LAPD Training USC Security That “Biking in Crosswalks” Is Illegal

9_23_09_crosswalk.jpgA cyclist flaunts her violation of a non-existant law. Photo: Katherine Hitt/Flickr

h/t to reader Jass.

The Daily Trojan reports that the LAPD and USC Campus Security are teaming up to more effectively enforce the law that prohibits cyclists from crossing the street while riding. What the article misses, and what the LAPD sometimes seems to understand and sometimes gets confused is that such a ban doesn’t exist.

In fact, there is no written law regarding the duties of cyclists anywhere. Sometimes the LAPD claims that the state vehicle code (C.V.C.) requiring cyclists to follow road rules as though they were drivers is the law behind the ban. That the Los Angeles Municipal Code, with the approval of the state vehicle code, allows cyclists full use of the sidewalk unless otherwise stated would also give cyclists the right to use crosswalks as pedestrians do.  There isn’t a clear answer here because there is no prohibition written anywhere that applies to Californians or Angelenos that specifically spells out the rights of cyclists to use the crosswalk.

At Soap Box, Stephen Box recounts a conversation he has with an "Officer K" about just this issue in the wake of a DWP truck killing a cyclist in the crosswalk and being cleared by Valley LAPD because she was "biking the wrong way in the crosswalk." Putting aside that it is impossible to travel the wrong way in a crosswalk, the rest of Box’s tale is at least just as troubling:

He said he had to write it that way because there was no California Vehicle Code (CVC) to rely on to enforce that ban against riding in the crosswalk.

I countered by pointing out that it’s not illegal to ride a bike in the crosswalk and that was why there was no CVC prohibiting it.

He stiffened up a bit here and responded that it was up to a Judge to decide and that even if the ticket got thrown out by the Judge, the process was a learning experience.

If the LAPD’s assertion that crosswalk riding is illegal, I have a small list of people that need to be frog marched in front of a judge: Metro Bicycle Coordinator Lynn Goldsmith and LADOT Senior Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowery. These two diabolical planners green-lighted the Orange Line Bike Path. A bike path that includes multiple street crossings that are crosswalks. I’ve even biked the Orange Line with Goldsmith and consider her a friend, but justice needs to be served.

However, if the LAPD is confused about this law, perhaps the City Council and Mayor’s office could clarify it with a formal resolution and vote. There’s a reason there’s no law governing bicycle riding in a sidewalk, which incidentally I don’t do, and it’s not because our state and local lawmakers are ok with the LAPD creating their own laws.

  • joe

    well you would think that they would post crosswalk traps near lake balboa on Saturday’s to catch all those lawbreakers. Somebody died riding a crosswalk, shouldn’t there be some sort of over reaching LAPD enforcement of these violations?

  • DJB

    So many people bike in those diagonal crosswalks on Jefferson it’d be kind of ridiculous to stop it at this point, even if that were a good idea. College campuses need to defer to bikes. They have large student populations living nearby riding to class (seriously, it’s like Davis over there).

    It’s really confusing to have a situation where every city has its own laws about bikes, except for the .001% of the population that bothers to look these laws up. This is some really esoteric stuff (apparently the DMV manual is just advice, not law in some instances: confusing, even for cops, whose job it is to enforce laws). LA County has 88 cities, plus unincorporated areas. Isn’t it time for some uniformity? How about a uniform state law spelling out where bikes can ride?

    You shouldn’t have to be a lawyer to ride a damn bike.

  • LOL! @rounding up the perps responsible for that outlaw Orange Line!

  • Allison Mannos

    Well, after talking with LAPD Bicycle Coordination Unit recently, I learned that while biking through crosswalk in LA is legal, regardless of direction, if you’re not walking it through and you get hit by a car, you’re considered a “vehicle” and can be at fault, whereas if you walked it through the intersection, you are considered a “pedestrian”, who would probably never be at fault.

  • The car is always at fault.

  • angle

    #1 @Allison: I don’t believe there’s any law on the books explicitly stating that a bicycle is considered a vehicle if ridden in a crosswalk. Can anyone back me up on this?

    Technically speaking, a cyclist has the “rights and responsibilities” of a vehicle driver, but a vehicle driver would never, in theory, be driving “in” a crosswalk. So how can a cyclist be treated as a vehicle in a crosswalk?

