Wednesday, July 23, 2008

LAPD vs. pedestrians

On Monday, I got a ticket for crossing the street wrong.

I was crossing 7th St on the east side of Alvarado, right next to the Westlake / MacArthur Park Metro station on the Red Line. I crossed within the boundaries of the crosswalk, walking my bike and not riding it, and I made it across the street before the light turned yellow. Once I arrived on the opposite sidewalk, a cop immediately stopped me and began writing me a ticket. I looked at him with incredulity. He said, "Once the red hand begins flashing, you cannot enter the intersection at all."

He then proceeded to ask me for my ID.

[Unrelated note: he filled out my race as white, and I had to correct him. I said, "I'm not white." He said, "What are you then?" I should have said black. What could he have done? I said, "Asian / Pacific-Islander." He said, "I don't think I have that - what do you put on forms?" I barked. "Other."]

I didn't argue with him, and later looked up California Vehicle Code 21456, which he cited on the ticket. It did in fact stipulate that the way I crossed was illegal. But seriously, who knew!?

So many questions were running through my mind. WHY would a cop bother ticketing pedestrians in a neighborhood with so many other, more consequential crimes? I could probably identify 15 people selling fake IDs, 5 instances of public drunkenness, and 50 instances of littering within a 2 block radius of the corner we stood on. How could pedestrian traffic really be the priority here?

As I rode home, I thought about all of the times that drivers had broken minor laws in ways that directly endangered my life while I rode a bike. And I got straight up angry. I wanted to say to this cop: I ride my bike and take public transit every day, and it cleans YOUR air and makes YOUR city better. YOU benefit directly. But instead of protecting cyclists and pedestrians, all of whom are doing the city a public service, you criminalize us. Instead of ticketing the thousands of drivers who anticipate green lights or blow through intersections at unsafe speeds, you plant your sting on the sidewalk and fine working-class transit users.

The day after I got the ticket, I was at the same intersection and saw another pedestrian being ticketed. I asked the pedestrian offender (who, coincidentally, was also walking a bike), if he was getting a ticket for crossing the street wrong. He said yes, and added, "It's ridiculous. Pedestrians have no rights."

I asked the cop why he was doing this, and he said he was ordered to by his supervisor. I asked if he could just give warnings instead of tickets - educate instead of punish. He started some kind of explanation, but had to interrupt himself to go ticket some more pedestrians who were wantonly crossing the street at that moment.

Curbed LA did some reporting on this issue. I also found this article in Streetsblog. I recommend reading through the comments in the Streetsblog article. Unlike the comments in the Curbed articles, these have more substance than your usual internet jackassery.

Later comments in the Streetsblog article give good advice on how to contest the ticket. The logic in this article will also be helpful, even though it pertains to DC, and not LA.

I am happy to relay information like this here. But I also worry that most of the people in my neighborhood who are getting these tickets do not have the internet or other resources to learn how to fight them. What I really should do is go back to that corner and make sure nobody breaks the law, so that the sidewalk officer can't ticket anyone.

I want this officer and all of his supervisors to suffer full accountability for this nonsense. For the record: the officer who gave me the ticket was named Peterson. The violation occurred in the Rampart section of the LAPD's Central Bureau. The Rampart police station is located at 2710 W. Temple, LA 90026, and can be called at 213 485 4061. The Central Bureau Deputy Chief of Operations is Sergio Diaz. His email is .

The sting took place in District 1 of LA City. The Council member who represents this district is Ed Reyes:, 213 473 7001.

Thanks, LAPD, for making walking a crime in one of the nation's most pedestrian-hostile cities.


Gloria said...

I know this is an old post but I just got a ticket for the same violation and it makes me feel a tiny bit better that it's not just me. Did you end up paying for this? Do you remember how much you paid?

Herbie said...

Well, my court date isn't until November. But I'll post an update afterward.

Walrus said...

I got a ticket for this "don't walk/red hand violation" TODAY! I came to the intersection and crossed because the traffic light was green. The officer said I didn't receive a warning because he was tired of giving warnings and just started giving tickets without warning.

I am also curious how to contest this in court. My friend said to video record the signal to show that it does not work properly.

After the officer wrote the ticket I went back to the intersection to test the signal as the officer watched. The signal did not appear to be operating correctly because the walk signal only went on for short period long after I had pushed the button. While I was pushing the button about 3 other people were crossing the intersection and all of them also failed to press the button and wait for the walk signal. The officer started yelling at them to push the button and wait for the walk signal. Only 1 of them went back to push the signal. The others seemed confused and avoided crossing at that intersection.

My court date is in December. Please let us know how yours goes