Hired Guns: Part 2

March 23, 2017 § 18 Comments

Part 2: Red Cross Store Blues

When I was a kid there was a lot of empty time. My Dad had a set of Leadbelly’s Last Sessions and I’d put them on the record player when no one was home because if you were a little kid using the adult record player you would get an ass beating. Huddie Ledbetter was himself part of the great black exodus from the South, leaving Texas after serving a prison sentence in Louisiana.

Towns across America were viciously racist in the early 20th Century, and few protests capture the times better than Leadbelly’s Red Cross Store Blues, a song in which the protagonist refuses to be snookered by the Red Cross welfare stores to enlist in a war he has no intention of joining. The other giant of the early blues era and a World War I veteran, Bill Broonzy, was even more to the point with Black, Brown and White.

The work of great blues musicians may seem irrelevant to cyclists pedaling through a rich white town a century later, but the tools put in place to oppress blacks in PV Estates almost a hundred years ago have proven equally effective at harassing another group of undesirables: Bicyclists.

There is disagreement about why so many PV Estates residents so virulently oppose bicycling. My opinion is a minority one, but it has the advantage of being backed by over four hundred years of history: The city’s behavior is rooted in racism.

We don’t have to go back to the slave ships to understand how important racism was to the founding of PV Estates, as well as the founding and maintenance of its police force. The city’s founders spelled it out, quite literally, in black and in white. Their founding document? Racially restrictive deed covenants that forbade the sale of property to non-whites.

In this regard PV Estates was no different from hundreds of other communities across America, and its origins are indistinguishable from California’s other richest and whitest coastal communities. Of the 13,438 people who lived in PV Estates as of the last census, 161 were black. That’s 1.2 percent. This segregation of the races was inherent in the development of the community, and countless others like it. Leadbelly and Broonzy would recognize PV Estates today at a glance.

Even though we take vague comfort (as long as we’re white) that in some ways race relationships in America have changed since PV Estates was created as a subdivision in 1923, in some fundamental ways they haven’t. I always assumed that the city, like the urban Texas cities I grew up in, was racist. But it wasn’t until I got embroiled in the Great Bicycle Gang Imbroglio that I began to understand that PV Estates wasn’t casually, or accidentally, or coincidentally racist. It was methodically laid out, planned, and executed as a racist community. But as with so much else in our national fabric, to understand how important racial purity was for the founders of the city, you have to turn to law, and you have to understand that PV Estates’ desire to remain racially pure was neither unique, special, or unusual. A look into PV Estate’s founding mythology of racial purity is a click away on the Supreme Court’s 1917 decision of Buchanan v. Warley.

Gazing back a century to 1917 it’s almost impossible to use the right lens. Rather than focusing on what they didn’t have – computers, phones, air travel for the masses, television, video cameras, full carbon bikes that are 100% pure carbon – it’s a lot easier to focus on what their recent past was. The year 1917 was only fifty-two years after the Civil War. 1865 was to them as 1965 is to us: Recent history to most, living history to many, and still redolent with personal recollection and experience.

Americans were still struggling with the awesome weight of understanding the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution: Blacks were people, citizens, the equal of whites, and entitled to the same rights. Much of that “understanding” involved a low-grade, unending war against implementing those guarantees, and no place was a more bitter battleground than the U.S. Supreme Court.

Joseph McKenna, Oliver Wendell Holmes, William Day, Edward Douglass White, Willis Van Devanter, Mahlon Pitney, James Clark McReynolds, and John Hessin Clark were on the U.S. Supreme Court when lawyers argued Buchanan v. Warley. All were northerners except for McReynolds (Kentucky), and White (Louisiana). Louis Brandeis had not yet been confirmed at the time of oral argument and was nominally from Kentucky, but raised in a Jewish family from Prague that valued German culture and that prized Schumann and Schiller as dinner time conversation topics, it’s safe to say that his childhood had little in common with the redneck state in which he was raised.

This constellation of justices, including two of the greatest jurists to ever sit on the court, rendered the opinion in Buchanan v. Warley, which confronted a simple issue: Can a white man sell property to a black man even though the city of Louisville had an ordinance prohibiting it? It was a test case set up by the NAACP to fight the new wave of segregation that was crashing like a giant close-out over the cities that were absorbing the great black migration from south to north.

