Meet Sheriff Teufel, the Social Media Star Who Can’t Figure out Sharrows

Hi everyone, meet Officer Teufel, a social media star from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Teufel’s claim to fame is not only mis-understanding traffic laws as they relate to bicyclists, but riding dangerously close to a cyclist to mis-explain the law and giving a baffling counter-intuitive explanation for what a Sharrow is.

Now to be fair, the Sheriff doesn’t ticket or physically harass the cyclist/videographer but his repeated attempts to shout explanations at the cyclist does make for at least an amusing video.

The fun really starts at the 1:14 mark when Teufel instructs the cyclist, who is riding directly through the middle of several Sharrows, to ride farther to the right. For those interested, you can watch an SUV run a red light just seconds before Officer Teufel defends the right to drive quickly to their two-wheeled oppressors.

As is true with many officers, Teufel confuses the traffic requirement that cyclists “ride as far to the right as practical” with “ride as far to the right as physically possible.” Of course, the Sheriff doesn’t seem impressed with the cyclists’ pleas that he is following the law, he continually harasses the cyclist with warnings not to impede traffic.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition succinctly explains the difference between what Teufel thinks is the law and what is actually the law.

Ride to the Right, But Within Limits – When riding slower than the normal speed of traffic, you are required to ride as far right as “practicable” (meaning safe). You are not required to ride as far right as possible, which may not be safe. You are allowed, but not required, to ride on the shoulder. CVC 21202CVC 21650CVC 21650.1 

Take the Lane – If a travel lane is too narrow to safely share side by side with a motor vehicle, you can prevent unsafe passing by riding near the center of the lane. On two-lane roads where it’s illegal or unsafe to pass, you must turn off the roadway at a designated or safe location to allow a line of 5 or more vehicles behind you to pass.CVC 21202 (a)(3)CVC 21656

As for the bewildering understanding of the giant painted arrows on the ground being an instruction that the cyclists should bike somewhere else inside the lane…well, that advice is the kind of thing that separates this video from the dozens of eye-rolling YouTube videos of clueless cops bothering cyclists.

  • Roadblock

    This is EXACTLY the ignorance that exemplifies LA drivers in a nutshell. The cyclist ISNT actually impeding traffic, he is riding at about the speed of traffic all the way up to a red light where Sheriff Tuefel beats the cyclist by an entire 4 seconds. Secondly, those were parking spaces with oil slicks that the rider was avoiding by riding in the exact correct position.

  • mkadam68

    Yes, cyclist was not doing anything wrong (to impede traffic, there actually has to be–you know–traffic stacked up behind you). Officer was ignorant of law. Now, to nitpick a little, contrary to what cyclist says in video, sharrows are not there to show cyclists where to ride. They are there to let road users know that cyclists may be on the roadway, “sharing the road”.

  • John Montgomery

    It’s law enforcement’s job to know the laws and that was simply baffling.

    For my purposes, the LACBC page is great but even they don’t explain sharrows, do they? As a recent transplant from Chicago, I find it hard to get plain-english explanations from the various government sites regarding correct cycling and even pedestrian behavior. Especially when you throw the mix of state laws, mixed with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, mixed with local laws.

  • John Montgomery

    Actually, sharrows are designed to show cyclists where to ride laterally in the lane. The preferred path is right in the center of the arrow….this is part of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices: http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009/part9/part9c.htm

  • Roadblock

    our LADOT has decided to place sharrows WHERE they expect cyclists to ride… so often, rather than placing sharrows smack in the middle of the travel lane (where they should be placed IMHO) they are often placed in maddening weave-y lines and to the right often directly into the path of parked cars such as the placement on Franklin just west of Vermont.

    oh and here have this video of more abuse from another area PD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54n8xhwWYGg

  • mkadam68

    Yeah, I see your point.

    But, reading the manual, “[Sharrows] Alert road users of the lateral location bicyclists are likely to occupy within the traveled way,” doesn’t make it clear because of the use of “likely to occupy” which allows too much ambiguity. Better language is needed. :-)

  • highvizguy

    ..further, the cyclist IS TRAFFIC. That’s what I would have told him when he said “you’re impeding traffic.”

  • Friendly Cyclist

    My point in commenting here is not to shame Officer Teufel, but rather to give reason to reflect on what he seemed to be intentionally doing- “educating” a cyclist on what he/she was doing “wrong”. Here is a guy using a carbon neutral means of transportation in a ridiculously over-polluted city, obeying traffic laws and riding safely. We need more of these people, for chrissakes! Don’t bully them.

