Glendale Traffic Cops Botch Report on Fatal Bike Crash

Screen_shot_2010_05_16_at_8.48.16_PM.pngSite of the crash. Not the business district. Image: Google Street View

When we last checked in with the Glendale Police Department, we were entertained by the sight of an officer in a giant bunny costume being used in a traffic sting to catch motorists that ignored pedestrian crossing.  The story wasn’t just encouraging, officers thinking outside the box to make their streets safer, but also funny.  I mean, there was a giant bunny suit involved.

Last week’s story involving the Glendale police was not so funny.  On September 23, 2008 a motorist, allegedly Naira Margaryan, ran down a cyclist who died 13 months later.  Six months after the cyclist finally succumbed, the D.A. decided to charge Margaryan with a misdemeanor of "vehicular manslaughter."  The charge carries a maximum sentence of 1 year of jail time, although it is unlikely that Margaryan will face one day in jail.

The reason for the light charge, in the words of Glendale Police Det. Ashraf Mankarios and reported by the Glendale News-Press, was that riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is illegal according to the California Vehicle Code.  Mankarios went so far as to state that the cyclist, who crossed the street legally, and the driver, who ran a stop sign and killed the cyclist, were "equally at fault."  As you might expect, because the CVC allows for municipalities to set rules regarding sidewalk riding, the reaction from the cycling community is outrage.

As for the misinformation in the piece, both the paper and the GPD are pointing the finger at the other.  Cycling advocate/lawyer DJ Wheels spoke to Veronica Rocha, who wrote the piece for the News-Press.  According to Wheels, Rocha admitted she should have double checked Mankarios’ statement about the CVC, but that he is a veteran officer who had proven trustworthy on such matter in the past.  Meanwhile, the LACBC’s Safe and Healthy Streets Coordinator for Glendale, Colin Bogart, writes that the GPD who say that some of the information in the article is incorrect.

So that everyone is clear about the law, here is the relevant section from the California Vehicle Code:

21100. Local authorities may adopt rules and regulations by ordinance or resolution regarding the following matters:…

… (h) Operation of bicycles, and, as specified in Section
21114.5, electric carts by physically disabled persons, or persons 50
years of age or older, on the public sidewalks.

Ok, but that doesn’t mean anything without knowing Glendale’s laws.  Here is the section on sidewalk riding in Glendale:

Glendale Municipal code 10.64.025 Bicycle riding on sidewalks.

No person shall ride or operate a bicycle upon any public sidewalk
in any business district within the city except where such sidewalk is
officially designated as part of an established bicycle route.
Pedestrians shall have the right-of-way on sidewalks. The prohibition
in this section shall not apply to peace officers on bicycle patrol.
(Ord. 5116 § 1, 1996)

As LAist has already noted, it doesn’t appear that the above picture is a business district of any sort.  That means that sidewalk riding was mis-identified as illegal by the GPD, even if the reporter got confused about state and local laws.  Regardless of what Mankarios is citing, he’s wrong.  Why was Mankarios confused?  Maybe because the state’s Driver’s Manual actually writes the responsibility of cyclists incorrectly.  Nevertheless, this crash happened over a year and a half ago.  It’s not asking too much for a police officer to look up the law in that time.

So what can be done?  Probably very little.  Even if the GPD get their act together and write an addendum to the original report; any defense attorney worth their bottom dollar would be able to point to Mankarios’ original statement that the fault was "50/50" and get reasonable doubt from an uneducated juror.  The best that can be worked for is better education of the GPD and other local police forces to learn the law and enforce it.  After all, regardless of what you think of sidewalk riding, there’s no doubt that the world would be a safer place if drivers that killed cyclists or pedestrians were taken off the street.

  • Will Campbell

    I missed the LAist piece so thanks for this clarification as to the location of the collision. I was curious if it was any of Glendale’s nebulous “business districts” but it certainly is not.

    Shame on the detective whose ignorance of both California and Glendale laws so detrimentally biasing the case to the benefit of the motorist.

  • Roadblock

    Pretty obvious that the reasons for lack of investigative reporting by Rocha and the lack of proper police and CA handling is due to the victim being a cyclist and probably even more so an immigrant. That’s small town policing for you.