Justice William Day, writing for the majority, was no slouch. In his nineteen-year tenure on the court he penned over four hundred opinions, of which only eighteen were dissents. He was an enemy of large corporations and voted with antitrust majorities throughout his time as a justice. But it was nonetheless surprising when he ruled that ordinances prohibiting blacks from owning property in white neighborhoods were unconstitutional.

The decision sent shock waves through the nation. It was the first time in the prior thirty-eight cases that had come before the court regarding civil rights that the court had ruled in favor of blacks. And although the racist south was most deeply entrenched fighting the Fourteenth Amendment, few if any northern communities in America wanted to integrate either, and a quick review of PV Estates’ 2010 census data shows that for this enclave at least, little has changed. “If you’re black, oh brother, get back, get back, get back.”

But in those days when questions of race were still so close to the carnage of the Civil War, and the status of blacks had only been elevated in principle rather than in fact, racists felt no qualms about putting their bestial arguments into Supreme Court briefs. Justice Day noted “That there exists a serious and difficult problem arising from a feeling of race hostility which the law is powerless to control, and to which it must give a measure of consideration, may be freely admitted.” This is of course the mantra of the anti-politically correct, or the Trumpers of 2017, a hundred years later: We hate blacks and the law can’t stop us from hating them.

Yet Justice Day was not hobbled by this reality as he considered and then struck down the racist arguments supporting discrimination in housing sales: “It is the purpose of such enactments, and, it is frankly avowed, it will be their ultimate effect, to require by law, at least in residential districts, the compulsory separation of the races on account of color. Such action is said to be essential to the maintenance of the purity of the races, although it is to be noted in the ordinance under consideration that the employment of colored servants in white families is permitted, and nearby residences of colored persons not coming within the blocks, as defined in the ordinance, are not prohibited.” The racists wanted separation of the races but, apparently, not when it came to their servants. This parallel in PV Estates is evident any weekday on countless city streets, where Hispanic workers tend the yards on condition that they leave the city at day’s end. Justice Day made clear that the case was not one of maintaining racial purity, but a white man’s right to sell his property to a black man if he saw fit, and vice versa.

The appellants argued that the proposed segregation would promote the public peace by preventing race conflicts. “Desirable as this is, and important as is the preservation of the public peace, this aim cannot be accomplished by laws or ordinances which deny rights created or protected by the Federal Constitution,” was Day’s curt response.

Finally, Day rebutted the racists’ strongest suit, one that PV Estates residents still bandy about today — property values: “It is said that such acquisitions by colored persons depreciate property owned in the neighborhood by white persons. But property may be acquired by undesirable white neighbors or put to disagreeable though lawful uses with like results.”

And just like that, the constitutionality of these ordinances was tossed on the rubbish heap.

If only racism could have been tossed on the rubbish heap with it.

END

*Note: I’m cobbling this together in fits and starts and am only up to Part 2. The next three installments will be published next week. In the meantime, back to our regular bike racing programming nonesuch and whatnot and etcetera.

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Hired Guns: Part 1

March 22, 2017 § 28 Comments

Part 1: The Tax Man Goeth

The mayor of Palos Verdes Estates, the city council, and over sixty percent of the voters in the last municipal election on March 7, 2017 voted for something so important and crucial to the community that it could only have been given the most anodyne name imaginable: Measure D.

This ballot item, if it had been forced to comply with the same rules of truthful disclosure that we require of foodstuffs, would have been called “City Fire Department and EMS Tax.” Because that’s what it was: A tax to continue paying for that least objectionable and most necessary of all city services – a fire department and its attendant emergency medical services.

Who could possibly vote against that?

The answer turned out to be “about forty percent of the people who voted in an election that had less than thirteen percent of all eligible voters show up to vote.” Normally that would be a crushing victory for the tax man, sixty to forty. But in PV Estates, tax proposals like this one had to be approved by two-thirds of the people who voted, and the end tally left the tax supporters about three hundred votes short. In other words, the people of PV Estates voted, incredibly, not to pay for their own fire and emergency medical services.