    #2: I would be in favor of completely banning sidewalk cycling for people over a certain age (like in many other major cities) and definitively classifying bikes as vehicles. This would solve a lot of these kinds of legal ambiguities, help cyclists to ride more safely as a part of traffic, and discourage the LAPD from citing cyclists for nonexistent laws. Of course, that would also mean that LA would have to make sure that roadway facilities were reasonably safe for cyclists to ride on, which is unlikely to happen. Much easier to tell cyclists to “get on the sidewalk! Unless you’re in a business district Downtown! Or West Hollywood! But don’t ever ride in the crosswalk!”.

    #3: I think for a lot of people, killing a cyclist is kind of like running over a cat. “Aw, too bad, poor kitty got in the way.”

  • M

    I think what we’re getting at is that intersections are dangerous for everyone. That’s where a large % of bicycle accidents occur as well as a variety of car accidents. Maybe for everyone’s safety, no one should be riding/driving through the intersections at a speed faster than walking. Every time that I’ve almost been hit as a pedestrian or bicyclist was in an intersection.

    Even if the laws were more explicit about forbidding riding a bike or car through a crosswalk or intersection, it would seem like one of those things that people really don’t end up enforcing. It only really comes up in the case of an accident in assigning blame. How often are cars blocking crosswalks at intersections or the ramps for the sidewalk? How often does anyone catch them on it? Despite the illegality of talking on phones while driving, I’ve personally heard of a single person getting a ticket for this and they were blow away by it. That’s no where close to the % of people I still see driving around holding and and blabbing on their phone. I have a feeling this would end up being the same thing. Making biking in a crosswalk wouldn’t address the root problems. It just makes someone’s life a little easier when trying to cite someone.

  • Jared

    I’m an avid cyclist and student at USC. I strictly follow the vehicle code when it comes to cycling and only ride on the road.

    It does get really crazy on and around campus with all of the bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Most of the people on bikes don’t understand any of the bicycle laws. You can be in your car and sit at a stop sign for 30 seconds because bike after bike are running a stop sign and crossing in front of you.

    I’m a firm believer that riding a bicycle in a crosswalk should be illegal. Personally, I think riding on a sidewalk should be illegal as well. I’ve already heard all the arguments in favor of biking on sidewalks in LA but I don’t want to get into that right now. The problem I’ve witnessed dozens of times, whether I’m the one driving or I’m just an observer, is near misses because a bicycle riding along the sidewalk at 5 times the speed of a pedestrian (that’s only 10 mph), suddenly appears in a crosswalk from behind a vehicle that’s turning right. As the driver, it’s easy to make sure a pedestrian isn’t about to enter the crosswalk. Their slower speed means you can simply look beside your car or slightly behind it (in case it’s a jogger). But to notice a bicycle moving 10 mph, which isn’t very fast at all, you have to look 30-50ft behind your vehicle to be sure.

    Most drivers don’t do this. I hardly do it, only in heavily biked intersections. Most cyclists don’t realize that by riding up to and entering an intersection at such a speed is extremely dangerous for them and only further aggravates drivers who nearly hit said cyclist.

  • Juan

    When can we start driving on sidewalks?

  • USC has a massive parking shortage, induced by car-only roads. It’s student cyclists are almost universally clueless, and now campus security is going to harass these kids.

    Instead of throwing tickets around, how about a focus on education and training of students in proper cycling technique joined with a bit of lobbying by the USC public affairs team to make the streets around the campus for bicycle freindly? Is there anyone or anything that USC does to train its students in proper cycling technique? They could solve a lot of problems with parking by getting more students on bikes, and they could protect their students with proper training and safer streets.

    It’s not like the university is running out of money nor smart people. I’m forwarding this to everyone I know at USC.

  • Will Campbell

    @ Allison: Bikes are classified as “devices” in the state of California, not vehicles.

    So for someone at the LAPD Bike Coordination Unit to tell Allison that a person riding their bike through a crosswalk magically transforms it from a device to a vehicle is misguided.

  • DJwheels

    Totally agree with ubrayj. Need to be proactive about educating everyone.

    from the Daily Trojan article:
    “DPS officers cannot yet issue tickets, but they can cite students to USC Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards.”

    Wait a minute. YET? YET??? Are USC security guards even constitutionally allowed to issue traffic citations?

    I thought USC was a private school and it’s Department of Public Safety officers also private employees.

