Some people think that riding a bicycle means they are not subject to law enforcement actions. The first time they notice flashing lights behind them as they bike on the Los Angeles road, they will learn that simply isn’t true. Historically, Los Angeles police departments have invested significant resources in policing bicycle infractions.
Those fighting to change the system point out that enforcement of bicycling and pedestrian rules is often harsher than enforcement of motor vehicle rules. The penalties are out of line with the possible risk to others that pedestrians or cyclists pose, especially when compared to those driving motor vehicles.
On November 16, 2021, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took an initial vote to potentially change how law enforcement officers handle cycling infractions.
Los Angeles may soon have a diversion program for cycling offenses
Cyclists accused of minor infractions often face aggressive policing actions and disproportionate penalties. Police officers might stop someone for biking on a sidewalk, for example, and that interaction may escalate to a search.
According to a review of records from the Los Angeles sheriff’s department, they conducted more than 44,000 bike stops in a single year, and 70% of those stops involved Latino cyclists. In a staggering 85% of those traffic stops, the police conducted a search of the cyclists, even though they only found illegal items or weapons in less than 10% of those searches.
The review also saw a strong correlation between the average income of a neighborhood and the intensity of bicycle enforcement efforts. Some people have started to compare this enforcement activity to police officers who pull people over for driving in affluent neighborhoods with dark skin.
What could the proposed changes mean for Los Angeles cyclists?
One of the important suggestions considered by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors includes allowing cyclists on sidewalks. This could help those traveling by bicycle stay safer, especially in areas where bicycle paths or lanes aren’t available.
The board may also require that the Sheriff’s Department stop conducting traffic stops of those clearly bicycling for either amusement or exercise. Although it will be some time before the board has a plan in place, let alone implemented, these changes could benefit cyclists.
Staying informed about changing bicycle laws in Los Angeles can help you stay safer and advocate for yourself if you experience a bicycle accident with a motor vehicle.