You can’t fix stupid

After a battle with the L.A. Sheriff’s Department that lasted well over a year, I thought that we had finally put to rest the harassment of cyclists on PCH north of Temescal Canyon. Our loose coalition of idealists had a three-pronged attack on the harassing citations that the Deppity Doofuses were writing:

  1. Outreach and education for the LASD.
  2. Fight each and every ticket.
  3. Continue riding in the lane where it’s legal to do so.

Of course we had a few secret weapons up our sleeve. We had Dr. Tomato Stain, our sly expert witness who made himself available for detailed measurements and expert testimony at each of the three trials that we won when the harassing deputies didn’t appear. We had the heft of Eric Bruins and the LA County Bicycle Coalition providing expertise and expert testimony. And most importantly, we had the full support of Greg Seyranian and Big Orange. These riders are the ones who refused to be pushed back into the gutter, and who weekly rode their bikes legally in the lane.

They backed up their willingness to ride in the lane by an equal willingness to take time off of work to fight the bogus citations. The tickets stopped, and I went on to other less pressing concerns, such as work and family and cat videos. Until Monday.

That’s when I learned that we do indeed have another Deppity Doofus with a severe case of citation writus reflexia.

A group of Big Orange riders were cruising north bound on PCH, legally riding 2×2 in the right lane. When they got within about half a mile of Cross Creek, they heard the dreaded beep of a short warning siren. It wasn’t clear that it was for them so they kept moving. Then the angry voice of Deppity Doofus told them to get out of the lane. Confused and frustrated, they began to move to what little shoulder there was. As everyone who’s ever ridden this stretch of road knows, there’s no bike lane and nowhere to put your bike except the lane itself unless you want to charge through the glass, rocks, gravel, used condoms, bongs, used dildos, meth paraphernalia, and other necessities for surfing Malibu that are strewn in the gutter.

Deppity Doofus then called out to to one of the riders, “You in the red jersey, pull over!” Red Jersey Rider had been singled out for two obvious reasons, neither of which was justified. First, he was at the back of the group, and like the wounded gazelle at the rear of the herd he was the first one to be dragged down by the throat by the marauding lion. Second, he was wearing a white jersey with cats wearing red Santa hats, a fashion misstep that some would say justifies every persecution. I however, would not.

All of the riders pulled into the parking lot at Aviator Nation, a place that Harrison Ford frequents in between golf course crash landings. There were a few cyclists who passed by, also in the lane, and who continued up the coast. These scofflaws, who were obviously on the lowest step of the gradual cyclist ladder to violent crime that begins with riding in the lane, were ignored by Deppity Doofus and his assistant, Newbie Nukkelnoggin.

When Doofus and Nukkelnoggin got out of the car, the cyclists asked the officers to explain exactly what they had done wrong, aside from the cats in the Santa hats. Some of the riders videotaped the incident while others looked up the section of the California vehicle code that gives cyclists the right to ride in the traffic lane. They offered up facts and even asked about the “Share the Road” sign that was posted on PCH a few hundred yards south. Doofus, uninterested in law or fact and apparently unable to read, rolled up his window when one of the riders approached his vehicle to show him digital documentation of the CVC code section displayed on his phone.

Another rider pulled up additional information on his phone regarding the right to legally use the traffic lane and handed it to Nukkelnoggin, who, after excessive efforts that involved moving his lips while he read, digested the information. He showed it to Doofus but by now it had become a matter of phallus measuratus, and Doofus wasn’t about to back down even though he was wrong on the law, wrong on the facts, and wrong on just about everything. Nukkelnoggin then informed them that their supervisor was coming to the scene from Calabasas.

A fun day in the saddle was thus transformed into a miserable altercation with deputies so bad at their job that they required backup and supervisory reinforcement to evaluate a traffic citation.

When Deppity Doofus finished writing the citation, he approached Santa Cats and told him to sign it. At this point, things got a little hairy. One of the riders asked why Santa Hats had to sign the citation if he didn’t believe that he had done anything wrong. Doofus became irate and started calling the other cyclist a “jackass” and told one of the riders with a video to “Go ahead and film me, I’m not doing anything wrong.”

As they waited for the supervisor to arrive, reinforcements showed up in the form of another deputy who parked next to the other two. It was obviously either a slow day at Malibu or this dangerous gang of cats-in-Santa-hat-sporting-scofflaws was going to need some serious SWAT backup.

