We’re halfway there

July 28, 2014 § 51 Comments

As part of the “Cyclists Belong in the Lane on PCH” project, on Sunday the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department met us at 8:00 AM in the parking lot of Will Rogers State Park. They were in an unmarked Ford Explorer. Greg Seyranian and Dave Kramer had rallied the Big Orange troops, along with other riders from the West Side and the South Bay. There were about fifty cyclists total.

This was the second phase of our law enforcement-cyclist cooperative. The first phase involved getting ticketed for riding in the lane, and then throwing a shit-fit about it followed by meetings with Captain Pat Devoren and his team of deputies. Much of the heavy lifting was done by Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition wunderkind Eric Bruins. Give them some money if you’re feeling so disposed.

As a result of the meetings, Captain Devoren suggested a ride-along where deputies would follow behind a Sunday group ride. This was going to be our opportunity to educate them about the realities of riding a bike on PCH, and about how much safer it is to ride in the lane than in the gutter.

The Big Orange peloton had prepared an excellent ride plan. From Temescal to Las Flores they would ride in the gutter, switching to the lane at those points where the shoulder vanishes, or where there are cars parked on the shoulder, or where other space considerations make continued progress in the gutter impossible. This would give the following deputies an opportunity to see how dangerous it is to continually switch from gutter to lane.

After Las Flores, the peloton would ride single file “as far to the right as practicable” per CVC 21202. This would show the deputies two things: first, that a line of 50 riders going single file on PCH is significantly more of an obstacle to motorists than a single, compact peloton riding 2×2. Second, it would demonstrate with utter clarity that even when riding “FTR” there is not enough space for a bike and a car to share the lane — and that’s without the 3-foot passing law that kicks in this September.

At Cross Creek the peloton would flip it and ride back to Temescal utilizing the full lane. This would let the deputies compare traffic flow, safety, and predictability of the cyclists versus the other two methods.

The peloton rolled out and we hung back in the unmarked vehicle for about a minute. Then, we got a little surprise: because it looked like we were tailgating the cyclists, a park ranger put on his flashers and pulled us over. It’s pretty awesome getting stopped by law enforcement when you’re in an unmarked vehicle with two dudes carrying LASD badges. Suffice it to say, no one got a ticket!

The deputies were immediately impressed with the difficulty and inherent danger of doing gutter-and-lane back-and-forth maneuvers. Although motorists didn’t harass anyone or honk, the constant motion from gutter to lane was plainly fraught with potential conflict, especially since the traffic at 8:00 AM on Sunday is incredibly light compared to what happens on this stretch of PCH during a weekday, or later in the day on a nice weekend.

When the Big Orange group shifted to single file, it was also clear that there was no possible way that a car could safely share the lane with the cyclists. The deputies immediately saw that putting fifty riders in a long single file created an extremely long line of riders. When I told them that as of September the weekly Big O contingent would be double that in size, they understood the importance of keeping the group as compact as possible.

On the final leg from Cross Creek back to Temescal, the chief concern of the deputies was how traffic would be obstructed. It wasn’t, not even a little. One deputy commented that it was no different from a motorist who has to go around a slow moving vehicle like a bus or a dump truck. They also noted the incredible number of obstacles for any rider who might choose to ride in the gutter. Cars parked up against the fog line, people opening doors, surfers magically appearing with surfboards, and bad surface conditions in the gutter were all things that became easy to understand when pointed out while following the peloton at a slow speed of 20/21 mph.

The deputies were fully on board with the idea that the best place for a group is in the lane. This is a huge change and represents a watershed in the way that law enforcement views bicyclists on PCH. The only concern they still had was how this type of lane control would affect traffic when it was only one or two riders and when it was done during rush hour.

I volunteered to do another drive along, this time with only one or two riders so they could see that although the obstruction of traffic was minimal, the motorist harassment is extreme and terrifying. We’re going to set up a date for that experiment, perhaps this coming week.

The take home for cyclists who want to ride in the lane on PCH is this: the deputies will report back to Captain Devoren and based on their report we will follow up with LASD to confirm that for now, at least as regards groups of riders, cyclists can expect not to be cited for CVC 21202 violations simply for riding in the lane. Hopefully we’ll be able to get that confirmation in writing or as a directive that is sent out to deputies working traffic enforcement on PCH.

I want to stress that this is a work in progress. We’ve gotten key deputies to examine this stretch of PCH from a cyclist’s perspective, and in their words, “We’ve been educated about what cyclists face on PCH.” It doesn’t mean that the issue is fully resolved, especially with regard to solo riders or cyclists in groups of two or three.