It might seem strange to think that a mostly older community with a large proportion of retirees would vote against a fire department. This is no henhouse filled with spring chickens; the city’s median age is a sun-wrinkled, HGH-assisted 50. PV Estates sits on a hilly slope that is highly susceptible to the wildfires that make California such a staple of national night-time summer weather news reports. Setting aside the conflagrations, the fire department is also the first responder when people wake up in the middle of the night with chest pains, when they fall and break a hip, or much more importantly, when their cat gets stuck in a tree.

But voting against the fire department and EMS wasn’t really a vote against either, and it certainly wasn’t a vote against cats. It was a vote against the PV Estates Police Department, an agency that of late had become the endless target of bad news, litigation, and virulent anonymous hate speech attacks.

To understand how a minority of voters could torpedo an entire police department, though, you have to go back to 1978, to Howard Jarvis, and to Proposition 13, the mother of all regressive tax laws. And to understand why the white voters in PV Estates were so staunchly behind regressive taxation, even to the detriment of their own community, you have to go all the way back to the city’s inception and the deed restrictions that marketed PV Estates as an ideal community that would bring together “the cream of the manhood and womanhood of the greatest nation that has ever lived, the Caucasian race and the American nation.” Those were the words of its founder, and his adherents are alive, well, and kicking like hell.

END

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Hired Guns: Introduction

March 21, 2017 § 14 Comments

Introduction

The city of Palos Verdes Estates, or part of it, is battling for the survival of its municipal police force. Opponents want to demolish it and replace it by contracting for law enforcement services with the monolithic Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It sounds like pedestrian city politics, unless you happen to be a bicyclist. In that case, it isn’t pedestrian at all.

This issue affects a lot more than the pedal pushers who often run stop signs as they breeze through one of the most scenic and challenging bike routes in the United States. Class war, surfing localism, contempt of outsiders, hate speech, enraged small town racists, the California Vehicle Code, murder, Wall Street predators, regressive taxation, and the complex act of understanding and enforcing the law all turn up when this topic is spaded over, like wriggling earthworms in a cool mound of leafy compost.

I got involved in this whole thing backwards, simply by riding my steel Eddy Merckx with down-tube shifters on the way to work one day. I had been in California for a couple of months and was renting a house in Palos Verdes Estates, a place I ended up in entirely by accident. The law office I was working at was in San Pedro, and when I arrived in California I told the realtor, an avid cyclist nicknamed “the Badger,” that I wanted to rent in San Pedro because it was close to my office.

“Dude,” he said. “You don’t want to live in Pedro unless you like lung cancer or want to hang out at Godmother’s. Let me show you some places in PV Estates.”

To my unsophisticated eye it looked like a lot of other suburbs I’d seen throughout my life. Nice homes, affluent people in nice cars, white people everywhere, and, oh yeah, the most stunning scenery imaginable stuck right in the heart of Los Angeles. I traced the road on a map and saw that my commute to San Pedro would be along PV Drive South, a twenty-minute drive with three stoplights, no traffic, and postcard views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island from start to finish.

Did I mention that this was in the heart of Los Angeles? Because when I told my family back in Texas that I had a twenty-minute, no traffic, sprawling ocean view commute in the middle of LA, they thought I was lying through my teeth and everywhere else.

One morning as I rode to work, because it didn’t take long to figure out that the most beautiful, car-free road in California was also the most beautiful car-free bike commute in California, I blew through a red light at the intersection of Hawthorne and Via Vicente. There was no traffic in any direction, but I hadn’t gotten through the intersection before I heard the siren of the guy I would later get to know as the dreaded Deputy Knox.

By 2007 I had been riding competitively and racing for thirty-five years. I had run tens of thousands of red lights and hundreds of thousands of stop signs, and I had done it in Texas, Japan Germany, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. I’d never been ticketed, not once, and had never been hit by a car. Deputy Knox of the LA Sheriff’s Department pulled me over and wrote me a ticket. I knew enough not to argue with a 6’4” dude carrying a gun, handcuffs, and a radio, but even so I was surprised at his glowering anger. He was prodding and pushing me to react, but I’d experienced that in plenty of other venues with cops, so the more he pushed the meeker I got. I wanted to get to work, not star in a new chapter on civil rights.

