No expletives were harmed in this protest

January 16, 2017 § 56 Comments

Yesterday we met at Malaga Cove Plaza and rolled out our fancy new Bikes May Use Full Lane signs as part of our free speech demonstration. We held up the signs for all motorists to see, so that they could learn about the law and so that we could exercise our right to free speech.

By my rough estimate, more than a billion cars passed by, or perhaps it was a thousand or so. Many waved, a few showed the finger, and one sympathizer of the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch and Robert Chapman stuck his head out of the window of his rusty pickup and screamed, “Cars first!”

I pleasantly shouted back, “State law!”

He screamed, apoplectic, “Fuck you! Cars first! Whiny faggot!” summing up perfectly the grounds on which a tiny handful of people oppose the law.

The best car was a house divided, where the sour driver husband grimly shook his head and gave us a thumbs-down, while his wife enthusiastically smiled and gave us a thumbs-up. I bet she has a happy pool guy.

The great news is that standing at the intersection with a concise, easily seen statement of the law works wonders. The not-so-great news is that if you’re holding up an actual traffic sign that hasn’t been approved for installation by the city, the PVE PD will come up and threaten to cite you for violating CVC 21465. We had a civil and brief discussion with the police, who told us that it was free speech if our signs were made of cardboard, but not free speech if they were actual traffic signs. The statute doesn’t say this, of course, and we pretty clearly have the right as part of a demonstration to hold up whatever signs we want, but since the point of the protest was to educate motorists rather than be led away in chains, and since it was lunch time, we ended the protest without being fined or arrested. #winning

Our next and expanded intersection education campaign is already in the works. Thanks to all who honked encouragement, the cyclists who rode by and grinned, the entire Surf City Cyclery Team who yelled as they rode through, the high five from Gussy, and the advocates who showed up to help educate the city’s motorists.



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§ 56 Responses to No expletives were harmed in this protest

  • Brian in VA says:

    Totally digging this!

  • “I bet she has a happy pool guy”. The images that flash through your brain.

  • Dan says:

    Good on ya! You know I support activism in favor of cycling and safety and cycling safety. But I’m glad you didn’t get fined or arrested.

    I’d never heard of CVC 21465, but I went and read it, and I looked at the annotations. I’m no expert in this field, but the officer’s distinction between a sign that really looks like an official sign and one that doesn’t seems like a reasonable interpretation of the statute. I guess maybe you’re OK if you’re just holding the signs, and not posting them?

    See Sanctity of Human Life Network v. California Highway Patrol (2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 858, 868 [holding protestors signs not in violation of sec. 21465 because “[T]hey did not purport to be traffic signs. They did not imitate or resemble traffic signs. The signs did not attempt to direct the movement of traffic or hide from view any traffic sign.”]

    Weren’t your signs doing the first three of those things (just not hiding other traffic signs)?

    • fsethd says:

      Thanks for the citation. I’ll read it.

    • darelldd says:


      The signs did not purport to be traffic signs, they ARE traffic signs. The signs did not imitate or resemble traffic signs, they ARE traffic signs. So this is the part that makes no sense to me – had the words and message been the same, but hand-drawn on cardboard instead, then the signs would have maybe been in violation of this because they were imitating real signs?? But not if real signs are used, as in this situation.

      If no person can place, maintain or display a real sign that attempts to direct traffic, then it would seem that we could have no signs posted anywhere near the road. Or they’d have to be placed by robot or something.

      Gosh. If we only had a lawyer handy who knew how to read legalese.

      Here’s the kicker – I’m currently involved in using the same section of code to have non-conforming “bikes ride single file” removed from our roads… and having no luck. The sections of the CVC that apply to signs seem to only apply to civilians, not to the entities that actually install signs. Apparently, those folks can make up whatever signs they please.

      • fsethd says:

        They can make up anything. And do.

      • Dan says:

        Yeah, contemplating today and Friday and having just seen Hidden Figures, I’m thinking there are definitely fights worth going to jail over–and maybe whether a sign violates Veh. Code sec. 21465 or not is not really one of them.

        But as long as we’re debating it. 🙂

        Here’s the text:

        *No person shall* place, maintain, or *display* upon, or in view of, any highway any unofficial sign, signal, device, or marking, or *any sign*, signal, device, or marking *which purports to be* or is an imitation of, or resembles, *an official traffic control device* or which attempts to direct the movement of traffic or which hides from view any official traffic control device.

        I can’t figure out how to do bold or italics or even change the font in these comments, so I emphasized certain words by surrounding them with asterisks (aka “stars”). If you just read those words, you can see that “no person shall display any sign which purports to be an official traffic control device.” Assuming that signs are official traffic control devices (honestly, I didn’t check that), then the statute also prohibits any “person” from displaying anything that purports to be a real sign. Since you say these aren’t imitations, but real signs, then they’re verboten.