Although it’s tempting to describe this as a “victory,” it’s much more a significant step in the right direction. The sheriff’s department has been professional and not even the slightest big adversarial with regard to these discussions. With the continued support and open-minded approach of LASD — not to mention the riders who are willing to come out and help with the process of educating law enforcement — we may not be too far from the day when all cyclists will be able to exercise their right to ride in the lane all the way from Santa Monica to County Line and beyond.

Huge thanks to all of the people who have given time, lent encouragement, and donated money to keep this project moving ahead. Thanks as well to Captain Devoren and LASD for being open to change. If you want to get involved as a volunteer, send me your contact info to fsethd@gmail.com. You can also:

  1. Subscribe to this blog: Your $2.99 monthly donation helps me advocate for cyclists.
  2. Join California Association of Bicycling Organizations. $10, cheap.
  3. Join LA County Bicycle Coalition.
  4.  Talk with your club and discuss riding in the lane on PCH the next time you’re out that way.

It’s been less than a year since Greg Seyranian and Big Orange began using lane control on their group rides on PCH. Thanks again to all who have helped.

Tagged: , , ,

§ 51 Responses to We’re halfway there

  • Joe C says:

    I know this is a stupid question (what do you expect, I’m a gun owner from west Texas), but is there any hope of getting the PCH rebuilt to be bike friendly? It’s hard to visualize without having seen it.

    • fsethd says:

      Cliffs that run right up to the road on one side, ocean on the other. There’s no space.

    • Rob says:

      Joe, there was a time back in the mid to late 80’s where the shoulder was quite wide to accommodate cyclists. Rock/landslides over the decades have taken that away. Same with Mulholland. It’s not easy to move mountains so lane control is the next best thing. Personally, I stay away from PCH during the summer. Too unpredictable. It’s best ridden on a cold winter overcast day. Very few cars.

  • Steve Kurland says:

    Great work!

  • mighkwilson says:

    Bravo to you guys for being proactive, assertive, and cooperative!
    Showing beats Telling every time.

    Mighk Wilson
    President, American Bicycling Education Association
    abea.bike

  • Peter says:

    Thanks to all who are working on this, it will save lives.

  • Darwin says:

    Great job..but I wonder if the conclusion they will reach is to close that stretch to cyclists. Not hearing any signs of it but I wonder…

    • fsethd says:

      Doubtful. It’s the only roadway north from LA on the coastal side. Next step is to get BMFUL/sharrows installed.

    • darelldd says:

      I can’t see how the road could be closed to cyclists – especially if the “safety card” is played to win it. The only legitimate way to improve safety on that stretch is to close it to automobiles.

    • channel_zero says:

      It would not be legal to close PCH as the road does not carry that designation. I forget the name, but, occasionally you will see “highways” of some special designation closed to cyclists in California.

      Separately, this could go wrong. Watch out for the city/county reps on this issue.

      You forget there are “darker forces” at work in municipal government trying to keep cagers moving. They are stakeholders in this issue, with a great deal of power, and if the Sherriff’s department is doing their job thoroughly, there will be a consult with them too.

      In this sense, advocating for the Sheriff’s department by contacting city/county reps for the area may be worth some consideration/effort. Then more stakeholders are aware of the changes.

    • billdsd says:

      It’s not a controlled access highway. It has driveways and cross streets. That means that bicyclists cannot legally be banned from this road.

      • fsethd says:

        There’s a common misconception that bikes can be “banned” from roads, kind of like rocket launchers.

        No Rocket Launchers.
        No Inline Skaters.
        No Amish.
        No Bicycles.

        You scrawl a long list of all the things you want banned on a bit white sign and just post the damn thing.

  • darelldd says:

    What great news, Seth! Was there any video taken? What a great learning tool that could be for others.

    Seems that it’ll be difficult to demonstrate what regular drivers are going to do if there’s already a car following/shielding the riders (thinking of the coming two-rider scenario). If traffic is already going around the unmarked police car, drivers don’t seem to mind as much when they pass the cyclists. But I’m sure you’ve already got a plan for that! How amazing would it be to get some deputies on bikes!

    • fsethd says:

      We do have a video. If you’re not friends with Gary Cziko on Facebook, friend him and I’m sure he will share the video with you.

      We were far enough behind the peloton so that traffic was not obstructed by our following; 100 – 300 yards back.

  • Liz says:

    Seth and the deputies were following really far back. Far enough that at one point I looked back and saw a guy in a Subaru with a bike rack following pretty close to us. He had his hazards on and I suspect he figured he was protecting us. He eventually turned up Las Flores.
    It was great to be apart of that yesterday. I wish there’d been more traffic. A nice sunny day with high surf would have been perfect.
    As for solo riding on PCH, that’s a whole other ball game.
    Thanks for getting this going Seth & BO!