Knox wrote the citation, gave me a nasty lecture, and sped away. That encounter, between a meek, bony guy on a bike endangering no one in a victimless crime, and an angry cop trying to prod him into a confrontation, made a huge impression on me. “What if I’d been black?” I wondered, scared. Knox was lean but he was muscular, he was big, and he was ready to arrest me and haul me off to jail if I had given him any guff. My instinct, by the way, proved dead-on the following year when my friend and fellow riding partner Jeff Konsmo was pulled over and cited by Knox. However, unlike my red light violation, Jeff was pulled over because Knox didn’t understand – or chose not to understand – vehicle code section 21202a and its exceptions. When Jeff objected to the grounds of the citation, Knox slapped on the stainless steel jewelry and shoved him in the back of the patrol car.

This was my first and lasting impression of bikes and law enforcement on the peninsula. They hated your guts. You didn’t belong. Get the hell out.

END

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Some things can be taught

March 6, 2017 § 22 Comments

How many times have you seen a group of cyclists spread all over the road like a warm breakfast? Judging from the rarity of organized, disciplined, 2 x 2 pacelines, you might think they are formations that only come into existence after years of practice. And you might think that the only people capable of riding mile after mile a few inches from their neighbors’ bars and a few inches from the wheel in front of them is the mark of a truly expert cyclist.

That’s what I always thought, mostly because the only time I ever saw functioning large groups ride like that they were composed of (accomplished) bike racers.

My club, Big Orange, had a Paceline 101 seminar yesterday. We all gathered on Westchester Parkway, and several of the club’s leaders put on the seminar. There were over forty riders. At least half had never ridden in a 2 x 2 paceline before. Most of the others had been riding for two years or less.

The Big O paceline, when I describe it, sounds goofy because of the silly names. Here they are:

Horsemen“: These are the 6-12 riders at the front. These are the only rotating riders. Their job is to:

  • Maintain steady power. Steady on flats, slower on hills, faster on descents.
  • Give plenty of room around road hazards. Give wide berth to cones, potholes, sticks, big rocks, etc.
  • Call out road hazards.
  • Pay attention to upcoming stop lights. Anticipate when the light will change by watching crosswalk countdowns. Avoid panic stops and avoid running the entire peloton through red lights.
  • Accelerate slowly from stops, remembering that everyone behind is still standing
  • Rotate in pairs. Get off the front if the partner wants off. Left side swings off to the left, right side swings off to the right. Keep steady speed when rotating off the front, flick elbow and take 2-3 strong pedal strokes as you move over.
  • Control the lane. The right hand rider controls positioning and stays just to the left of the fog line.
  • Control descents. This is the hardest part to master, requiring a hard effort to keep speed on downhills until the rear of the peloton has completed the descent. Riders at the front cannot slow down until everyone has completed the descent.
  • Steady ascents: Slowing  too rapidly at the bottom of the hill means those at the end of the peloton will accordion. Slow gradually while climbing and regroup after crossing the top. Gradually lift the pace again after the regroup.

Gatekeepers“: The two riders directly behind the horsemen. Their job is to:

  • Maintain steady power. If the horsemen surge, the gatekeepers allow the gap to open, then slowly close it.
  • Provide space for horsemen who have rotated off the front and are coming back in order to slot back in.
  • Prohibit the peloton from mixing with horsemen. The idea is that one group, horsemen, do the work, and the other group, the peloton drafts for the duration of the ride.

Buffers“: 1-3 pairs of riders, riding immediately behind the gatekeepers. Their job is to maintain steady power. If the group ahead surges, the buffers let them go, then gradually close the gap.

