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.


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.