    How the hell are they getting around the 4th Amendment? Are they deputizing USC security guards now?

    What’s sad about this whole debate is that police officers never bring up this sorry excuse for a “law” until after the fact, when they need to determine who’s at fault for the mangled corpse on the road.

    If cross walk riding is against the “law,” then they need to start citing everyone all over the city, not just at a couple intersections near USC. An overwhelming majority of LAPD never give out citations for this, and they know it. They’re just trying to cover their ass now.

    In any case, I’d love to see these citations contested in court. There’s a pretty good argument for the invalidity of such a citation.

  • Spokker

    “#3: I think for a lot of people, killing a cyclist is kind of like running over a cat. “Aw, too bad, poor kitty got in the way.””

    I think for a lot of people, killing a cyclist is a devastating experience and many of those people, even if they are not at fault, cry before they sleep that night.

  • @Allison – Will is right. Legally under the California Vehicle Code, bicycles are not vehicles, they’re devices. The officer was wrong. (I’m shocked. jk)

    Not sure that this distinction serves us cyclists or gets us respect or anything… and I do think that bicyclists should behave like (nice, light, friendly) vehicles… but, in the letter of the law, bicycles definitely aren’t vehicles.

  • So, when is the next staged bicycle protest in the crosswalks at USC going to be? We could just circle a crosswalk waiting to be “cited” or “ticketed” or whatever, and then contest it in court to see what the heck is going on.

  • woc

    How about spending some time going after people who violate real laws like those jerks on bicycles that NEVER stop at the pedestrian crosswalks, where there’s a big red stop sign. Even when there’s human traffic on them.

  • angle

    “I think for a lot of people, killing a cyclist is a devastating experience and many of those people, even if they are not at fault, cry before they sleep that night.”

    OK, that’s a fair point, and I did not intend to imply that cyclists don’t have a social obligation to ride responsibly, or that their actions only affect their personal safety.

    More specifically stated, I could have said that the attitude of some people regarding cyclists on public roads is that they are intruding into an arena where they are out of place and unavoidably in danger, similar to a stray animal. Since you can’t expect stray animals to act in a responsible manner, there’s no policies in place for how they might integrate into traffic.

    Certainly, with cyclists, there are some laws that purport to integrate them into traffic (stay to the right or in the bike lane), but when a situation arises like the one in this post, where there’s no definitive law in place, it usually ends up that the cyclist is at fault. The logic seems to be that since city streets aren’t really designed for cycling, it’s counter-productive to (legally) blame motorists for colliding with them.

  • angle

    @ Joe:

    Here’s what bugs me about that law: what is the effective difference between having the “rights and responsibilities” of a vehicle driver and actually BEING a vehicle driver?

    It’s kind of like shouldering the responsibilities of being a CEO, but having the job title of “Assistant Secretary”.

  • @ DJwheels

    USC Department of Public Safety Officers (DPS) are fully deputized LAPD community affairs officer. They have the power to patrol, detain suspect (but not arrest), and issue traffic citations. They also assists LAPD in all manners of crime investigation and law enforcement in surrounding non-University owned property and neighborhoods in the University Park and the adjacent Exposition Park areas. Although technically, they only have jurisdiction over students, staff, and faculty at USC, they are essentially the University Park sub-station of LAPD, except they are paid by USC instead of the city. When a local resident in University Park calls 911, the dispatch at LAPD will send out DPS at first responder rather than LAPD, which can be called by DPS is they need backup.

  • @angle (was your question directed at me or the other Joe above? or was it just a rhetorical question?)

    Instead of comparing cars/bikes to CEO/secretaries… I think it’s more like cars/bikes to drudgery/freedom. Sure, bicyclists in L.A. don’t get the facilities we need and deserve… but I’d still much rather be on a bike here than sludging through traffic. The “effective difference” is that it’s fun and healthy and liberating to be on a bike.

  • Sam

    As a cyclist with the “rights and responsibilities” of a vehicle, the defenition under the law SHOULD offer all cyclists equal protection. Just like a vehicle can’t slam into another vehicle for no good reason, a vehicle can’t force another vehicle off the road. The California Vehicle Code provides some solid foundations; in my opinion the trouble is getting enforcement and vehicle drivers to understand and abide by the regulations.

