What You Should Do If You See a Film Crew Blocking the Bike Lane

A blocked bike lane on Motor Ave. Northbound between National Blvd. and Manning Ave. on the Westside. No advance notice of the closure was announced to cyclists. Photo: Jonathan Weiss

(We’ve gotten a lot of complaints about bike lanes being blocked by cars/film crews/police cars/trash bins/etc. We’re proud to introduce a weekly series explaining what a cyclist should do when he sees a blocked bike lane. Today we’re discussing film crews. Next week, we’ll talk LAPD cars.)

Over the past year, it seems that film industry and cyclists have been in a sort of cold war. Cyclists complain that film crews illegally block bike lanes. Meanwhile, the film industry hasn’t been shy denouncing L.A.’s bike infrastructure. The Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane has been a particular lightning rod.

Earlier this week, local writer and cyclist Erik Knutzen noticed a bike lane blocked in Silverlake by a film crew. After Eastsider picked up the story, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition was on the scene, Film L.A., a private non-profit that handles permitting for the industry, stepped in and made sure that everything was done according to the rules a mere day and a half after the complaint was first lodged. O.k., actually Film L.A. didn’t really get things up to the legal obligation, but they got closer.

First, the LADOT has published a hand book on how to close a bike lane. The closure in Silver Lake, and the one documented above by Jonathan Weiss both fail the most basic test of whether a closure is done according to LADOT regulations. Every lane closure, be it bike lane, mixed use travel lane, bus lane, turn lane, or any other lane you can think of has to be announced ahead of time. Specifically, advance notice is required in both time and space. Signs should be posted in advance of the closure so cyclists have the option of plotting a different route ahead of time. Signage should also be placed on the street well ahead of the closure for the same reason.

A couple of cones placed to keep cyclists out of the door zone are nice as far as they go, and the signage at the bottom of the Eastsider article is also a step in the right direction. But advance notice is a bare minimum to keep all road users safe. In both cases, it’s not just cyclists that are being put at risk, but also car drivers who might make mistakes when cyclists are forced into a mixed use lane.

So what should someone do when they see a film crew blocking the bike lane?

Advance notification? Photo: Jonathan Weiss

First off, every person using Los Angeles’ streets has a right to see permits when a street is being blocked regardless of who is doing the blocking.   Any passerby can ask the Production Manager or the Location Manager or the Production Designer on site for the Film Permit. If you can’t identify who is in charge, just ask one of the security guards. They HAVE to show you the permit. If they don’t, call the police.

If the permit doesn’t specify that they will be filming in the street or that they can block the lane, or doesn’t specify intermittent traffic control, then the production is shooting in excess of its permit. Or, in short, it’s breaking the law. If a crew doesn’t have a permit or has a permit that doesn’t cover the activity they are undertaking, call the police.  Immediately. Then take some pictures and send them to us.

If they do have a permit for the shoot location and it does allow for temporary closure of the lane, make certain that advance notification signage is in place. If not, tell them to put something up or you’ll call the police. Call the police.

There are some that would argue that the best course is to call Film L.A. first. There’s two problems with that. First, Film L.A. is a private non-profit that depends on the filming industry for survivial. The second is their number isn’t quite as memorable as 311. If you happen upon a blocked bike lane and want to talk to Film L.A. instead of the police, here is their contact information.

Next week: The LAPD tells us what to do when a cop car is blocking a bike lane.

88 thoughts on What You Should Do If You See a Film Crew Blocking the Bike Lane

  1. Awesome. I requested a permit of the production company blocking a bike lane on Sunset right at Vendome because their signage was ridiculous. I took pics and when I asked to see the permit they refused and they refused to identify themselves. 2 production people told me separately to call Film LA.

  2. You suggestions (about what to do when encountering film crews illegally blocking lanes) sound like good ones, but I don’t expect that the film crews will actually cooperate and produce those permits upon request from a bicyclist or passer-by.  The experience that “Roadblock” describes below is just about what I’d expect.  And the film crews’ suggestion to “Call Film LA” is a joke, because Film LA basically just exists to help the film companies, not those who are being inconvenienced and endangered by the film crews’ actions.  I would love to know if “Roadblock” followed the rest of your advice, and called the police, and whether police actually came or not.  (Don’t most film shoots actually have off-duty policemen standing around providing “security” in their LAPD uniforms?  You think people will call the police to complain about an activity that is taking place right in front of uniformed police officers?)