  • This is as clear as mud. Where does it say in the CVC that in a lane where there is a sharrow you follow pass.CVC 21202 (a)(3), CVC 21656 but where there is NOT a sharrow you follow. CVC 21202, CVC 21650, CVC 21650.1
    This should be much more clear in the CVC or the Streets and Highways code. I have to believe that this was dealt with properly by the govt agencies before they started painting sharrows all over. I’d like to see the code section that specifically mentions sharrows. Does one exist as far as explaining which vehicle code sections apply? http://www.laag.us

  • Petunia Fazelot

    Yikes! Recently I was riding behind someone who went over their handlebars just past the 101 on Glendale due to those pot holes (shown on that video). That right lane is really dangerous. It was a substantial reminder that taking the lane can keep riders out of danger. Shame on Teufel for not knowing the law.

  • Niall Huffman

    Sharrows have no legal meaning within the Vehicle Code; they’re merely meant to reiterate existing state law and provide guidance as to where a cyclist should ride within the lane and where drivers should expect cyclists to be. The width of the lane and the presence/absence of hazards determine the legality of riding in the center; the sharrow is merely an advisory.

    Having said that, sharrows are typically employed by local governments in situations where the circumstances call — and the law allows — for occupying a position away from the far right side of the roadway. That’s definitely the case here — the cyclist is constantly at a location where the lane is either too narrow for a car and a bike side-by-side, or there are cars parked at the side of the roadway, or there are storm drain grates, or he’s approaching a driveway or intersection, etc. Thus, it’s reasonable to expect that where a sharrow appears, it’s legal to ride away from the far right and on top of the sharrow.

  • TMR
  • tmr
  • overly squeamish

    I’m glad to see one of the great injustices of today’s society so closely scrutinized and examined.

    Our rider is an obvious helmetcam instigator. Sharrows or no sharrows, right or wrong, if you do what the police tell you to do they will leave you alone and then you can go back to doing what works best for you. So long as you’re not hurting anybody else. Shame on all for being so petty.

  • Niall Huffman

    The problem is, doing what the cop tells you will put you in danger of close passes, right hooks, and getting doored. There are many damned good reasons to ride away from the far right edge. People don’t do it just for kicks.

    The cop is effectively seeking to deny this rider the ability to use a public roadway in a manner that’s consistent with recognized best practices and that’s entirely within the law. That’s not right.

  • Niall Huffman

    BTW, I should point out that arbitrary enforcement of made-up laws is an issue that goes way beyond a few hipster cyclists or members of some other demographic you may or may not resent. Just last week, we saw how the Gardena PD harassed a group of bicyclists (who just happened to be people of color) under similar pretenses; they ended up getting subjected to an unnecessary and humiliating frisking and were given a BS citation for “obstructing traffic.” This type of nonsense has real effects on people’s lives and ability to move freely through public spaces, and the cops need to be called out when they use shaky legal grounds to harass or detain law-abiding citizens.

  • Dennis Hindman

    While I was being filmed riding a bicycle along Reseda Blvd by the LADOT–during their sharrows pilot project–I was in the process of trying to hit dead-center all of the orange painted dots that were placed at the same distance from the curb where the center of the sharrows would be placed. Just when I was about to finish my run, a police car got behind me and through the intercom an officer stated that I needed to get in the bike lane. I continued my steady and 12-mph pace for a few more feet trying to hit the few remaining orange dots when he repeated his statement that I needed to get in the bike lane.

    Much like the above video, it looked like I was unnecessarily trying to obstruct traffic by riding towards the middle of the lane where there were no parked cars. In my case the officer was not only not made aware of a test being conducted by the LADOT , but he was also clueless that there was no bike lane for me to ride in.

    I participated in all six locations of the tests and there were numerous confrontations between drivers and cyclists. There was a car that came startling close on my left and the passenger yelled at me to get the F@ck off the road!

    Sharrows are a bold admission by a city that it did not put bike lanes in. Its one thing to get people to ride in front of cars traveling at much greater speed than they are while they are being filmed by traffic engineers. Its quite another to expect people to have enough nerve to do this on their own. Its just too stressful other than for those that would normally ride in mixed traffic.

    Its almost as if the idea of sharrows was thought up by vehicular cyclists. This is not something that will make cycling more appealing to the mass population.