        I guess maybe CalTrans and CHP aren’t “persons”, and so can place them without violating this section?

      • darelldd says:

        Please… don’t make me contemplate Friday! I get your point about picking your battles, and etc. Doesn’t stop me from wanting to figure it all out though!

        Yes, I’ve read that through that paragraph about 100 times since reading this blog entry… plus the 2003 case you found. That’s got some nuggets of relevant info that shouldn’t be missed.

        “[The testimony of the CHP expert on the CVC] reveals that the CHP does not have a clear or articulable definition of the scope of section 21465.”

        With all them signs Seth just bought, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of 21465 just yet! You have to wonder what a judge would have to say about being arrested for holding up a 25 MPH sign in a 25 MPH zone, ya know?

      • Judy says:

        No. They are not traffic signs. The real.ones.don’t say Change lanes to pass. But it would be better if.they did

      • darelldd says:

        Indeed, I am the embodiment of fake news!

        Stand by. I have my crack team of experts on it who will – at any moment now – agree with you that I pulled a Trump and used shaky, old info to make bold, public statements. I know that the “official” R4-11 sign is only BMUFL. And when this sign was being “tested,” I could swear the “change lanes” bit was mentioned in some context. When I saw that Seth had included the passing bit, I didn’t even flinch. Still hunting for that cite now!

        (say! you should get that . key looked at. Needs lower air pressure. Or an alignment or something. 🙂

      • Mario Obejas says:

        Judy, you are making an incorrect assertion about the validity of the signs.

        These are official traffic signs. The BMUFL comes in at least two variants, one of which adds, Change Lanes to Pass.

        I supplied the link to Seth for this particular sign :

        There are many cities who rely on an outside printer for their signs, rather than maintain costly in house capabilities.

        FWIW, I’m also discussing with a public works official about the possibility of local 501c3 and 501c4 clubs being a grant source for cities for such signs, giving cities a financial incentive to install them. Some cities in the area are quite poor (eg, Lennox, Gardena) and welcome creative means of providing services like these. It would also set a nice precedent, ie, when one city does it, it’s a lot easier for others to follow.

        • Judy says:

          Looking into it further, the sign with the addition as is it not actually in the MUTCD but there is guidance that you may be able to add the education. Black and White signs are legal. Yellow are warning so the bottom night need to be yellow and black. Other states have used the version of the sign with change lanes to pass. Do you know anywhere where it is used in California? Having some example to refer to helps to get a TRaffic Engineer to use it with the education. We have many BMUFL signs in San Diego County but none of this version

          Regulatory signs can be created if they have a regulation to refer to. If your state requires motorists to change lanes when passing cyclists, then they could use such a sign without a problem.
          2A.12, addressing new symbol signs, notes:

          04 New warning or regulatory symbol signs not readily recognizable by the public should be accompanied by an educational plaque.
          05 Educational plaques may be left in place as long as they are in serviceable condition.

          Since the BMUFL sign is clearly new, is “change lanes to pass” possibly just an educational plaque added below the standard R4-11, and therefore allowable without separate approval? (Note the design maintains a black border between the standard R4-11 and the “change lanes to pass” message — visually, it’s a supplemental plaque, even if they’re printed as a single sign.)

          If signs are beside lanes under 16 feet, there isn’t room for a car or truck to safely pass a bicycle entirely within the lane. (AASHTO operating width of bicycle + operating width of motor vehicle > 16′)

          Most states have a law requiring that on roadways laned for traffic, a vehicle must be operated within a single lane to the extent practicable. In other words, no straddling the lane line.

          Ergo, if the BMUFL signs are beside “substandard width” lanes, most states already have a law requiring drivers to change lanes when passing. But that is contrary to most drivers’ expectations, so an educational plaque with the new regulatory sign may usefully clarify the existing law.

          Really they need to change lanes.. Because they will straddle the lane by giving 3 feet.

          • darelldd says:

            Thanks for all of this, Judy.

            >> In other words, no straddling the lane line. <<

            And this is just one of many significant and frightening errors in the CA DMV driver handbook. (Frightening because of how many people – including those in law enforcement – mistake the handbook for proper summary of the CVC). The handbook shows a graphic labeled "right" depicting a car perfectly straddling the center line as it passes the cyclist.

            I found a link to the specific page where this is found:.

  • Brent says:

    “…and the advocates who showed up to help educate the city’s motorists.” My brain first read this as “… and the advocates who showed up to help eradicate the city’s motorists.” Wow! Seth’s stepped it up! 🙂

    I guess if people showed up at a protest holding real “STOP” signs, that could get a little confusing for motorists.

    Keep up that education, and the entertaining blogging about it. You’re setting a great model of local democracy that others can emulate, but the downer is you’re honest in telling how much effort it is, so they (we) probably won’t.