  3. Really?! Bicyclists complaining about bike lanes blocked?

    Who do we complain to when we’re sitting in a car at a green light in Hollywood, and 50 or more bicyclists choose to run the red light and cross the street in a huge pack, blocking all traffic that has the right of way, and usually making rude gestures and catcalling the drivers? They seem to think this is funny, but when their right of way is not acknowledged, they complain.

    Until the bicyclists obey the laws, I don’t want to hear any more of their complaints.

  4. Seriously?  You think the misbehavior of SOME bicyclists means that no other bicyclists should have the right to complain about blocked bicycle lanes?
    Of course you don’t.  Because that’s just stupid.  You’re just frustrated by the misdeeds of the few and want to stereotype the whole group as scofflaws.  You are either an asshole or an idiot.

  5. Did you call Film LA?  Would love to know if they were helpful or not.  Did you call the police, as recommended in this article?

  6. As a representative of FilmL.A., I have to take exception to the idea that FilmL.A. exists to help film companies at communities’ expense.  While we are enthusiastic in our support for local filming, FilmL.A. is also committed by mission and by contract to addressing community members’ filming-related concerns.

    FilmL.A. can — and in fact often does — confront film crews about alleged permit violations at community members’ request. This allows us to address matters related to public safety immediately. Moreover, we maintain availability on a 24/7 basis at 213.977.8600 to take your urgent calls, and we route matters we cannot solve to the attention of LAPD.

    We’re fortunate in that most crews we work with are professional and deal respectfully with their neighbors in the community.  Should you encounter a crew that doesn’t, call us first. We’ll be happy to tell you what the crew does or doesn’t have permission to do (although crews ARE obligated to produce their permit for you on request).

  7. A lot of bicyclists, including myself, don’t participate in mass rides and strive to ride legally and safely and respect others’ right of way. I’m my own individual, and I’m responsible for my own behavior and nobody else’s. Please explain why I should be punished for the actions of other people.

  8. I would like to take a moment to thank Philip for posting here. Given the content of the post, and of the guest’s comment; it does take some gumption to post in what could be a hostile forum.

  9. Thanks for the article. Hopefully, shining some light on the situation will improve it. However, your advice to “call the police” didn’t work. West traffic (Officer McNeil) said they did not have anyone to dispatch. The West LA LAPD office (on Butler) transferred me to LADOT. LADOT’s operator 622 said she had to ask her supervisor. My council office got a response from Film LA, but it was inaccurate (stating the film crew had cleared out earlier than it had), and it was apparently also incorrect in the context of the guidelines in your article. At least I have the Film LA number for next time, but I’d prefer it if LAPD actually cared.

  10. Hey all–I’m going to ask that this issue be put on the agenda for a meeting at the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council Transportation subcommittee that will be held on September 10th at 7pm. The meeting will be at Citibank–2450 Glendale Ave. I’ll ask FilmLA if they would like to send a representative.

  11. If you want to see a permit, do the following:  Go up to anyone on the crew, but try to target the youngest person you can find wearing a headset.  This will be a Set PA.  Tell this PA that you think your car was towed when the production vehicles arrived on the location.  This PA will contact the Location Manager or more likely his/her assistant via walkie-talkie.  

    A few minutes later, the Locations Assistant will arrive to explain that he/she did not have any cars towed that day.  At this point, reveal the true intention of your inquiry and demand to see a permit.If one is not provided, play a boombox very loudly every time you hear “Rolling!” called by multiple people wearing headsets.  This will be provocative.

    Police or Sheriff working the crew that day may get involved.  Ask them for a copy of the permit, since 9 times out of 10, they have a copy.

    There you go. 