    After a recent trip to several U.S. cities, Dutch cyclist Mark Wagenbuur of BicycleDutch described sharrows as just useless paint that will quickly wear out. I agree with that sharp observation which comes from someone who lives in the country which has the highest quality bicycle infrastructure in the world.

  • Niall Huffman

    Yes, sharrows — unaccompanied by traffic speed and volume controls — suck and are a poor substitute for real bicycle infrastructure. Yes, they are often used improperly. Yes, the LADOT sharrows test on Reseda was a ridiculous setup that did not reflect how *anyone* would actually ride on that street in those conditions. Yes, sharrows do a poor job of reducing cyclist-motorist conflicts.

    It doesn’t change the fact that you’re going to need to ride VC at times if you want to actually get places in this city on a bike, and if you’re going to attempt this, cops enforcing made-up laws against you is a big problem.

  • overly squeamish

    Have you seen the other videos posted by the same YouTube user? The guy’s got bike rage. He will always have run-ins as long as he chooses to be so aggressive. I wouldn’t ride with him for my own safety (and embarrassment).

    It is valid to “question the judgment of cops for harassing members of the public over behavior that’s perfectly legal” but doing it while moving in traffic on a bicycle seems pretty dangerous. Is a human able to cite vehicle code, navigate traffic, pedal a bicycle all at the same time effectively?

    There you go with that slippery slope again. If I thought something were wrong I would safely stop as soon as possible. Not this guy. What if motorists just rolled down the window and said, “No, sorry officer, you’re wrong, I’m right so I’m not going to do what you tell me to do.” Good luck with that!

    I admit I did enjoy his video of the USA flag guy.

  • Niall Huffman

    I’ve watched many of Wes’ other videos. I’ve never considered him to be ragey. All of the instances where he gets mad are instances in which someone either does something stupidly negligent to put him in danger or goes out of their way to harass him.

    The cop is the one engaging in dangerous behavior in the first place by trying to advise Wes of the Vehicle Code in moving traffic. If he needs to have a chat with him, he should execute a proper traffic stop.

    By “question the judgment of cops for harassing members of the public,” I mean posting a video of it on YouTube and complaining about it to the officer’s superiors (which is what I understand Wes has done). I probably wouldn’t endorse his immediate reaction to the cop’s order, though I can certainly understand it.

  • Niall Huffman

    Please point out an instance in which Wes’ aggressiveness results in a “run-in.” I will school you as to why either a) his positioning in the lane was entirely proper under the conditions or b) his reaction to some driver’s idiotic behavior was entirely justified.

  • HighNoon

    Your standard for “instigating,” when someone else initiated the interaction, is laughable. The cop was wrong… period.

  • One of my absolute favorite experiences in the world is when I’m told by a police officer to get in the bike lane when there is no bike lane.

  • Seems to me that CVC 21202 covers sharrow lanes and non sharrow lanes by its terms. It does not seem reference to 21656 is helpful or needed when 21202 covers the situation for bikes, sharrows or not. 21656 is not applicable on a 4 lane road as in the video. I think the sharrows may just be to signal to riders to “exercise” more of your “latitude” under 21202 and to “take the lane” as long as the sharrow signs are pained but you are still doing so under 21202. Its just that the painted symbols mean you cant really be cited under 21202 for taking the lane. That’s my preliminary read on it without a specific cvc section dealing with this “cute municipal gimmick” of a sharrow (done to make cities seem bike friendly). My other problem with sharrows is most drivers have no idea what they mean. So when you are laying on the street dying at least you can say “…but I had a sharrow”….

    The other problem you run up against is CVC 2800 which is basically a catch all. It says in part: “(a) It is unlawful to willfully fail or refuse to comply with a lawful order, signal, or direction of a peace officer, … when that peace officer is in uniform and is performing duties pursuant to any of the provisions of this code, or to refuse to submit to a lawful inspection pursuant to this code.” We can all debate what a “lawful” order is but I suspect that if its marginally “legal” then you are ok. For example if a cop waives you thru a red light due to an accident. CVC says you cant run lights but he orders you through. Thats “lawful” as I understand it. If you dont go thru the light I see you running into a problem. The main rule with cops is if you want to challenge them your place to do it will be in court (where you may have a reasonable judge) not on the street (where cops are the judge and jury) so act accordingly.

    Again folks I ride streets all the time but just my read on it. Lets wait until someone gets cited and see what happens in court.

