San Diego Police Department to Train Officers on Cyclists’ Rights and Laws

Within the next two weeks, all patrol officers in the City of San Diego will receive training on the full text of CVC 21202, the bicycle law that applies to cyclists in California. This section of the vehicle code is the one that addresses where cyclists can be positioned when riding on the street and the specific exceptions to the code that have been the subject of two citations we’ve written about here. This has been the section of the vehicle code that has been oft cited when bicyclists in San Diego have been ticketed. Not surprisingly, the lack of understanding of the vehicle code has been a source of much consternation among the region’s cyclists. But with this new training, the patrol officers in the City of San Diego will now be better able to serve the region’s cyclists.

Assistant Chief of Police, Patrol Operations, Boyd Long

Yesterday, I met with Assistant Chief of Police, Patrol Operations, Boyd Long, and the Lieutenant of Traffic Division, Rick O’Hanlon. Also attending the meeting were Dion Akers, Council Representative to District Three’s Councilmember Todd Gloria, Andy Hanshaw, the new Executive Director of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, Linda Peter from the City Attorney’s Office, Jim Baross, the former Interim Executive Director at the SDCBC and William Karstens, a fellow bicycle advocate.

The meeting was the fruitful conclusion of a discussion that began with a series of emails between me and Todd Gloria’s office. District Three was where two of the CVC 21202 citations had been issued. Because the recipients of the two citations were trained under the curriculum set by the League of American Bicyclists on how to ride safely, it was disconcerting when they were being cited for riding in a manner that was both legal and recommended. Having officers patrolling the streets and issuing tickets to cyclists without an understanding the vehicle code that applied was causing a lot of confusion and I wanted to be certain that all of San Diego’s police officers were clear on what the law was.

At our meeting yesterday, Assistant Chief Long understood my concerns and understood how the lack of clarity in understanding the law was causing much confusion. He stated that within the next two weeks, he would be instituting a department wide training on the full text of CVC 21202. In response to my concerns that some officers may have unfairly been targeting cyclists on their beat, he offered to look at trends to analyze whether his officers were indeed doing so and to take remedial action to prevent such a trend from continuing. Furthermore, the Assistant Chief and his Lieutenant was open to the idea of reducing the cost of tickets issued to cyclists.

In an attempt to continue this positive dialogue, Lieutenant O’Hanlon committed to attending the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition monthly (SDCBC) meetings so he could continue the dialogue that we began yesterday. He admitted that being aware of all issues that affected San Diego’s cyclists would allow him to take the proper steps to ensure that appropriate proactive steps could be taken to prevent problems further down the road. The Lieutenant assured us that he would take proactive measures to ensure that negative interactions wouldn’t escalate.

Our discussion yesterday was both positive and encouraging. Knowing that all patrol officers will be briefed on CVC 21202 for all oncoming shifts as well as on their yearly training, is assurance that the San Diego Police Department will be able to enforce the law both fairly and accurately.

At the conclusion of this meeting, the common theme underlying the conversation was how we all could work together to interact with all road users safely and cordially. I’m grateful to Assistant Chief Long, Lieutenant O’Hanlon, and Dion Akers for starting this dialogue and I look forward to seeing this continue.