Peloton“: This is everyone else. Their job is to:

  • Stay on the wheel in front. Do not pass other riders. Do not fill in gaps ahead of buffers. Do not get out of formation to bomb descents.
  • Keep handlebars even with your partner. Formations stagger when riders are not even with each other.
  • Change lanes from the rear. When changing lanes, the rear of the peloton should move over first, after checking for traffic, and call out “Clear!” so the riders ahead know it is safe.
  • Anticipate slowing riders in front. When approaching rollers, give extra room ahead. Know the route!
  • Identify final rider position. Last place riders in the peloton should tell other riders “I’m last” if for some reason a rider is rotating all the way to the back of the group. Final riders should also take responsibility for being the riders who check first for rear traffic when getting ready to change lanes.

Before going to the Peloton 101 seminar, participants were supposed to have read this explanation of paceline riding. Once we assembled, a couple of leaders explained it all again in person, took questions, we did a practice lap around the Parkway. There was a lot of talking and some correcting, but no shouting or abusing or screaming. Everyone was told beforehand that we were there to learn, and told not to take anything personally.

Incredibly, no one did.

After the first lap we debriefed, people switched up positions, and we did a second lap, this time at about 22-24 mph. We debriefed again, questions were taken, and we rode a final lap “at speed.” After a final debrief, those who wanted to rolled with the group out onto PCH and practiced pacelining in the lane at speed all the way to Malibu and back.

Here is a link to a video that was taken by Cycling Savvy instructor Gary Cziko from the position of gatekeeper, with the horsemen teaching a first-timer how to rotate.

What amazed me about the practice was how quickly people got it when it was explained and they had a chance to practice. After the second lap the 42-person rotation was so disciplined that, sitting at the very back, I could see all the way to the front through the gap between the side-by-side riders. It was almost perfectly straight.

I wondered why it was so effective, and several things occurred to me.

First, it’s not complicated, but there are organizational elements that need to be explained. I learned to ride a paceline while doing it, making a mess of it, and getting yelled at. Being calmly instructed, gently corrected, and given a chance to practice takes most of the terror out of it.

Second, having roles with names is a huge help to beginning riders. Sure, “horsemen” sounds silly, but it is a defined word with a defined function, and when you’re doing your first paceline with a bunch of experienced riders and you’re so nervous you’re about to crap your shorts, it makes all the difference in the world to have words tied to actual functions and roles.

This nomenclature also makes new riders concentrate on what they’re doing, as opposed to riding in terror that they’re about to crash out fifty people. Even better, once people feel comfortable in one role, they can try a more challenging one, so they not only have a place, but they have the feeling of “moving up.” Roles also have the invaluable function of predictability, which is what safe group riding is all about. There’s never any question about where a horseman is supposed to be, and if there is, you can ask. Compare that to the amorphous glob of riders in which random people do random things for no apparent reason … or at least that’s how it seems to beginners.

Third, holding a more-or-less permanent position throughout the ride means you get to know the person next to you, and the relationships are what makes the experience fun.

Removing the mystery, sharing the knowledge, and teaching skills raises everyone’s ability, including the teacher’s. It also creates a vibe in which people want to excel. Best of all, this method includes riders of vastly differing abilities and solves one of the biggest issues of group riding for clubs, i.e., “How do you integrate slower riders with faster ones without either shredding the slow ones or making the fast ones go so slow that they no longer want to do the ride?”

Every club should look at its mission and if part of the mission is education, improvement, and making road riding more accessible to more people, then a program like this is a winner. Photos courtesy of Joann Zwagerman, Big Orange phenom who was responsible for organizing yesterday’s seminar!

END

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Why you need a bicycle license in CA, Part II

March 5, 2017 § 43 Comments

First, some background …

I have a friend named FXH. He is a cop. He is hopelessly confused about things like gun control and the effectiveness of incarceration.

Unfortunately, he is one of the smartest people I know, so smart in fact that, after a couple of hours of withering cross-examination by him I occasionally wonder whether it’s he who is confused or I. More importantly, he is incredibly knowledgeable about criminal law.

He doesn’t make things up.

He doesn’t bullshit.

If he says it, he can back it up.

So several months ago when he told me that you can be arrested in California if you are pulled over for a bicycle infraction and fail to produce ID, I expressed polite incredulity.

“Oh, shut the fuck up,” I said, or something like that. To which FXH simply repeated a provision of the California Vehicle Code, Section 40302(a).