The  supervisor finally showed up and he approached the sheriffs first. It didn’t look like Deppity Doofus was pleased. He then began to point his finger at the cyclist who had asked why Santa Hats had to sign the citation. He was livid and the supervisor seemed irritated. When the riders spoke to the supervisor, he was friendly. He shook Santa Hat’s hand and patted him on the back while Doofus and Nukkelnoggin stood quietly and Deppity Reinforcement flanked the group as if he were ready for something to go down, like, you know, in case someone attacked the armed police battalion with a Bonk Breaker or a Gu gel packet.

The supervisor then expounded wrongly on the law, telling the riders that they have the right to take a lane when there’s an obstruction in the bike lane or shoulder, but that they would have to return to the shoulder when said obstruction was gone. Super defined “obstruction” as car doors and other objects. The riders tried to explain the law but he kept saying that there was nothing he could do about it. The ticket had already been written, and he he parted with the sage and helpful advice to “Tell it to the judge.”

On their time, of course.

After an hour and a half, everyone left the scene of this incredibly significant law enforcement incident. The cyclists rode cautiously to Cross Creek then turned around. On the way home, they took the lane because all agreed that their safety was worth more than the price of another citation. They passed the sheriffs on the way home, but Doofus and Nukkelnoggin did nothing, focusing all of their energies on a 12-pack of donuts.

In this instance, the citation was for violation CVC 21208(a), which requires a cyclist to ride in a bike lane when such a lane has been established pursuant to CVC 21207. A quick search of the local roads database shows that this section of road is designated as a Class III Bike Route, otherwise defined as an on-street travel lane shared by bicyclists and other vehicular traffic.

A Class III Bike Route is, of course, a completely different dog from a bike lane established pursuant to CVC 21207. In essence, a Class III Bike Route is a metal sign on the side of the road indicating that there is no bike lane or other separated facility. More importantly for Santa Hats, on its face the citation is void, as Deppity Doofus will be unable to show that there was a bike lane anywhere on PCH, much less at the point where he cited Santa Hats.

In addition to being a wonderful showcase for how ineffective we’ve been at educating the sheriff’s department regarding actual laws, it’s even more disheartening to realize that the ignorance festers at the supervisory level as well despite meetings, encouragement from the captain at the substation, and even ride-alongs with deputies and supervisors to educate them about cyclists’ rights. The behavior of the deputies showed that when push comes to shove, they will push and shove the cyclists rather than back down and admit they are wrong.

Sounds like another case for Dr. Tomato Stain and his crack legal team.




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68 thoughts on “You can’t fix stupid”

  1. 1) It is depressing beyond my capabilities of expression that you continue to face this sort of organized law enforcement doofusness in probably the most progressive state, with undoubtedly the highest density of cyclists, in the nation. There’s no hope for the rest of us. But continue to fight the good fight.
    2) Never underestimate the threat potential of a weaponized ClifBar.

    1. I’m surprised they didn’t call in the helicopters. MAMILs are some dangerous creatures.

  2. sorta_TX_racer

    Maybe Deppity Doofus will be stupid enough to show up when the citation is contested? Nah, that would be too much to ask for.

  3. As a professional trainer, I can state unequivocally that you can’t fix stupid; you can only hope to muffle it with duct tape.

    I’d also point out that what you’re hoping to accomplish is behavior change. That takes time, particularly in lower IQs. Keep the faith!

    1. Unfortunately, I didn’t make clear that the stupid that can’t be fixed is mine!

  4. Seth,

    You went to the Sheriff’s station to train LEP once, Right? It’s not enough.

    You need an excuse to show up every 6 months and retrain the first set, or train the newbies, or train the LEP that were not there for whatever reason. Otherwise you get newbie episodes like this.

    Using “stupid” in the title doesn’t help build a relationship with LEP, but I understand the frustration.

    As PCH activity starts to ramp up with the temp getting above 16c in the mornings, there will be more newbie/triathletes riding the gutter and we need to disabuse them of that behaviour. Keeping L.A. Sheriffs trained in the appropriate use of the law is a step in the right direction.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. I find it interesting that they have written tickets and not shown up in court. While normally we all enjoy that happening, I’m wondering if there is any way to compel them to show?

    i.e. writing a ticket without bothering to show up is looking like some form of harassment (although this would be difficult to prove)

    While I think everyone involved has done an admirable job, I wonder if a 4th prong needs to be added: written complaint in the deputy’s file outlining either ignorance or outright disregard for the law?

    1. I like the 4th prong of which you speak.
      I tried this tactic out here in East San Diego County, and got a tongue lashing from the SD County Sheriff about two months later when he cornered me at the local Circle K trying to refill my water bottle on a ride.
      He had a gun, so I said a lot of “yessirs” and “you betchas” before whipping out my phone and taking a picture of him. I was also called a jackass, but then, that’s pretty much a daily thang.