  12.  I can attest to Philip’s comments.  In a past life, many moons ago, I worked as a permit broker, and while FilmLA is supported by the industry they are also supported by filming permit fees, so it is in their interest to make sure companies do things the right way.  They don’t want non-fee paying unlicensed shoots mucking things up for the fee-paying licensed shoots with the neighbors. 

  13. @ Philip @ FilmLA:  Your exception is noted, but unfortunately Film LA’s words have never matched their actions in my three personal experiences with non-compliant film crews in my historic, frequently-filmed neighborhood; nor does Film LA appear to have been effective or fully informed in the case that commenter Jonathan Weiss cites here.  The film crew’s suggestion to “Go call Film LA” is often just a way of saying, “Go waste a couple of hours on the phone, and then waiting for action, until we are basically already finished with what we weren’t supposed to be doing in the first place…”

  14. Film crews are generally very busy. They can’t just stop what they’re doing every time someone wants to see a permit.  This is ridiculous.  If someone walking by wants to see a permit they have to show it to them? What about when a bicyclist wants to see one 5 minutes later, and again another one 10 minutes later? Should they halt production just to show every single person who asks about a permit? No, that wastes a lot of money and nothing would ever get done.

    And about having adequate warning when you need to go a different route … nobody even provides this for cars in this city!  You’ll get to an intersection or a street you usually use when driving and all of a sudden there’s a road blocked or detour sign, by then it’s too late.  Cars don’t get this convenience, neither do bikes. 

  15. Who said production has to be stopped while a permit is provided? It can be posted somewhere and the security guard can just point to it.

    Regarding advanced notice of street closures, bikes are a little different than cars. A street closure has a more significant impact on a cyclist even if it just means that they are being forced further into traffic. Why wouldn’t you want to give them a reasonable chance to choose a different route. Also, I have seen plenty of notices meant for cars about planned closures that list dates and time.

  16. Riding in the Expo Bike Lane the other night, I witnessed three drivers at different intersections making illegal left hand turns against red lights from the right hand side of the road (i.e. facing oncoming traffic). Then there was that genius blasting down 9th in DTLA going the wrong way down a one-way street.

    These fools put the lives of others in danger.

    Until motorists obey the laws, I don’t want you to ever write another blog comment. Stop being a cry baby.

  17. The trucks in the bike lanes are “working trucks.”  The people attempting to use the bike lanes are NOT WORKING.  Let’s assume the production trucks aren’t in the bike lanes.  Let’s replace the WORKING TRUCKS with DWP Trucks, Dish/Direct TV, So Cal Gas, etc.  Are the cyclist going to ask to see their permits as well?     This is beyond dumb.  

    I dont go to your place of work and dump all over you.  Don’t come to where I work and thrash my colleagues and I.                 

  18. There is nothing that compels anyone to show an uppity panties in a bunch cyclist a permit.  No obligation, none. This is LA, ride around the trucks, quit being a baby.

  19. Julie, are you sure about this? because your opinion is in direct conflict with what Film LA is telling people (for example, visit their website or just read what Philip from Film LA has written below).  I want to know who is right about this issue, you or the representative from Film LA…

  20. Didn’t bicyclists fight for the right to share the road? Pretty sure that lane of traffic to the left of the cones in your fantastic photo is wide open. Perhaps you look over your left shoulder for oncoming traffic, carefully merge into the traffic lane (You’re feeling good now) and continue on for that 100 feet or so to the end of the trucks. Your thoughts as you pass by should be “Thank God, a production that has stayed in California”. If you are thinking “How can I get money from or cause problems for the production” well than you ARE the problem. Move and take your bike with your. Oh and nice shorts.

