, it is as if the pedestrian is still on the sidewalk while crossing the road. Therefore, because a cyclist is treated as a pedestrian while on the sidewalk, when the cyclist enters the crosswalk, it is as if the cyclist is still on the sidewalk while crossing the road. And under California law, cyclists are neither prohibited from riding on the sidewalk, nor are they prohibited from riding in the crosswalk (note, however, that cyclists may be prohibited from riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks by local ordinance). Taken together, these laws mean that when a cyclist lawfully enters the crosswalk, the law treats the cyclist as a pedestrian, and thus, the cyclist has the right of way.

  • VC

    Damien wrote:

    “Under California law, a crosswalk is either an extension of the sidewalk across the roadway, or that portion of the roadway marked for pedestrian crossing.”

    Where in the definition of a crosswalk “under California law” does it say the crosswalk is an extension of the sidewalk?

    It simply states that it is the portion of the ROADWAY that is included within the prolongation of the boundary lines of sidewalks. This basically defines the crosswalk when there are no painted lines deliniating such. In other words, there are intersections that do not have a painted crosswalk. That doesn’t mean the crosswalk doesn’t exist. There is in fact a crosswalk there. It is defined as the prolongation of the boundary of the sidewalk. If you extend the boundary lines of the sidewalk across the intersection, you have a crosswalk. And within that crosswalk, pedestrians have the right of way.

    I am sorry to tell you Damien, but as much as you want to have the right of way in a crosswalk, you don’t. Now obivously, if I am driving my vehicle and there is a bicyclist in the crosswalk, I will yield the right of way to that bicyclist.

    The problem arises when I am in my vehicle preparing to make a right turn. I am not obligated to yield to a bicyclist who is traveling on the sidewalk adjacent to the traffic lane at a much faster speed than that of a pedestrian. I am not going to in my right side mirror to see if there is a bicyclist on the sidewalk. Why should I? If I make my right turn and you either hit the right side of my vehicle or I hit you on your bicycle, it is YOUR fault.

    As much as you bicycle enthusiasts quesiton the reasoning behind the laws set forth in the vehicle code, they are there to protect you. NOT to take away your liberties on the road.

  • Ahh damn, the troll successfully trolled me.

    Look here you rabid motorist: I run on the sidewalk. It’s where I’m required to run by law. The CVC makes no distinction between runners and walkers. Therefore you have equal obligation to avoid me as you do any walker. And I run anywhere from 8 mph to 12 mph, faster than many casual cyclists.

    You have an obligation to check your mirror to avoid me. You’re a bad driver.

  • Jim

    I’ll take the troll bait as well.

    VC writes, “The problem arises when I am in my vehicle preparing to make a right turn. I am not obligated to yield to a bicyclist who is traveling on the sidewalk adjacent to the traffic lane at a much faster speed than that of a pedestrian. I am not going to in my right side mirror to see if there is a bicyclist on the sidewalk. Why should I? If I make my right turn and you either hit the right side of my vehicle or I hit you on your bicycle, it is YOUR fault.”

    I don’t think jurors would agree in a civil suit against you. You have a “duty of care.”

  • VC

    Jim, as do you! Criminally, you are STILL at fault

  • Officer Perez’s entire rantings are moot, as bicycles are defined as having larger than 20″ tires, which excludes most children’s bicycles from any and all ordinances pertaining to bicycles.

    Children riding children’s bikes are pedestrians.

  • VC Sr.

    Chris, You couldn’t be anymore wrong. Just look at the definition of a bicycle in the vehicle code.

  • VC Sr., check http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d16_7/vc39000.htm

    Bicycle Defined

    39000. “Bicycle,” for the purposes of this division, means any device upon which a person may ride, which is propelled by human power through a system of belts, chains, or gears having either two or three wheels (one of which is at least 20 inches in diameter) or having a frame size of at least 14 inches, or having four or more wheels.

    Amended Ch. 421, Stats. 1978. Effective January 1, 1979.

  • VC Sr.

    That definition is specific to a certain division within the code. That division happens to be when it pertains to licensing and registration ONLY. Nice try though

  • DJwheels

    VC, your logic is infallible. Can you next explain for us whether the CVC prohibits cyclists from riding two-abreast?

  • Yuri

    Damien, thanks alot for this post. I was always fuzzy about the legal status of bicycles on the “street” (aka “highway”) and I’ve been riding for years. Now I can see why people including cops are so confused. I had never looked in depth at the CVC and how it treats bicycles. The problem is that the CVC is ambiguous. A bicycle is neither a “pedestrian” nor a “vehicle”, but it is allowed to use the “roadway” and the “sidewalk”. So, it makes sense that when the bicycle on the roadway it’s treated like a vehicle and when it’s on the sidewalk it’s treated like a pedestrian. And since the “crosswalk” is that part of the roadway for pedestrians, it follows that a bike should be treated as a pedestrian in the crosswalk. And since pedestrians don’t have to worry about directionality when using the crosswalk, neither do bicycles.

    One small edit to your post. When you said:

    “You went to great pains to point out that the crosswalk is part of the sidewalk above, so Section 21650.1 does not apply. That section applies to highways or road shoulders.”

    It should read “That section applies to roadways or highway shoulders”.

  • John

    Chris, You couldn’t be anymore wrong. Just look at the definition of a bicycle in the vehicle code.

    Ummmm OK VC Jr., I give up. Where is the definition of what a bicycle is in the CVC? The only thing I can find is under Section 39000.

  • Barry

    What about a situation where a bicyclist enters a crosswalk on a green light/walk sign going the wrong way because they live a few blocks away and a car tries to turn right on a NO Turn On Red sign and hits the bicyclist in the crosswalk as the bicyclist enters the crosswalk?

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