In the interim, although I had forgotten the code section, I did start riding with my California driver license, something I’d never done in the past because hey, there’s no bicycle license law in CA and The Man can kiss my ass. Having FXH advise me that failure to produce ID when stopped could result in an arrest made an impact on me. The Man can kiss my ass, but once I’m under arrest he and his minions can beat it, too.

So time went by and I decided to write about it, and I did so here. My legal reasoning was that Section 12951(b) of the vehicle code requires a driver license, and that Section 21200 makes other provisions of the vehicle code applicable to cyclists, so you are therefore required to have some form of identification if you got stopped.

This unleashed a storm of protest, some pointing out that 12951(b) has nothing to do with bicycles, and some pointing out that there are all kinds of limits on what the police can and cannot require you to do when stopped. In sum, a great many people argued convincingly that I was wrong, although I cited to cases that strongly supported my position.

However, it wasn’t until FXH provided me with a chronology and the relevant statute that I returned to my initial position, unequivocally, that carrying ID while cycling isn’t simply a good idea, it’s a legal requirement.

Here’s the argument.

  1. The police can arrest you for even minor infractions that carry only fines as penalties. The landmark case for this is Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, a city in Texas that has a famous road race and also, apparently, a 14-carat asshole of a cop. However, the Supreme Court ruled, and has never reconsidered or overturned, that the police can arrest you if you break any law, no matter how minor, as long as they have probable cause to make the arrest. So for all the people out there in California-land who think that there is no authority to be cuffed and stuffed for riding your bike without a light, I give you Atwater.
  2. It is the policy of the state of California not to arrest people for minor offenses, including bicycle infractions. The state has codified this in the vehicle code, section 40302(a). The purpose of this statute is to allow defendants in minor cases to avoid custodial arrest by showing a driver’s license or other satisfactory evidence of identity and an unobstructed view of the full face for examination. The state recognized that it would be a waste of resources to allow law enforcement to take everyone to jail on a whim, even though Atwater specifically allows them to do so. So 40302(a) gave everyone an out, even bicyclists. The unfortunate consequence is that if you are stopped for a bicycling infraction and cannot or will not provide satisfactory ID, you may be arrested. Field testing suggests that if you are a dick to the cop, you will be.
  3. Finally … one day a fellow was riding his bike the wrong way down a street. A cop stopped him for breaking the law prohibiting such conduct, demanded to see his ID, and arrested him when he failed to produce it. The case went all the way to the California Supreme Court, and the court concluded that a bicyclist stopped for an infraction must produce documentary ID if the cop asks for it or face custodial arrest. The case is People v. McKay. Please read it before getting back to me about how you don’t ever have to carry ID when cycling. Among the many things that McKay noted, is the existence of CVC 12951(b), the provision I initially cited as a statute applicable to bicyclists. Although the court didn’t use my reasoning, i.e. CVC 21200 makes CVC 12951(b) applicable to bikes, it did say that the licensing requirement of CVC 12951(b) is relevant to the inquiry of whether or not a bicyclist must show ID when stopped. So, as they say in law school, nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah.

Of course the main complaint by bicyclists, including me, is that this ID requirement amounts to a bicycle riding license. Even though there’s no law requiring a “license,” if you are stopped while cycling you can be arrested if you fail to provide satisfactory ID. What better definition of a license than, “That without which you can be arrested for failing to produce.”

By extension, this logic means that any person, bicyclist or not, must carry an ID at all times or face the risk of arrest when stopped for breaking the law, no matter how minor. If you think this means we live in a police state, and that the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is now effectively a fiction, you’d be in complete agreement with the dissent in McKay, and with me.

Read the dissent, please, and weep.

And after drying your eyes and applying plenty of Wanky’s Butt Balm, go ride yer bike. And carry a fuggin’ ID.

END

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Bicycle driving license???

March 2, 2017 § 72 Comments

You get pulled over for allegedly running a stop sign on your bicycle. The cop asks for your driver license or other identification. Do you have to provide it?

Before answering this question, let’s start with common sense, and common sense says this: It’s always a good idea to have a driver license or state-issued ID when you cycle. Motorists are known for hitting bikes and leaving the cyclist unconscious or worse. Identification in these cases is generally a good thing.