  21.  The only thing “beyond dumb” here is YOU.  “People attempting to use the bike lanes are NOT WORKING.”  Seriously? 

  22. As an Assistant Location Manager, the guy whom you will probably be approaching for a film permit, which will then be followed by your venting hippie diatribe about why my working trucks are blocking your bike lane here’s what I am going to do….Ask to see my permit, which I will produce for you. Then it will be I who will call the cops and claim that you threatened my production company with extortion, which I will be able to produce witnesses for. I will also suggest to the officer who responds that we spotted you taking illicit drugs not far away from my set, which I will also produce witnesses for. Being that most bikers I know engage in the occasional to regular use of drugs, I will most likely be right. When your being cuffed and taken to jail, I will then sell your bike on ebay….I may even use the funds to put gas in my Ford F-150 (not a Prius). You guys want a fight, your going to get one…

    Point is, we are losing production jobs everyday to other states and cities because of BS like this. My methodology may seem machiavellian but I will do whatever it takes to keep filming in Los Angeles, keep food on my family’s table, and not be forced to move to keep working in film industry which provides a much needed paycheck and health benefits to family and I. Be warned, if the working trucks are parked in a bike lane, bike around us and go on your merry way…

  23. If your work takes place on a public street that is there for everyone to use, you need to follow the proper laws and procedures for using said street for that purpose, including getting appropriate permits and producing them upon request. That’s really all that’s being asked for here.

  24. This is actually what I do when I encounter a closed bike lane. I have no problem doing it when the crew has executed a proper lane closure (advance notification, appropriate signage) with the city’s permission. The problem discussed in this article is when crews fail to provide these things and decide to do things their permit doesn’t allow them to do. It’s fine to close off a lane for a shoot (though it would be nice if a way could be found to avoid it); just do it according to the rules.

  25. The only way I’ve ever gotten any action on these matters is to contact my city councilman, repeatedly, and had them also contact Film LA.  Seems like Film LA only pays attention when a big-wig, like city councilman, gets involved.  But even then, as your experience indicates, Film LA is basically clueless/useless.

  26. In L.A. film permits are signed for on release, binding production companies to their terms.  There is a document called the “Filmmakers Code of Professional Responsibility” that is incorporated into every permit coordinated by FilmL.A.  The second provision of the Code requires production companies to produce permits upon request by the public.  If you’re interested in reading the Code you can find it on FilmL.A.’s website:

    http://www.filmla.com/download.php?file=uploads/FilmmakersCode_1244566058&type=pdf 

  27. This is a bit ridiculous and inflammatory.  We all have to live and work here, and as a location manager, it’s difficult enough keeping productions here.  If we close the street or lane, it’s for filming in the street.  If we post for parking of working trucks, that is not a lane closure – the trucks are not actually blocking the bike lane, it isn’t closed.  However, the cones are there for the safety of those working on the trucks, to keep them from getting hit.  If you have a problem with that, Film LA and the police are the least of your worries – you need to tell OSHA and the Teamsters that you don’t want them to observe safety protocols – to which, I’m sure, you will not get a very positive response.  The safety precautions exist for good reason.  You may NOT shut down a production while waiting to see a permit – BTW, not sure where someone thinks a production designer would have one, but that’s not true.  Additionally, if you intentionally try to enter a film set or prevent a permitted film crew from completing their business maliciously, as a few people have suggested, you will find yourself removed from the premises and may face charges, depending on what you do.  I see cyclists in mixed lanes all the time, ignoring rules of the road whenever it’s convenient, regardless of risk to pedestrians or others.  It seems as if they want both preferential treatment and equal measure, unfortunately, it’s only possible to have one or the other.  But to try and halt business deliberately is juvenile.

  28. Again, the behavior of some cyclists does not cause other cyclists to waive their rights as legal road users. We’re all our own individuals, and we’re each individually responsible for our own behavior.

    And if it’s necessary, for safety regulations or other reasons, to place cones in the bike lane in a way that makes it unusable by the bicycling public, then that is indeed a lane closure and the production needs to obtain a permit and follow the proper procedure for it.

  29. My biggest problem with all this is that the cost of street closures for film making is put on all the motorists.  Sure, filming on location may make the economy run, but when you close the street and cost me 15 minutes of my day then I’m the one financing it.

  30. agreed, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.  the issue here is specifically film crews block bike lanes, and what the rules are for them, and what to do when they aren’t followed.

