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What is LAMC 80.27 and Why Is It Called “the Anti-Cargo Bike Law”

Safe. Fun. Legal? Photo:## Pigeon L.A./Flickr##

Last week, in the run-up to the City Council Transportation/Planning and Land Use Committee Hearing on the Bike Plan, Josef Bray-Ali wrote, "I don't think I can make it, but if someone can mention LAMC 80.27 (the anti-cargo bike law) and ask for its repeal as part of the bike plan that would be awesome."  The response from many people, including at least one Streetsblog commenter, was confusion.

So first, let's take a look at what LAMC 80.27 actually says.

LA Municipal Code, Chapter 8, Section 80.27

"A person operating a bicycle shall not ride other than upon the permanent and regular seat attached thereto, nor carry any other person upon such bicycle other than upon a firmly attached seat to the rear of the operator, nor shall any person ride upon a bicycle other than as above authorized. (Amended by Ord. No. 122,716, Eff. 10/5/62.)"

Bray-Ali points out that the city's code is in contrast with the state Vehicle Code:

California Vehicle Code 21204.

(a)( )1 A person operating a bicycle upon a highway shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto, unless the bicycle was designed by the manufacturer to be ridden without a seat.
(b) An operator shall not allow a person riding as a passenger, and a person shall not ride as a passenger, on a bicycle upon a highway other than upon or astride a separate seat attached thereto. If the passenger is four years of age or younger, or weighs 40 pounds or less, the seat shall have adequate provision for retaining the passenger in place and for protecting the passenger from the moving parts of the bicycle. (Amended Sec. 1, Ch. 594, Stats. 2009. Effective January 1, 2010.)

Both of these statutes refer to people, not cargo, but the reality is that for the handful of Angelenos, and millions of people around the world, front-loading cargo bikes are really about moving your children from place to place.  From personal experience, I can tell you that having your child safe and facing you while you look back at him while running errands is a special experience.  Our little corner of Mar Vista has gotten used to the laughing and singing cyclist and his little traveling assistant.  I know what I'm doing is safe, but is it legal?

My fellow scofflaw rides her 3 month old during CicLAvia.

This creates two questions.  The first is, does this law pertain to children riding in cargo bikes?  Secondly, when the CVC and LAMC are in conflict which takes precedence?  To answer these questions, Streetsblog turned to two cycling attorneys: Howard Krepack of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, and Ross Hirsch of Castellon and Funderburke LLP.

First, I showed both lawyers two pictures of children riding in cargo bikes and asked the question: does it look like these bikes are in violation of the law?  Second, I asked them if they had ever heard of someone being ticketed for violating this law.  So that I didn't get anyone in trouble, I used one picture of Sammy and me and another of Valentina Bray-Ali:

Hirsch: I Have NOT heard of someone...both those pictures are potentially problematic. Kinda hard to see all the details, but I could certainly see some problems that an overzealous and/or confused law enforcement officer might be able to use.

Krepack: I think the section of the code you refer to is poorly written and subject to different interpretations.  The word “upon” is vague and ambiguous to me in the context of the cited code section..  I don’t know if the two kiddie carts you link to, as configured on the bike, are illegal although I am sure one could argue that the section of the code you refer to makes them illegal, especially if you define the carts as “upon the bike.”

I found out about the conflict between the LAMC and the CVC after talking with the lawyers, but Streetsblog has already covered that when Los Angeles law is in conflict with state law, then state law takes precedence.

So where does this leave us?  Bray-Ali reports that officials at LADOT are looking at ways to amend the law.  But in the meantime, this nuisance law remains on the books.  If you'd like to know more about this issue, it's a sort of cause celeb' at the Flying Pigeon Bike Shop.  As a matter of fact, their blog has an update on the campaign to repeal LAMC 80.27 posted earlier today.

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