  6. And it’s no skin taken from their hide. If they do show up in court, they are getting paid for it. Realizing that on the downside, there are people that would take advantage of it, it still is too bad there isn’t some kind of economic penalty that LEP, or at least the LASD would have to pay for misapplication of CA vehicular law, especially when it is so clearly misapplied.

    And exactly what is this business of “Once the ticket/citation is written, it can’t be torn up” bullshit? Who the F*** wrote that procedure?

  7. At what point does this (writing tickets and not showing up in court) become harassment?

  8. Thoroughly entertaining read! I say its time to double down and organize take the lane protest rides all summer. I need to get some miles in. I got a rolodex of a few thousand cyclists and party riders and Im sure we could rally every club ride in town to join for a good ole bbq somewhere up the coast. Get all the bike shops out there for a celebration of our RIGHTS.

    THANK YOU for continuing to take the lane in the face of complete ignorance.

  9. Well when sheriffs used 21202 to cite cyclists for riding two abreast in a bike lane in North San Diego County, I thought I heard of everything. But using 21208 on a road without a bike lane really takes the cake.

    At some point can’t you build a case of police harassment based on this pattern of them enforcing imaginary law and then not showing up in court?

  10. As long as FTR and MBL laws (21202 and 21208) are on the books, cyclists will continue to be treated and cited like Jim Crow road user minorities by law enforcement. If you don’t want to be discriminated against, then work to remove the tools of discrimination by repealing these two laws. This is a lesson that the CBC and CABO have yet to collectively learn, and why the problem is not being addressed at the state level. So instead bicyclists statewide have to deal with it at the local level.

    1. Is the political climate ripe for 21202/21208 repeal? Should our focus now be direct on repeal, or indirect on repeal by improving the climate?

      I think a demonstration like this can only help broaden the understanding of how impotent these CVC sections are (when correctly interpreted), how misleading they are, and why they need to be removed.

      A demonstration like this IS working to repeal these two laws. I hope you’ll be there.

  11. But you are Fixing Stupid, albeit slowly. And Seth, it’s not on your shoulders alone. The stupid fixing goes on in Sandy Eggo and OC, too.

    50 years ago blacks were beaten, hosed, and dog-bit crossing the Edmund Pettus bridge, today they’re just targeted by stupid bus-riding frat bros.

    Stupid takes generations to fix. Thank you for continuing the fight.

      1. The pursuit of justice regardless of the result is never stupid. Change never happens from people accepting the status quo. Keep fighting

    1. Yes, this will be a long haul. Heck, that bicyclists have full lane rights on most roads is still not known by most of the cycling community. It’s a double and we still have our arm warmers on.

  12. We have a saying at work: To make something idiot proof, one has to remove the idiots…

    This situation is very frustrating because although the laws are on our side, the LASD can make our lives painful by wasting our time in court. Horse pocky.

  13. No, you can’t fix stupid. But I was sure hoping that we could at least spay and neuter it to prevent reproduction.

  14. You got to get the sherriff to show up so you can set precedent. It doesn’t guarantee a win though so it’s not your choice it will be up to the rider at the time of the ticket. They will have to challenge the deputy. Saying something to the effect of

    “The tongue lashing you will get from the judge if you dare show up and try collect your overtime will be so harsh. I bet you don’t have the cajones to show your face in front of the judge Well officer prove your manhood and show up in court if you are not chicken? Bok Bok Bok. ” That should force the officer to show up.

    1. And you might lose a day and a night in jail, or get hit with a baton, or worse…have Mr. JV football bench-warmer, all 5’6″ and roids, pull out his service REEVOLVER and give you a new windpipe.

  15. Hey I remember when you first announced your plans. and you talked about how you only had like 20 riders out of like 100 that planed on following you in taking the lane on PCH. and then it seemed like more and more cyclists started following your lead. It seems almost contagious once a cyclist discovers they can use the lane rather than getting snake bites on the shoulder from all the debris and potholes they never want to go back to the gutter. You might never convince deputy doofus. But he has to retire eventually. One can only hope he is replaced by a more confident sheriff that fully understands the CVC and doesn’t harrass cyclists.

    1. Yes, the idea was taken to perfect execution by Big Orange, and many riders on La Grange and the Westside now ride in the lane on PCH.