  • I disagree, Sharrows are there for both riders and cars. Road signs and signals are for everyone using the street. They are informational. The problem is the bike people that use them generally know more about what sharrows mean than the car drivers…well maybe given the discussion above.

  • Anonymous

    As the rider in question, I’ll try to respond without instigating you. I actually did do what the deputy instructed, right after I clarified his statement. At that point it was time for me to prepare my left turn, which I announced and did. Once I got to the red light to make my left turn, he initiated further conversation with me. So I don’t see how that is instigating.

    Regarding my other videos. Couple things to realize, they take place over about a 2 year period and are from about 10,000 miles of recorded video in that time period. Also, the camera/microphone is about 6 inches from my mouth, so whatever I say is much louder on the videos. Few quick things to keep in mind: Wide angel of the lense makes things seems further away than they actually are adrenaline rush from being honked/buzzed/almost hit/pulled out on can easily cloud some of your good judgement.

    Which brings me to my next point. Part of the reason that I wear a helmet camera is for my own personal growth as a cyclist and human. I’ll post and review these incidents so I can learn from my own actions and share that with others. There are plenty of times I’d look back on the footage and was not proud of certain things with my behavior. I’ve made purposeful efforts to change those things and I think I’ve made progress. Its easy to monday morning quarter back, but in the heat of the moment things happen much quicker than you might expect. Even interactions that I remember going one way, when rewatched, I found that it went a different way that I didn’t recall.

    If you think I’m just some sort of aggressive helmetcam instigator, you are free to do that. I doubt any of this will change your mind. Most videos that I recall posting are of others doing something dangerous around me, which caused me to react, not always in the way that I would now, or wished to upon review.

  • overly squeamish
  • overly squeamish

    If our friend stepped out the door each morning looking for puppies and kittens, I suspect that’s what his YouTube videos would consist of. I know if I went for a ride with a camera I would try to capture and share as LITTLE negativity as possible. Our cyclist found what he was looking for because he actively sought it.

    I never argued that the cop was right. He did seem pretty green. Good luck to the both of them.

  • Niall Huffman

    “Our cyclist found what he was looking for because he actively sought it.”

    How do you figure that? Looks like he’s minding his business.

  • Reader Dan

    Wrong on both counts. People (and cops) should follow the law. You err twice in saying people should do whatever a cop says even if he does not have the law on his side and by then also suggesting that when there is no cop you should just do whatever you please.

  • Beth

    I know this officer and this guy is called The Terminator here in West Hollywood. Why? Because, he prides himself on writing up the most number of tickets he can. At the courthouse, they laugh at how many tickets he brings in. I was pulled over by him twice. Once for wearing both my earphones, of my iphone headset, in the my ears. Who knew that was against the law. And the other time, I was going five miles over the speed limit. The point is, this guy is a man run by his ego. He feels like king here in West Hollywood, but he is a sad little man.

  • Andrew

    What the hell in the non sequitur red herring are you talking about?

  • John R.

    This clown stopped me for speeding while exiting Universal Theme Park 2 wks ago. Said he “listed my speed at 37 but you were probably going a lot faster”.
    He checked the box on the ticket stating he deteremined my speed with a “laser gun”. Well which was it? Estimate by eye or laser gun?
    The funny part was when I handed him my license. He asked if I was still at the same address. I answered. He walked back to his bike, came back over to me less than a minute later and asked if I handed him my drivers license.
    If you think he had a confused look on his face you should have seen the look on both my wife’s and mine.
    I’ll be contesting in Beverly Hills court this December.
    BTW- it was a Porsche Turbo, owned for 9 yrs, only one previous moving violation 6 yrs ago. “Unsafe lane change at 23 mph” trying to get on the highway sh*t you not.

  • Ally

    Karma will pay this lying, thieving asshole back. Hopefully in the form of cancer or a heart attack. The sooner the better. Scumbag!

  • Ally

    Good luck. I had visual proof this guy wasn’t standing anywhere near his radar and of course he won. I always say its worth fighting but he WILL show up in court since he always has a laundry list of victims.

  • John R.

    Thnx for the heads up.
    My wife was with me, He says he “estimated”my speed”.
    Ticket say’s he used Laser Gun.- which is it pal?
    No posted speed limit.
    I hand him my ID, he walks back to his back, comes back a minute later as if I handed him my license– 3 times.
    Huh???
    All of this recorded – iPhone.
    This guy out to lunch..

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