    However, by the defenition, a bicycle in a crosswalk must yield right-of-way to a pedestrian. Therefore, in very busy pedestrian environments, a bicycle probably shouldn’t be ridden in a crosswalk (in terms of riding with the flow of pedestrian traffic). A bicycle crossing a crosswalk (perpendicular to the flow of pedestrian traffic) would have to abide by regulations for vehicles within a crosswalk (basically OK but must yield to peds and cannot advance if peds are present).

    A lot of these laws are in place to ensure safety for all users of the transportation system, so a little understanding of the premise may allow for a more reasonable debate and ultimately a solution that benefits all users.

  • This came up when conservative talk show host John Ziegler was “arrested” by USC security for protesting Katie Couric receiving a journalism award. The consensus is that USC security have specifically delineated powers through a memorandum of understanding.

    Here is a good article about this:

  • Interestingly, at the ‘furd, Santa Clara County has deputized those officers patrolling the LSJU campus with the same powers as any Santa Clara County sheriff. (It helps that LSJU is all within unincorporated territory.) I don’t see LAPD giving those powers to U$C any time soon.

  • Charlie

    Maybe I’m wrong, but doesn’t CVC 21200 relate to operation of bicycles on a highway, not a roadway?

  • Charlie

    Regardless, apparently there are signs which say “walk your bike in the crosswalk” so the violation is of an LA municipal code. SEC. 85.07. REGULATION OF ROLLER-SKATING, SKATEBOARDING AND BICYCLING.

    I’d question whether or not those signs are at all visible, since I had no idea they existed until my friend told me (and she only realized their existence after she was told of them – by the officer issuing her a ticket).

  • Charlie

    P.S. Ignore my first comment – I missed that highway includes street.

  • SEC. 85.07. REGULATION OF ROLLER-SKATING, SKATEBOARDING AND BICYCLING. (Added by Ord. No. 166,526, Eff. 1/27/91.) (a) The Department of Transportation is hereby authorized to install any traffic control devices it determines necessary to regulate roller-skating, skateboarding and bicycling on sidewalks and roadways in order to improve vehicular or pedestrian movement, reduce congestion or diminish accident potential. Such determinations shall be made only on the basis of traffic engineering principles and traffic investigations. When such determinations have been made, the Department is authorized to install signs giving notice as to the nature of the regulation as well as signs that provide such safety warnings as it determines will assist those engaged in the regulated activities.

    (b) No person shall roller-skate, skateboard, or operate a bicycle in violation of the limitations set forth on regulatory signs posted pursuant to this section.

    I wonder what the “traffic engineering principals and determinations” are.

  • DJwheels

    Thank you, bzcat and calwatch.

    I’m still a little concerned with DPS authority to issue traffic citations for this though.

    If there really are signs around campus prohibiting riding in the crosswalk, the citations should properly list the municipal code violation and not the vehicle code because the CVC is ambiguous, at best, on this issue.

  • […] Fast forward four months. Damien Newton reports in L.A. Streetsblog that the Los Angeles Police Department is “training USC Security that ‘biking in crosswalks’ is illegal.” […]

  • […] Fast forward four months. Damien Newton reports in L.A. Streetsblog that the Los Angeles Police Department is “training USC Security that ‘biking in crosswalks’ is illegal.”…Except there’s one little problem with that enforcement program: Riding a bike through an intersection doesn’t “violate regulations.” […]

  • Those “principles” likely have nothing to do with measuring the trips taken on foot or by bicycle. Likewise, the amount of bike vs. car, bike vs. ped, etc. crashes and injuries also have nothing to do with these “principles”. I say this because the city does not measure any of these things when they make their determinations.

    So, if it is not the measured safety, nor the measured amount of trips, nor any other measure – then it must be something meaningless like the direction the winds are blowing after lunch in the LADOT’s offices.

  • USc has a Master Plan, and to formulate that Master Plan they have hired private consultants Fehr & Peers Transportation. F&P are experts in traffic calming!

    Who might a reporter/advocate contact to start working with USC to steer their lobbying efforts towards more bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets?