  31. I agree that no one should attempt to enter the film set, attempt to stop filming or halt business, or anything like that.  that is specifically against the law.  and no one will deny that many bicyclists break the rules of the road, although that doesn’t justify making sweeping statements about ALL bicyclists, most of whom obey all traffic laws.  
    Can you agree that production crews should only block the bike lane when it is specifically permitted, and that they should follow the rules regarding bike lane closures (advance notice, etc), and be willing to show the permit (or post it on a nearby tree, pole, etc, which ) to concerned community members who request to see it?  
    Can any one of you location managers/crew who are posting here agree that you should follow the simple guidelines set forth by LA DOT and FilmLA?  Most of you seem so upset about the loss of filming in LA that it seems like you think the rest of us should just be willing to put up with you ignoring the guildlines/rules/ conditions-of-your-filming-permit because your industry is struggling.  Like we should just stop being “crybabies” because you’re trying to “put food on the table for your kids” — so we should ignore it when you break the rules (sometimes literally endangering the community, like with regard to this bike lane issue)? 
    And your arguments are often colored by a rabid hatred of bicyclists, which most of you use as a completely (illogical) justification for inconveniencing and/or endangering ALL bicyclists.  

  32. Thanks, Kalm. I’s nice to know you value your parking more than my life. Go ahead, call the police — I have a helmet cam, like many other riders. I’d love to turn the video over to the authorities, as well as your employers, so you get fired and blacklisted, as well as face criminal charges.

    So go ahead a file a false police report. I double dog dare you.

    My God, what a jerk. You give everyone in the industry a bad name.

  33. Sorry Location Manager. You, like everyone else, are required to abide by the rules. Bike lanes are legal lanes of traffic, just as the traffic lanes next to them. You no more have the right to block a bike lane without a permit than you do any lane used by motor vehicles. 

    That’s not my opinion; that’s the official position of the LAPD as discussed with the LAPD Bike Task Force. 

    No one is dumping on you. We just want you to obey the law, and not needlessly risk the lives of people who are legally entitled to use the bike lane, and for whom the lane was build. 

    It was not installed to give you a free place to park.

  34. Uh, if the film crew isn’t blocking the bike lane, it’s highly unlikely that any cyclist is going to ask to see your permit. So the easy solution is just don’t block the bike lane.

  35. @ Marcotico – your argument makes no sense.  You state that Film LA is supported by the film industry, AND that it is supported by the permitting fees (which are collected from film companies.. hello, that’s the film industry again)… and then you conclude that “so it’s really in their interest to make sure companies do things the right way.”   So… wait… HOW is it in FilmLA’s interest to crack down on the film companies when they inconvenience or endanger the community?  Where exactly is their incentive to stand up FOR the community AGAINST film companies who ignore or don’t fulfill the conditions of their filming permits?  When in fact FilmLA depends entirely upon funding from the industry they are supposed to police?  I don’t see how you reach your conclusion about Film LA having any incentive to stand up to film companies on behalf of the community, of say, bicyclists who are forced into traffic by the un-permitted and un-forewarned closure of the bike lane.

  36. The pictures in this article reflect how human power is not yet respectfully treated as a legitimate form of transportation in this city. Here’s some scenerios to illustrate this:

    On the sidewalk–

    ‘Sir, this seems to be blocking my way. Could you tell me how to get around this?’

    ‘Sure. Why don’t you take your wheelbound butt out into the street. You seem to be working that steering mechanism pretty well using your mouth. I’m sure you’ll do alright in front of the fast moving motor vehicles.’

    Or another reaction…

    ‘Sure. You’ll have to go around this by continuing to work that long cane back and forth in front of you while moving moving along in the vehicle travel lane.’ 

    In the bike lane–

    ‘Sir, this is blocking my path in the bike lane. I have to get to school on my bike because my mom was unable to drive me today and she told me to stay in the bike lane.’

    ‘Well, go around this by getting your 4th grade butt out into the vehicle travel lane kid. Your considered a vehicle by law. You should do just fine riding in front of those larger mass vehicles that are traveling much faster than you. I blame this on your mom for allowing you to even ride a bike to school. There should be a law to prevent kids from riding to school. You see that slow moving old man riding that large trike a couple hundred feet behind you? Why don’t you move along at that pace in the travel lane together.’