Also, when a cop asks you for identification and you refuse or don’t have any, you run the risk of having your ride interrupted and your bike impounded. You may be vindicated many hours or days or weeks or months later, but standing on your rights when challenged always comes at a cost, a cost that at a minimum will cost you that KOM attempt up Mandeville.

But back to the question: Do you have to provide it?

California law requires users of motor vehicles to provide their license for examination upon demand of a peace officer enforcing the provisions of the California vehicle code. That’s section 12951(b), by the way. However, since a bicyclist is not a driver of a motor vehicle, you may think that you get a pass.

You’d be wrong.

California law explicitly makes the vehicle code applicable to bicyclists. Section 21200(a) says that every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application. In other words, if the driver of a motor vehicle has to show his license or ID to a cop who’s enforcing the vehicle code, so do you.

What this means is that even though you’re not technically required to have something called a bicycle driving license, if you ever get pulled over for breaking the law and can’t produce satisfactory ID to the peace officer, you can be arrested and your bike impounded, which is an end-run around “no bike driving license required” because it does in effect require you to have a license in the form of acceptable identification.

So ride with your driver license if you have one. That’s my advice.

END

Addendum: Due to the numerous comments and questions, I’ve added the following:

Are you required to have something called a “bicycle license” or its equivalent to operate a bicycle on public roads? No.

Are you required to have some form of ID if you are pulled over for violating a traffic law? Yes.

If you’re required to ride with some form of ID in the event you’re pulled over, isn’t that a de facto bicycle license? It may not require you to take a test or pay insurance, but if the absence of ID while riding a bike can get you arrested, then I would argue that you are indeed required to ride with something that is in at least one crucial respect the same as a driving license–it proves who you are when the police detain you.

If you believe that you as a bicyclist are immune from this requirement, it is easy to test. The next time you’re pulled over, tell the officer that you refuse to identify yourself. I predict you will be arrested.

This was my main point: That even though we aren’t required to have something called a “bicycle license,” the fact that we can be arrested in certain situations for failure to produce ID when riding a bicycle means that we are in fact quite close to having to be licensed. We can argue about the type of ID, and about police discretion to require you to produce it, but in the end if they want to force you to ID yourself, they can. Try it if you really think I’m wrong about this.

Now there is the second point. What is the legal underpinning for requiring a bicyclist to produce an ID? California no longer has a statute requiring people to ID themselves to police on demand. That law, Penal Code §647(e), has been repealed.

What follows are excerpts from a brief on investigative detentions, published by the DA of Alameda County. You can find it at: http://le.alcoda.org/publications/point_of_view/files/DETENTIONS.pdf

The landmark case of Terry v. Ohio authorizes police to stop and detain a suspect temporarily if they had a lower level of proof known as “reasonable suspicion.” Once stopped, “an officer conducting a lawful Terry stop must have the right to make this limited inquiry, otherwise the officer’s right to conduct an investigative detention would be a mere fiction.” People v. Loudermilk, (1987) 195 Cal.App.3d 996, 1002.

This is also the opinion of the Supreme Court, which added that identifying detainees also constitutes an appropriate officer-safety measure. “Obtaining a suspect’s name in the course of a Terry stop serves important government interests. Knowledge of identity may inform an officer that a suspect is wanted for another offense, or has a record of violence or mental disorder.” Hiibel v. Nevada (2004) 542 U.S. 177, 186.

Not only do officers have a right to require that the detainee identify himself, they also have a right to confirm his identity by insisting that he present “satisfactory” documentation.104 “[W]here there is such a right to so detain,” explained the Court of Appeal, “there is a companion right to request, and obtain, the detainee’s identification.” People v. Rios (1983) 140 Cal.App.3d 616, 621.

A current driver’s license or the “functional equivalent” of a license is presumptively “satisfactory” unless there was reason to believe it was forged or altered. People v. Monroe (1993) 12 Cal.App.4th 1174, 1186. Also see People v. McKay (2002) 27 Cal.4th 601, 620.