  • Worldchamp says:

    I agree, we can’t declare victory yet, except in the battle foe better communication between cyclists and law officials. But I’m so impressed how far we’ve come in that battle! Good job to you for starting the battle and BigO foe realizing, no we won’t die by taking the lane AND being so patient and constructive in their approach to this rebellion.

  • Thanks for all your hard work, Seth. It was a great experience. Now if we could just get more folks to learn how to ride a tight 2×2…

  • sarahrides says:

    The impact to a cyclist’s safety will go beyond your geographical area. We had a case down here in San Diego where Ron Lacey owner of Rose Canyon Cycles won his appeal and used CVC 21202 as his defense. I am talking about you, your efforts and the code as often as I can. What you have done is outstanding. Thank you, Seth & Company, for making inroads for our safety. Impressive stuff !

  • kcornell7 says:

    Your tone has changed on the topic as you work together with the authorities to resolve the conflict. It is a natural progression when both sides approach a problem with open minds.

    Nice work proving out suppositions.

    Maybe you can help out in the Middle East?

    • fsethd says:

      Although I prefer to be a ranting, raving, screaming maniac, it’s a hard act to sustain. Especially when you’re working with decent, professional people.

  • Congratulations!…Who woulda thought!?…oh, yeah, US!…Last year, when we FIRST started riding in the lane, we THOUGHT it was the correct / legal & safest way…little did we know that the Police were not on the “same page”. Hopefully this opens the educational doors, and more and more Police get in our corner!

  • Gary Cziko says:

    No need to be friends with me to see video of the ride (although I do like having friends).

    Here’s a clip of the fun, safe, legal and cooperative part of the ride when we were riding two abreast controlling the right travel lane:

  • Gary Cziko says:

    . . . and here’s G3 and the Wankmeister rallying the troops before we head out on the PCH.

  • Tom Paterson says:

    Well done. It’s all about establishing the legitimate right to be there.

  • Patrick says:

    Last Friday I took a solo ride from Redondo to Pt. Mugu and there were a few instances where I had to take a lane. Surprisingly enough, I had no issues at all (and this was during rush hour on the return). I guess Cher was out of town.

    Keep up the good work, Maybe one of these days I will actually feel safe on PCH.

  • […] getting the enforcement to comply with the laws in CA infrastructure news. We’re halfway there This is documenting a long-term effort to get LEO to actually enforce the laws as written instead […]

  • East Coast baby seal says:

    Nice Job Seth. You’ve got an uphill battle ahead of you…

    Caught this on NPR this morning: http://www.npr.org/2014/07/29/336226579/la-bicycle-commuters-form-bike-trains-for-safety

    ~3:00 into the piece is the one of the biggest problems (as I see it) – asshole drivers who think the road is just for them. This one admits to buzzing cyclists to scare them out of her way.

  • Joseph Lyons says:

    Great work, but coming from a skeptic (that’s me), I’d be wary of wolves in sheep’s clothing. It appears that, ultimately, law enforcement officials will develop and implement “policy” governing the enforcement of MVR on the PCH. Though they may “appear” to have a sympathetic view of the perils faced by cyclists on the roadways, they may simply use this new found “understanding” as a mechanism against cyclists. And, the lauds and kudos you’re trumpeting could ultimately go to underscore their half-baked decision making process as being fair and unbiased. Hopefully I’m way off base on this one.

    • fsethd says:

      Hopefully.

    • Serge Issakov says:

      I’m sure you’re way off base, Joseph. Law enforcement has no legal grounds to support the implementation of “‘policy’ governing the enforcement of MVR (motor vehicle rules?) on the PCH”.

      The narrow lane exception in 21202 has been in the law since the 1970s. Few were aware of it for decades, but the cat is out of the bag now.

      What is theoretically possible is legislative action, but the same liability argument that got the exceptions into 21202 in the first place would be used to keep them in.

  • Stacy Kline says:

    Amazing effort, Seth! I am so proud of your advocacy on the behalf of cyclists. This is practical, positive, and effective advocacy. Your outreach to the LASD and the Santa Paula Police Dept. turned two very bad situations into positive lessons for everyone, especially non-cyclists.

    Like East Coast baby seal, I too was disturbed by the woman who admitted to buzzing cyclists on the NPR story about LACBC’s wonderful bike trains. I would love to see an officer knock on her door, and kindly explain the law to her in person as one of Santa Barbara PD’s finest did on our behalf this past May.

    http://www.npr.org/2014/07/29/336226579/la-bicycle-commuters-form-bike-trains-for-safety

    • fsethd says:

      Thanks. Along with the knock on her door, maybe a citation, too. I’ve never ridden with one of the bike trains, but they sound awesome.

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