    I understand there is a plague of cops who are ignorant of the laws and lazy reporters who don’t care. But the CA in this case is paricularly pathetic. One 5 minute google search could have made the difference.

    We can make a difference. Call the Glendale CA and voice your outrage:

    Glendale City Attorney
    613 East Broadway, Suite 220
    Glendale, CA 91206
    818.548.2080
    818.547.3402 (fax)
    Scott Howard, City Attorney

    contact the lazy LA Times reporter:
    VERONICA ROCHA at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at veronica.rocha@ latimes.com

  • Neil O

    FYI, also checked the City of Glendale zoning map — the corner of Milford and Concord is zoned R for residential.

    http://www.ci.glendale.ca.us/planning/zoning_map_and_code.asp

  • There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell most people will know the rules of the road if the DMV Driver’s Handbook states them incorrectly. Many people even seem to have trouble with basic rules that are stated correctly and clearly in that book.

  • Neil O

    Regarding corrections to the DMV handbook —

    “If you have any comments or suggestions regarding this publication, please send them to:

    Department of Motor Vehicles
    Customer Communications Section
    MS H165
    PO Box 932345
    Sacramento, CA 94232-3450

  • roadblock

    addendum to my statement above. it’s not the Glendale city attorney who will handle this it will be the LA county District Attny. my bad. you can contact the DA here:

    Glendale Area Office
    600 East Broadway, Rm. 280
    Glendale, Ca. 91206
    Phone 818-500-3593
    Fax 818-548-1392

  • Gene

    Here’s another outrage for you: The driver gets PROBATION. No jail time. Not even a suspended or revoked drivers license, but a “restricted” one. See the Glendale News Press for Wednesday, Aug. 18. Amazingly, the News Press, having so badly botched the coverage back in May when the charges were filed, decided to bury this one on Page 4. And the reporter quotes the same detective, stating that the victim’s family is satisfied with the outcome.

    http://www.glendalenewspress.com/news/tn-gnp-margaryan-20100818,0,781660.story

    (I’m tempted to give the Glendale police at least some benefit of the doubt in the mutual finger pointing — I was a newspaper reporter and copy editor for 25 years and I will say the quality of the reporting and editing at the Glendale paper is among the worst I’ve ever seen — the editors and reporters, including Ms. Rocha, seem to place little premium on accuracy.)

    http://www.glendalenewspress.com/news/tn-gnp-margaryan-20100818,0,781660.story

  • plh55

    Actually it is a business district since the building shown there are apartments, thus making it a business district. May not seem right, but that’s how the code reads.

  • @plh55 cite the code that shows that area as a designated business district. You will find that it is not.

  • Neil O

    Months ago I asked Colin Bogart (LACBC) and he cited:

    235 CVC A “business district” is that portion of a highway and the property contiguous thereto (a) upon one side of which highway, for a distance of 600 feet, 50 percent or more of the contiguous property fronting thereon is occupied by buildings in use for business, or (b) upon both sides of which highway, collectively, for a distance of 300 feet, 50 percent or more of the contiguous property fronting thereon is so occupied. A business district may be longer than the distances specified in this section if the above ratio of buildings in use for business to the length of the highway exists.

    240 CVC In determining whether a highway is within a business or residence district, the following limitations shall apply and shall qualify the definitions in Sections 235 and 515:

    (a) No building shall be regarded unless its entrance faces the highway and the front of the building is within 75 feet of the roadway.

    (b) Where a highway is physically divided into two or more roadways only those buildings facing each roadway separately shall be regarded for the purpose of determining whether the roadway is within a district.

    (c) All churches, apartments, hotels, multiple dwelling houses, clubs, and public buildings, other than schools, shall be deemed to be business structures.

    (d) A highway or portion of a highway shall not be deemed to be within a district regardless of the number of buildings upon the contiguous property if there is no right of access to the highway by vehicles from the contiguous property.

  • Yup, Neil.

    We’ve covered the CVC 235 and 240 quite a bit in our Sidewalk Riding series.

    http://ladotbikeblog.wordpress.com/bikes-on-sidewalks/

    It seems pretty odd that a street with 50% of the parcels being apartments counts as a “business district”, but that’s what the CVC says.

  • I believe that cvc is an allow-able definition of what a business district were on to be should it be designated…. I will research but I believe that a business district has to be declared, it’s not an automatic designation.