The Case of S.D. Cyclist Andrew Woolley, the CVC and Passing Cars on the Left


Ever since the opening of S.F. Streetsblog, we spend a lot of time looking North at what our brothers and sisters in Northern California are up to, that we miss stories happening just to our South.  Thanks to Biking In L.A., some were able to keep up with the case of Andrew Woolley, a cyclist wrongly ticketed, tried and convicted of passing car traffic on the left.  Why was he wrongly convicted?  Because, just as the LAPD’s obsession for ticketing cyclists for using crosswalks is "extra-legal," there is no law saying that what Woolsey did was illegal.  However, this story has a happy ending as Woolsey successfully gets the city to admit it’s own error.

On March of this year, Woolley was pulled over by S.D.P.D. Officer David Root and ticketed for passing cars on the left on his bicycle.  Root cited CVC 21202 a, which ironically enough allows for cyclists to pass vehicles on the left provided the cyclist can move more quickly than the cars.  Woolley appealed to Root’s supervisor, who agreed with him, but who could not nullify a ticket and Woolley was off to court.

When Woolley showed up to court with a copy of the law, a judge agreed with Woolley, but then found Woolley guilty anyway because he should have been riding in the gutter, i.e. should have been riding "the the right."  However, the cyclist wasn’t done fighting the ticket and for more reasons than he was upset by the $160 fine.  He appealed to the San Diego City Attorney’s office who earlier this month released an opinion that Wooley was right and the judge and SDPD were wrong.  Woolley is now trying to get his $160 back and filing a complaint against Officer Root, who in addition to not knowing the law filed his own complaint with Woolley’s company against the cyclist’s conduct fighting his wrongful ticket.

At his own blog, Woolley detailed his lessons learned while chronicling his effort to fight a wrongful ticket.  It’s a good read for any cyclist who finds himself on the right side of the law but the wrong side of a mis-informed police officer.

  • This was a frightening case, because it exemplifies the problems cyclists face on the streets. Even when we’re well versed in the law and do everything right, we can still face problems from drivers, police and judges who lack a clear understanding of the law. Wooley finally won his case, yet just the other day, a Santa Cruz cyclist was ticketed for getting doored by a driver:

  • UrbanReason

    If SoCal police are so eager to ticket cyclists, how about they ticket cyclists for RIDING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE STREET… IN THE STREET. I’ve been to so many american cities, large and small, and have NEVER seen this to the extent I see it in SoCal (on a DAILY basis). I’ve seen cops drive right passed them. Ignorance of bike law on both the part of police and cyclists is troubling in soCal.

  • Brent


    Was it a cyclist or motorist cited in the Santa Cruz dooring incident? I can’t see any reference to a bicyclist in that article, other than the example that a motorist driving in the bicycle lane, who hits a car door, might get a ticket.

  • @Bikinginla – the article doesn’t say it was a cyclist who was ‘doored,’ and it even suggests to me that it was a motorist who hit the door.

  • Brent & Yakoda — 

    You’re right; I went back and read the article again, and it does suggest that it was a driver who was doored. I guess I just assumed dooring referred to a cyclist, since most non-cycling drivers don’t use that term — or even know what it means.

  • yet another reason to be glad i left that stink-hole 17 years ago. good riddance to bad rubbish.


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