Eyes on the Street: Car Parking Enforcement, Done by LADOT on Bikes

Cervantes' sleeve.  Photo: Jennifer Beatty

Cervantes' sleeve. Photo: Jennifer Beatty

(Beatty is a self professed graphic design/cycling addict based in Burbank, CA. She is the creative workhorse behind Bandwagon Graphiks, designing anything for print and web with a vengeance. Cycling is her drug of choice and is known by her clients as the designer on a bike. Long difficult commutes and centuries are her passion)

People who don’t ride bicycles on the streets of Los Angeles always gaff when I tell them “”I Bike LA.””. They tell me how brave they think I am and how they could never bike, even though the most traveled route is often 2 miles to work. It is true that fear is a major deterrent keeping most people in their cars, but there are some organizations and people in this city trying to make a difference.

Driving a car in Los Angeles guarantees you a few things: Traffic, an empty wallet, and parking tickets. Los Angeles’ streets are rivers bursting at the seams with fish – only these fish weigh 3,000 lbs and can kill you.  Riding bicycles reduces the fish population, while simultaneously improving road safety and saving you money. By advocating cycling, we can open peoples minds and show them that the bicycle is not a status symbol but a viable means of transportation.

Today, I had lunch with a friend in Studio City. We rode our bikes 3 miles in heavy afternoon traffic to get there, and we were fine. We sat down, ordered and about five minutes later I spotted something quite ironic in a city whose default mode of transportation can be a weapon of mass destruction. Twenty feet away, a parking enforcement officer approached a car at an expired meter on a bicycle. I did a double take. It seemed so ironic.

Advocate cycling, promote health and enforce some laws all in one fall swoop? Nah…couldn’t be. This officer was not my first interaction with a bicycle cop. I see them all the time. Most recently trying to keep up with Critical Mass. However, bicycle cops or similar law enforcers in this society do not seem to garner the same amount of respect as do officers in cars. Unless, that officer is adding a nice $52 ticket to your windshield – then you perk up and notice.

Another happy cyclist.  Photo: Jennifer Beatty

Another happy cyclist. Photo: Jennifer Beatty

I flagged the officer over and introduced myself.,  I wanted to know what he thought of his job and his view of how the city is working towards better laws and safety. I come to find out that Officer Cervantes is from LADOT, a city organization that has been in the news a lot lately – especially in the cycling blogosphere with all the talk of a new GM and how LADOT needs to shape up.

He first told me that LADOT has had a bicycle program with its traffic enforcement group for 11 years. In high traffic areas they ditch the cars and hop on bikes to add an unhappy envelope to your one’s car and ride on. Officer Cervantes loved his job – he loved getting out and getting exercise. He also spoke of being on the street team supporting recent city endeavors such as CicLAvia and Tour de Fat.

As a Los Angeles driver/cyclist/pedestrian, we see transportation in this city as a broken system with broken leaders and misguided agendas. At least that’s all I seem to read in the blogosphere. Then you come across these seemingly ironic slices of life that surprise you, and reassert your faith in the system.

I am writing this from the perspective of the average apathetic Angeleno with a mild grasp on current laws/measures going in/out. I have more knowledge of the California Vehicle Code (CVCC) than the average driver out there, but I want to look at this experience through the eyes of the average Joe. What does this say to the majority? Can we take what LADOT is doing and use it to our advantage to bring cycling to other city organizations or companies?

Without asking, Officer Cervantes let me know about LADOT’s bicycle plan sponsor Air Quality & Beyond (AQ&B) – and air conditioning and heating company based out of Canoga Park, CA – who puts up the money to purchase the bikes for the city and has been doing so for the last 11 years.

Does anyone know of other “green” companies out there taking similar approaches?

I wish we wouldn’t need a corporate sponsor to advocate cycling over driving in these  types of situations, but ticketing negligent drivers on bikes makes perfect sense to me. Get our citizens healthy and keep our streets clear and air clean. Such a simple task, that not only has health and environmental benefits, but also financial gains.

Here are some pictures of Officer Cervantes at work. One more happy cyclist.