  • Mario Obejas says:

    Cars first???

    I try to understand someone else’s pov but that one would have caused a cognitive delay in processing if I would have heard that.

    Looks like 24×30 was def the right size. You guys look great.

  • Rob says:

    Pathetic that that was all the rusty pick up guy could come up with but you gotta hand it to them-they’ve always had a way with words. Not really though.
    It’s actually just further proof that the anti-bike arguments aren’t based on any kind of reality. It’s all just bullying

    • fsethd says:

      Their arguments are simple: 1. Everything more me, nothing for you. 2. I don’t like you. 3. You’re gay.

  • kimfue says:

    Free speech if made of cardboard…. Wow!

  • Edwin says:

    Cardboard may be easier on the arms and shoulders though. Real traffic sign can weigh a ton. Or are these 100% carbon?

  • Quiche says:

    Totally. Freaking. Awesome. Thank you so much for all your efforts. I wish I lived closer so I could play too.

  • Joninsocal says:

    Still laughing at the happy pool guy comment

  • Deb Banks says:

    Awesome! Clearly education trumps (!) militantism. Open that new PayPal account asap so people can support the effort. Protesters do better on full stomachs! Way to go.

  • Judy says:

    I love your signs and they are good education but they are not tje signs in the MUTCD. Don’t know what the police were talking.about. the real ones do not say.” pass”

    • fsethd says:

      Do you have the link to the MUTCD for BMUFL signs?

      • darelldd says:

        The BMUFL is R4-11. It appears that you combined it with R4-16. Look at Figure 9B-2 in the CA MUTCD 2014 Edition.

      • darelldd says:

        (Oops. Sorry. Forget the R4-16 thing. Once again I’m getting confused with my opposite sign-fight!)

        Here’s a link to the latest sign chapter: . Scroll down to figure 9B-2. Between when this sign was being floated out there, and its acceptance, I swear that I read that the “change lanes to pass” could be added. Still digging for that info. Regardless, the official R4-11 is just BMUFL.

      • chris says:

        The full MUTCD is a hefty document. The link below is the bicycle relevant section. Page 793 has the BMUFL sign (as well as many others):

        Click to access part9.pdf

      • Dan says:

        Also Cal Veh. Code, §§ 21200 and 21202.

        None of this is meant as criticism, by the way! Keep up the good work!

      • krfifteen says:

        The “Change Lanes to Pass” part is an optional “educational plaque” allowed by section 2B.02 of the MUTCD. It has been used, I believe, in more than one state. While looking up this answer I came a cross a sign which I have never seen, but would love to: R117 (CA). It reads “PASS *bike* 3 FT MIN”

        • Judy F says:

          I can’t find the 2B.02 showing “change lanes to pass” as optional. Do you have a link to that part of the MUTCD with the plaque?

          • krfifteen says:

            The CLTP plaque is not shown. 2B.02 says: 02 Regulatory word message signs other than those classified and specified in this Manual and the “Standard Highways Signs and Markings” book (see Section 1A.11) may be developed to aid the enforcement of other laws or regulations. Also: 04 The use of educational plaques to supplement symbol signs is described in Section 2A.12.
            05 Changeable message signs displaying a regulatory message incorporating a prohibitory message that includes
            a red circle and slash on a static sign should display a red symbol that approximates the same red circle and slash as closely as possible.

            There was a study in Boston where they used the CLTP plaques and stated 2B.02 as justification. I’ll see if I can find the link… here:

            It says: “The use of a supplemental plaque advising travelers to CHANGE LANES TO PASS is allowed per Section 2B.02 of the MUTCD.”

      • darelldd says:

        We have several examples of R117 in Davis (well, just outside the town limits on a county road that commuters frequent on their way to Sacramento). They were installed (in response to advocacy efforts!) in late 2015. If you’d like photos of them in the wild, please contact me at my username at

      • darelldd says:

        Yay! It would appear that my rusty thoughts on signs being allowed to include optional advisory info has been vindicated by krfifteen.

        Seriously, thanks for the great info and research. Heck if I could turn up a citation. I’ve decided to be happy about the fact that I actually remembered something somewhat accurately.

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  • Carl says:

    How long were you all out there displaying the signs before the police shut it down?

  • marymtf says:

    I’ve noticed lately it’s free speech only as long as people agree with what you have to say.
    It makes more sense to me that you should be pressuring councils and other worthless politicians to take up part of the road for use as bike lanes. I’m not a bike rider but I do often see them weaving in and out of traffic and causing danger to themselves and others. A bit of education all round and on both sides would be a good thing.

  • PatrickGSR94 says:

    A little off topic but… that pic with the cop, he totally looks like Rami Malek from Mr. Robot, from that angle anyway!

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