Another Wrongful CVC 21202 (a) Citation

Unfortunately, despite assurances from the San Diego Police Department, the officers on the beat are still unaware of what the laws are when it comes to cyclists. Nearly two years ago, Andrew Woolley was improperly citied under CVC 21202(a), i.e. for failing to ride on the right-hand side of the road despite the fact that the exceptions to the code applied to him. Woolley eventually appealed and was successful in getting the charges reversed and dismissed. The entire incident was a tremendous waste of time and money both for the City and for Woolley. We wrote to Todd Gloria as the citation had occurred in his District Three, and asked him to speak to the City Attorney’s Office to ensure that the officers were trained on the meaning and intention of the laws pertaining to cyclists. In a response from Council Member Gloria’s office in August 2009, this was state in part,

The last we heard was the City Attorney’s office was working with SDPD to ensure that officers do not wrongly ticket cyclists. This was at the end of June. Has there been any further incidents of citations since the end of June? If so, I would be happy to follow up.

I hadn’t heard of any further citations until this year, when Scott Dion contacted me and mentioned that he wanted to meet to talk about his CVC 21202(a) citation. I met up with Dion on Bike to Work Day, a few days prior to his hearing at the Superior Court in Kearny Mesa, to learn more about this citation. The story below was written by Dion, I have edited it for readability.

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Scott Dion is a retired U.S. Navy Master Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician who is a League Certified Instructor with the League of American Bicyclists. He has 25 years of bicycle commuting experience. As part of his training and certification, he is well versed in the DMV driver’s handbook along with the writings of John Forester, John Allen and the League of American Bicyclists.

On March 21, 2011 at 9:34 AM, Dion was riding southbound on Park Boulevard as part of his daily commute from La Mesa to City College in downtown San Diego.  Since he began this commute last fall, Dion had had ample opportunity to evaluate the traffic norms and learned to eliminate conflicts by being predictable to other road users.

Newly Striped Bike Lane from Zoo Drive to Meade Avenue on Park Boulevard

On this particular day, Dion noticed that the San Diego Police Officers who eventually cited him had the opportunity to observe where he was positioned in the lane – it was in accordance with all the literature mentioned above including CVC 21202. Despite the newly striped sharrows and a partial bike lane on the northern part of Park Boulevard,  there are no such markings on the part of Park Blvd. where Dion was riding. Thus, he had to position himself the way someone who operates their bicycle with all the rights and responsibilities of a vehicle would. Dion states that someone who has grown up in the U.S. where the bicycle is seen as a toy meant for kids and relegated to bike paths, this can be a shocking sight. Dion stated that he was much safer operating this way as opposed to the way the SDPD Officer directed, “Bicyclists must travel in far right-hand side of road.” On this morning, Dion was positioned to the left of the doorzone in a substandard width lane riding at 15 mph in a 25 mph zone approaching a heavily used crosswalk when he was passed with around 12 inches of clearance by a SDPD Officer operating a marked police car. As the officer passed Dion, the officer was moving to the right. Dion chose to apply his brakes in order to achieve a safe following distance.

Dion then pointed three times at the rearview mirror where he could see the Officer looking at him. The officer stopped his car with lights on and Dion’s intention was to talk about the distance he was allowed while the marked police car passed him. Dion then rode to the the right side of the police car while the Officer in the front passenger seat stepped out of the car and began directing Dion to the sidewalk. The officer then issued this citation:

 

CVC 21202(a) Citation reads: Bicyclist must travel on far right hand side of road

Dion was unable to further discuss the issue of passing within a safe distance with the officer who issued the ticket, and he eventually spoke with the ticketing officer’s supervisor where he learned that his only option to file a complaint against the officer, which Dion chose not to do.

On June 1st, the hearing date, Scott Dion’s plan was to to explain why the exceptions (2), (3) and (4) of CVC 21202 applied to the situation where he was cited, thereby giving the judge what he needed to find him not guilty. However, the presiding Judge didn’t buy Dion’s arguments and found him guilty.

While there are a lot of different riding “styles” when riding the streets,  the “door zone” is not a rideable space as it doesn’t give the rider enough room to maneuver forward in a safe manner. Because Park Boulevard is also home to hundreds of temporarily parked cars despite the presence of multiple parking lots located along the Boulevard. Thus, it is usually impractical in a far right manner as the SDPD officer had wanted Dion to.

 

Park Boulevard - The area where Scott Dion was cited for failing to ride on the right side. Photo by Scott Dion.

For this reason, many riders, including Dion usually take the lane. If there is enough room Dion would move to the right and continue riding. Whenever there are close calls Dion is diligent about investigating the situation to get an idea of what is going on. Sometimes the driver just doesn’t have the skill to pass slower moving traffic. On occasion, Dion will usually try and engage the passing driver in a dialogue to get a clearer picture as to why they chose to pass so close. In these situations he will state something like, “hey did you see me back there?” Often, these drivers will reveal their real motivation for the way they passed a cyclist by stating that they think bicyclists don’t belong on the road. They don’t like bikes in their way. On March 21st, the driver that Dion chose to converse with happen to be a SDPD officer and the conversation ended when Dion was given a traffic ticket. For his troubles, he was found guilty and ordered to pay a fine of $195.00.

Scott Dion doesn’t think he did anything wrong. He will be appealing this decision.

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I thank Scott Dion for taking the time to let me know about this citation and patiently explaining the circumstances leading up to his citation and for taking the time to do a writeup of the encounter. It is much appreciated.

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