A document will be deemed the functional equivalent of a driver’s license if it contained all of the following: the detainee’s photo, brief physical description, signature, mailing address, serial numbering, and information establishing that the document is current. People v. Monroe (1993) 12 Cal.App.4th 1174, 1187. While other documents are not presumptively satisfactory, officers may exercise discretion in determining whether they will suffice. People v. McKay (2002) 27 Cal.4th 601, 622 [“[W]e do not intend to foreclose the exercise of discretion by the officer in the field in deciding whether to accept or reject other evidence—including oral evidence—of identification.”

So hopefully you agree that when you get pulled over as a suspect for breaking the law, the police have the right to demand ID and you are obligated to produce it.

I read “but not limited to” in CVC 21200 to mean that bicyclists’ duties are much broader than the cited divisions, and that’s why it says “not limited to.” Legislative history and drafting notes of the law would possibly clear that up.

I also agree that section 12591(b) explicitly applies to cars, and cannot be used as a bootstrap to somehow require bicyclists to have a “bicycling license.” But I also believe that 12591(b), in conjunction with Terry and its progeny, provides additional proof that if you are stopped by a peace officer enforcing the traffic code, you are required to provide ID. And I believe that a good brief on appeal would use that code section to show that the CVC has a strong interest in identifying all public road users when they are cited for a crime, in line with the U.S. Supreme Court in Terry. The fact that you are on a bicycle when the crime is committed will not, and should not, exempt you from this most basic investigative function of the police.

What’s key, and the point I was making, is that as a bicyclist there are excellent legal reasons to carry a CDL if you have one, and some other form of ID if you do not. There are also excellent practical reasons for carrying ID that have to do with how you interface with law enforcement. They can arrest you if you refuse to identify yourself, and if you are truculent about it, they will.

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What would you take?

February 22, 2017 § 34 Comments

A fair part of any cyclist’s life, or rather so-called life, is looking lovingly at bicycling items. For some it is a favored helmet, for others the clean cut of a full carbon wheel that is made of 100% carbon exclusively and containing nothing but carbon, for yet others it is a new box of JoJe Peanut Butter and Chocolate bars, and for some it is a new pair of shoes with shiny ratchets and clicky-spinner thingies.

It is hard to choose which bicycling item is most special. But if you were marooned on a desert island, which bicycling item would you take with you? I think about this often and it is hard to decide, so I made a list because lists are comforting.

  1. JoJe Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip bars. They wouldn’t last long but then I again I probably wouldn’t, either, so might as well go with a smile on my face.
  2. Diablo MK8 headlight. I love this light so much I bought two of them and mounted them on my bars like car headlamps. It would be so cool to have that light on a deserted island. I could flash the light at passing ships until its battery ran out after 6.5 hours. Then it would be really dark.
  3. South Bay Cycling socks by Base Cartel. They are so comfy. I would walk around on the island comfortably, and stretch my legs out in front of me as I basked in the sun, admiring the fancy embroidery.
  4. Sunscreen. I’d for sure take the sunscreen.
  5. Wend Chain Wax. I wouldn’t have a chain but if it were an island, and the island had a reef, and it was facing some good swell in the winter, I might chop down a tree with my headlight and make a small surfboard and then I could use the chain wax for my surfboard.
  6. Front FastForward tubular racing wheel. I would be very bored on that island, but I can gaze pretty much forever at a spinning wheel. You know how you hold either end of the skewer and spin it and it goes around and around and around, hypnotically? I would do that a lot.
  7. CBR Crit Winner’s Pint Glass. I would squeeze coconut milk into this glass and mango, and add a dollop of fresh spring water, and enjoy the heck out of the beautiful colors while reminiscing on that amazing year when I won my first race and then retired undefeated.
  8. Big Orange skinsuit by StageOne. I would wear that thing everywhere, along with my racing socks. I would feel really fast, like I was about to ride off that deserted island in a flash.
  9. Starbucks card. You never know when they’re going to build one right near you, and then I’d be able to start my day with a latte even though I was the only person there. Yum.
  10. Lezyne floor pump. This is such an elegant device I don’t think I could be happy anywhere on earth without it.

What about you? What would YOU take?

END

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