Report from Last Week’s DTLA Bike Sting

LAPD and Downtown BID Bike Patrol go for a ride. All Pics: Carlos Morales All captions: Damien Newton

On Thursday, March 1, 2012, the LAPD Central Traffic Division deployed eight motorcycle officers to Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) in what was called a “Bike Lane Sting.”  The LAPD’s mission was to educate and issue traffic citations to motorist, cyclist and pedestrians whose actions infringed on the rules of the road.   The focus was on bike lanes violations.  The task force deployed along both the green striped bike lane on Spring Street and soon to be striped Main Street.

I road my bike to DTLA to report on the bike sting.  Within minutes of my arrival, I come across the sting in action.  This post will report on four incidents that I thought were worth noting.

Really, she didn't know what the big green lanes with the bike painted in it was for?

The first incident: A traffic officer pulled over a driver for driving a block and a half in the bike lane.  The motor officer stated, “At first I thought the motorist was going to make a right turn at the intersection and had merged into the bike lane 200′ prior to the intersection.  There was no cyclist in the lane, I was going to let her go.  But when she proceeded through the intersection and continued to drive in the bike lane, I pulled her over to let her know what she did wrong and issued her a citation.  She said she was not aware of what these green lanes meant.”

Different place, different laws...but you can't go the wrong way on a one way street anywhere.

The second incident involved a cyclist traveling eastbound on 6th Street.  He made a left on to Spring Street heading northbound (Spring Street is a One Way traveling southbound.)  As the cyclist weaved his way thru traffic and made the left turn he came right to the front wheel of another traffic officer.  The officer issued the citation and I witnessed the officer explain why he was receiving a citation.

I spoke with the cyclist after the officer finished issuing the traffic ticket.  The cyclist in his early 50’s did not want to be interviewed, until I explained to him that perhaps he could prevent a fellow cyclist from receiving a citation who may read this post.

He agreed to speak but did not want to be identified by name said, “This is embarrassing, I am not from LA and I’m here visiting my daughter, I’m from Montana, from a small town of 24,000 we do not have these types of traffic problems and police that issue tickets to cyclists.  I knew there was something wrong as soon as I made the left turn and seen her in front of me.  I understand the danger of driving against traffic, I was site seeing and was not paying attention, I just followed that motorcycle and pointed it out (which was now parked on the sidewalk), I asked the officer why are you giving me a ticket and not that motorcycle that I followed onto this street? The officer said, ‘my view was blocked with a bus and only noticed you as the bus moved.'”

The title of this picture was "nut in traffic."

The third incident:  A cyclist caught my attention by his acrobatic antics on wheels, it was funny to see his dog and pony show but in a blink of an eye he became a very dangerous bike rider with disregard for public safety.

I followed him from a safe distance and noticed him swerving across all traffic lanes from curbside to curbside.  All of a sudden, at Spring and First Street0s, he went into a craze and stopped all traffic traveling in all directions with very dangerous maneuvers, at times challenging motorist head to head as they tried to drive around him causing complete chaos.    Unfortunately there were no traffic officers around to write him up.

The sign mentions the area is monitored by the Department of Public Safety.

Even though LAPD officers were specifically looking bike lane related violations, we noticed a several violations that were not being enforced and completely ignored.  Oversize delivery truck blocking a portion of the lane, this one was parked here for an hour and several motor officers and bike patrol officers road by without citing this vehicle.  In the picture there is a sign that reads; “NOTICE, FOR YOUR SAFETY THIS AREA IS MONITORED BY THE L.A.P.D. VIDEO CAMERAS.”  Are these the video cameras that were reported in the Los Angeles Times last month that they are not operating OR is someone not doing their job of Public Safety?

After Carlos pointed out that they were illegally blocking the bike lane, they helpfully put out these cones. There, everything safe. </sarcasm>

The fourth and most notable incident:  A film production company for the TV series “Ringer” was shooting a scene at 626 Spring Street.  When I rode by the first time there was lighting and grip equipment in the parking lane between the curb and bike lane.  On my second pass of the 18-block tour, the lighting, grip equipment and crew began to move and setup in the middle of the bike lane.  I witnessed a passing cyclist which had to swerve out of the bike lane and onto traffic lanes at times, as crew members were carrying equipment onto the street.  I began to take pictures to document several violations taking place IN THE BIKE LANE.

First of all, there were no traffic officers / police officers / LADOT / security guards upon my arrival on the street securing the cyclist safety as they rode by the obstacles and crew members concentrating on setting up the gear, there was no signage as required by CA Department of Transportation.

There was no LADOT alerting or directing merging traffic, there were no safety cones setup alerting motorist and cyclist of the closure of he bike lane, no flagman posted to slow traffic down, and no lighted directional signs.