  16. …the good news is that we’ve been ticket free for almost a year…right?…we got 3 in a row…but, it’s been quite since the ride-a-long. If we have a problem with having new Sheriffs, unfamiliar, and unsympathetic to cyclists rights on the road…we need to have a strategy for avoiding the ticket being written…ACTUALLY showing the officer the California vehicle code DOES NOT WORK…since his authority is now challenged, he will never back down. What would help him keep his honor, and convince him to let us go all at the same time????? Let’s drink some expensive bottled water (i think Road Champ has a chilled ’83)…and think on this!!!

    1. I’m not sure that the ticketing officer was at all a newbie; his partner may have been. And the bad ticket was sanctioned by the supervisor.

      1. sure, i get that…BUT, if we approach ANY officer who wants to write us a ticket, we have approx 10 seconds to “argue” our case…if we can find an angle that educates the officer and DOESN’T make him feel like we are getting the better of him…he might say, “hmmmm, i didn’t know that”…and “go about your day, and here’s some candy for your trouble”…

        1. I got pulled over on PCH last year on the second bump after Pepperdine and had a great talk with the officer. I always let them do all the talking, smile, and relax. Then they eventually shut up and ask me what I’m doing. So I talk it out, always leaning on the top tube of my bike. Once they’re listening, I talk the code. But most people get defensive and angry at being pulled over. Then it escalates. And then there are the asshole cops who are going to write the ticket no matter what because they “know” the law.

          1. The problem is that they don’t know what ANY of the vehicle code says, and they don’t need to know, because by and large it’s reasonable and makes sense. So they’re used to enforcing what seems safe and reasonable to them, assuming the vehicle code will back them up. It’s a safe bet, it works, and it sure beats reading that stuff.

            But when it comes to enforcing bicycle roadway positioning this approach totally falls apart because what makes sense to them is ultimately not backed up by the vehicle code, for good reason. Worse, if you only skim the relevant sections it does seem to back up their views (and let’s be fair, these are also the views widely held in our culture, even in the bicycling community). Only with close examination and analysis of the exceptions do the problems become clear.

            That’s why repealing 21202 and 21208 is so important, but I think the understanding of why this is so needs to be better understood first.

            1. I called the City of Malibu today to find out about permitting for a demonstration. They will “call me back.” Call me the reluctant campaigner.

    1. Waiting for my callback from the City of Malibu. I’m sure that’s the kind of phone message they really hop on.

  17. Unfortunately it seems the CHP gets flat out wrong training when it comes to bicycles and the law. A rider in my club was buzzed by a driver and since he caught it on video went to the local CHP to see about possibly having a letter send to the offending driver. The first CHP he talked to said it was the riders fault he got buzzed since he wasn’t riding on the very right edge of the 6 inch wide shoulder. This rider ended up talking to a second CHP officer and the CHP officer eventually conceded that 21202 talks about the roadway and that the roadway ends at the fog line thus we aren’t required to ride on the shoulder of the road. The problem is this second CHP officer said that in the CHP training materials it says that bicycles must ride as far to the right as possible of the road ( ie the roadway and shoulder) instead of riding as far to the right as practical of the roadway like 21202 says.

    1. Yup. And the CHP gets that from the DMV handbook and instruction materials for driver training. The problem is systemic.

    2. I disagree that they “get it wrong.” They hate cyclists and intentionally refuse to enforce the law.

  18. How ’bout just not stopping when you know for certain you’ve done nothing wrong. They’ll have to shoot you or run you off the road, then they’ll have serious problems. Unfortunately so might a rider. I made the mistake of stopping once. It’s a pretty silly thing to have two Delaware State Police officers following you with sirens on. It would have been thrown out of court but I didn’t want to be bothered so I just paid the bogus ticket. The officers citation of the code was incorrect. I also could have just sprinted away and lost them on the trail just ahead……. Now if I could just get a ticket for doing 35+ in a 25 zone. I’d be OK with that. Ha ha. Then there is a certain Maryland county Sheriff who insists on ignoring the leash law, allowing his dog to attack riders. But that a whole other problem we face every day. Heck, I should just go back to smoking, drinking, and sitting on my arse. Nah, that would be boring.

    1. In Malibu they would take you down. But it sounds like your Maryland sheriff is a class act.

  19. 1. Failure to stop for police officers displaying a red light behind you is a misdemeanor punishable by jail. Not recommended. At all.
    2. Cops get away with everything. The douche who wrote that ticket probably won’t show up in court. It won’t stop him from writing another ticket and fucking up somebody else’s day.
    3. Keep up the good fight, Seth. Grateful for you and everything you do.

    1. Thanks, Tamar. Ignoring police commands, red light or not, gets you tied into a pretzel and hustled off in the back of a squad car. We live in a police state. Enjoy.

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