    ‘I don’t know why your mom is so worried about your safety. If you bicyclists would stop always running through red lights there wouldn’t be anything to worry about. The motor vehicle drivers ALWAYS obey the laws and they never make any errors in judgement. Its a myth that those motor vehicles can maim or kill you. Nothing to be concerned about.’ 

  37. Your contempt for the community/neighborhood which is hosting your location shoot is palpable.  You are a big part of the problem, KALM.  I wish that your employers could see this, and fire you immediately.  

  38. rather bizarre comment (imaginary dialogue, dripping with sarcasm?) but I get your point and basically agree with it.

  39. Ok, so, everyone has had a bad experience with the other side. Film LA, however, is not just a company of stooges to do the studio bidding. They are there to enforce city ordinance onto the production companies and can and will shut down a film for ignoring the rules. The city uses the permit fees collected to fund Film LA. And I don’t always like them, but understand why they have to do it. As a locations person, I have always been able to go back to a location or street because it’s in the entertainment industry’s best interest to have a good working relationship with the neighbors, not just the place at which we are filming. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have an industry. Yes, I have also seen some deplorable behavior from productions, and UPM’s, and locations as well. When I hear “they should be grateful we’re filming here,” I cringe, because that’s an idiot that costs good relations and burns locations for the rest of us.

    But for cyclists, consideration goes both ways. We are trying to do better, but so should you. The tone of the article automatically puts everyone as enemies. If you want consideration, lumping all productions as schmucks that are out to get you doesn’t put us in a position to WANT to help you.

    As an example, the idiocy of the comments by Dennis that we’ll kick the little kid, blind person or wheelchair into the street. Honestly, those of us that have had problems, it’s usually (not always) with someone on a three thousand dollar bike that chews us out for jerks before we can even try to offer to help. And after getting chewed out, we’re less inclined to do so. Not fair, but it is human nature. In kind, we should make an effort as well.

    BTW, my transpo guys usually put the cones out to EXTEND the bike lane, but when someone yells at them, it suddenly isn’t..

  40. Again, can you agree to the simple statement that location shoots should only block the bike lanes when it is specifically permitted, and that they should follow the guidelines set forth by LA DOT and FilmLA, which include (as specifically noted by Patrick from FilmLA) the requirement that film crews show the permit to concerned citizens upon request (or post it on a nearby tree, pole, etc, for the sake of convenience). 

  41. Can’t agree to that most basic statement of the rules of the game?  then you’re part of the problem, location girl.

  42. what would be great is if they could actually put out TWO sets of cones, creating an improvised lane. no need for confrontation, no need for childishly demanding to see permits (seriously, who does that?? i’m sorry…just because it is within your rights doesn’t mean it’s not a douchey and aggro way to behave.) i can generally ride around cones on film sets, as i do for construction, dwp, etc. or i ride within the space staked out by the cones–there is sometimes enough. the only time it really gets dicey is on tight/busy streets when traffic is heavy or it is dark. cars don’t always respect me when i try to swing out into a traffic lane, even if i give a signal and make sure i have enough space to do so. if the productions could set up a makeshift lane, wouldn’t that make everybody happy? it wouldn’t require that much more space or effort. @FilmLA:twitter is that a possible compromise? would that be in violation of any laws? anyone?

  43. I object to your characterization as “douchey and aggro” to describe a neighbor’s request to see a filming permit when they suspect that the film company is violating said permit.  Do you also think it is “douchey and aggro” when a citizen requests an officer’s badge number or identification when they feel they have been unfairly targeted for prosecution?  You feel it’s “douchey” for someone to stand up to a more powerful organization (film production company, lapd, etc.) and ask to see the permits for what is taking place?  

  44. I’m dismayed to see you call those bicyclists/motorists/neighbors/stakeholders “douches” for requesting to see the film permit, in cases where they feel the film company has overstepped the bounds of the permit or of common-sense safety.  Particularly after reading the articles that you have posted here on streetsblog, where you seem to validate exactly that type of “demand accountability” sensibility.  (Calling the police department to investigate when you felt you witnessed minority youths being unfairly targeted for a search?  When you had no real knowledge of the situation?)

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