    You would probably want to start with their External Affairs group:

  • rachel

    it’s easy money and the city needs $$. as simple as that. =)

  • Well, all of this is ‘very well and good’, however -when is anybody ever going to hold pedestrians accountable for THEIR stupidity? For instance:

    Not watching where THEY’RE walking or even being aware of what’s going on around them! I’ve been in more than enough near-misses because the pedestrian wasn’t paying attention to where THEY were walking -some were even ‘texting while walking’ -let’s make another ‘stupid law’ and ticket THEM for that! And, would I have avoided them if I had been in the street? Yes -but maybe not that drunk idiot careening up behind me in a car! The fact is, that in all of our travels, beit by walking, riding a bike, or driving a motor vehicle, said modes of transport should only be operated in a ‘safe and intelligent manner’. That means, if the traffic in my area is so dangerous for me to operate my bicycle safely (cars speeding, not stopping completely at stop signs, taking up too much of the road, weaving, etc. Or, just plain NOT PAYING ATTENTION! All of which, I as a cyclist, am expected to be aware of -but not pedestrians apparently!) Then Yeah, you’re damn right I’m gonna ride on the sidewalk! I feel there’s nothing wrong with it as long as it’s done safely -and part of THAT RESPONSIBILITY lies with the pedestrian paying attention and being courteous -NOT belligerant!

    We as cyclists are forced unfairly to live up to a higher standard of awareness and responsibility than are pedestrians -and that’s a form of biased inequality in spades! All of you can say what you like about me for saying this -I don’t care: I’m tired of these ‘namby-pamby ped-whiners’ who don’t have to be responsible for THEIR OWN ACTIONS -instead, CYCLISTS are expected to pick-up that tab! I’d rather take my chances of possibly hitting a pedestrian (and I can guarantee you it will have been THEIR fault for not payng attention to their surroundings!)than getting hit by a car -period!

    Why should I be expected to risk getting hit by a car for them -so they can continue to pretend they own the sidewalk?! Are they gonna pay my hospital bills for me after I get maimed by some idiot behind the wheel? I think not! Do they care? I doubly think not!! So in my opinion, it’s just as much (if not more) the ‘ped-whiner’s’ fault as it is the pig-heads in cars that put us cyclists at risk because they’re so ‘molly-cottled’ by the DMV & CVC when it comes to taking responsibility for their OWN damn stupidity -AND, by complaining everytime they see one of us cyclists on the sidewalk! THEY NEED TO QUIT CRYING, GROW UP and LEARN HOW TO PAY ATTENTION TO THEIR SURROUNDINGS! As far as I’m concerned if you’re too obtuse and effectively so ‘brain-dead’ as to be able to pay attention to what’s going on around you while traveling as slow as a pedestrian on a sidewalk, then you need to take ‘walking classes’! And, if you’re THAT dumb -maybe you should just stay home -because in fact, you’re the cause of a lot of cyclist’s wrecks! God forbid you have to go all the way out of YOUR WAY to step aside for a brief moment of politeness! Jesus Christ Oh Mighty have I.Q.’s really dropped since Reagan became president 30+ yrs. ago!

    P.S. The root word of ‘pedestrian’ & ‘pedal’ is ‘PED’, i.e. ‘FOOT’! Ergo: Cyclists deserve to be treated with the same respect as a pedestrian -even while riding on the sidewalk!

    P.P.S. After I got out of the Marine Corps in ’80 & noticed Reagan was president and ‘Rap’ was considered ‘music’, I also noticed people waiting for an elevator began to attempt entering it before letting the people on it get off! “Stoopidity is Cool” came with Reagan -and all of a sudden, we couldn’t think or take responsibility for ourselves anymore. Stupid laws are for stupid people -educate the ‘fools’ instead of ‘fool-proofing’ them, and we can do away with all these ‘foolish’ laws that favor the fools! “The best ruler, is the one with the least rules.” -Confuscious

  • Opps! Sorry for the typo! That was supposed to read:

    “As far as I’m concerned if you’re too obtuse and effectively so ‘brain-dead’ as to be ‘UN-able’ to pay attention to what’s going on around you while traveling as slow as a pedestrian on a sidewalk, then you need to take ‘walking classes’!


  • Memon Mustafa

    Hey Rick,

    I was cited last week for not walking my bike through the cross walk between 28th street and University Avenue, since I was in a rush running late for my midterms, I did not pay much heed to it, and only after coming home after the exam, I realised that the ticket he gave me was for not stopping on the stop sign, thats simply ridiculous.

    Also, when I asked him how much is the ticket going to be like he told, somewhere around $120 , whereas when I got the ticket in my mail its of $234.
    Please reply to me at memon.mustafa at, if in case you wanna help me.



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