Not until I requested to see a city issued film permit to block the bike lane did people start to move.  All of the sudden two retired LAPD Officers who were hired for this shoot came out from a nearby parking lot and positioned themselves IN THE BIKE LANE and began to waive down the cyclist in an uncoordinated fashion, the first officer pointed cyclists right into the path of the second officer.  However, the security officers made no attempt to slow automobiles as cyclists approached the danger zone.  Each cyclist basically had to maneuver themselves to get past this dangerous and illegal activity.

While witnessing this fiasco I contacted LAPD Sergeant David Krumer of the LAPD who amongst other duties is liason to the LAPD Bike Task Force and asked him if he had time to research what was going on. He made time to come and see for himself.  During the wait several LADOT automobiles passed by the shoot.

Upon Sgt. Krumer’s arrival, the location manager Greg Lazzaro, of CBS Productions came out to speak to Krumer and I, as did Derrick Storm, a monitor working for Film LA.  We had an impromptu meeting on the sidewalk.  Lazzaro stated, “I tried to obtain a bike lane closure from LADOT, they told me that they were not going to issue one.  We are trying to follow the new rules surrounding bike lanes.  There needs to be a lot more dialog between LADOT, LAPD, THE LAPD BIKE TASK FORCE, FILM LA and production companies to see where we can all respectfully come to a mutual understanding, and I am willing to be part of that dialog”, stated Lazzaro.  (Note from Damien: LADOT does allow permitting for lane closures of bike lanes.  More on that tomorrow.  Also, not receiving a permit does not give one the right to break the law…quite the opposite, in fact.)

I explained to both Lazzaro and Storm, “I truly understand, appreciate and support film production in Los Angeles.  I was formally in this industry and really enjoy it.  We need it to stay here in Los Angeles.  I am aware of the fiscal contributions and impact production companies make to our local economy of products and goods along with the many jobs it creates.  However, It is fair to disregards cyclist wellbeing and possibly loss of life because of wanting to get the shot and not properly planning.  If this green bike lane does not raise safety concerns then something is seriously wrong with this picture, safety comes first, whether it is actors, crewmembers, or the public, it can not be overlooked.”

Film L.A.’s website states, “The decision to issue a particular permit is vested in the discretion of the appropriate City or County department or their designees (including Film L.A., Inc.), to be exercised consistent with public health, safety and general welfare, and applicable land-use ordinances.”

To make matters worse, A Los Angeles City Fire Marshall assigned to this film / video shoot was standing only thirty feet behind me witnessing the entire scenario unfold.  He kept his hands in his pockets just looking at me take pictures and remained quiet as Krumer and I talked to Lazzaro and Storm.  He did not make one attempt to ensure public safety measures were in place in the bike lane, during the entire duration (well over an hour) while I was present on scene.

After our group conversation to address the concerns I had brought up, and with Sgt. Krumer’s departure back to his office, the crew began to wrap up their outdoor shoot and began to clear the bike lane.  Their next shot was a scene indoors.

I thought I made my point and as I saddled my bike and looked back to get ready to merge onto the bike lane, a white van pulls up in front of me, blocking the bike lane again, doors swing open while security guards waited on the sidewalk.  I remained in disbelief that it was happening again, only minutes later.

The crew had walkie-talkies and could have easily communicated with the driver to STAY OUT OF THE BIKE LANES.  As I reached into my backpack for my camera, a couple of handlers whisked an actor into the van, doors slam close and the van speeds off.  The van had plenty of room to properly park in the parking lane but again disregarded public safety and the Green Bike Lane.  I looked back at the LA City Fire Marshal, he just turned and walked away.

On this day I witnessed first hand a tremendous disconnect for Cyclist Safety by LAPD Central Bureau Motor Officers, LADOT, FILM LA, the CBS production company and LAFD.  A meeting must take place between all these agencies and include the LAPD BIKE TASK FORCE in order to keep LA moving forward.  Its one thing to say LA is becoming bike friendly on paper, or at a press conference, or website post, its another thing is MAKING IT HAPPEN.

In the future when the LAPD Bike Sting Task Force is deployed, looking for violators – open your eyes!

Here are the results of the LAPD Bike Sting presented to the LAPD Bike Task Force the following day.

There were 109 total citations broken down to the following:

  • 29 Cyclist (Primary violations – No Brakes)
  • 72 Motorist (Violations include: Cell phone, Unsafe lane change, and driving in the bike lane
  • 8 Pedestrians cited for crossing against a red traffic light
  • 0 citations issued for oversized vehicles in the bike lane

Carlos Morales’ weekly column is sponsored by the law firm of  Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP.

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