A lifetime streak has come to an end with receipt today of my first citation as a cyclist.
Riding in to work this morning I rolled southbound through a Culver City T-intersection stop sign on Duquesne above Jefferson and on the northbound side — doh! — there just happened to be a CCPD patrol car with a pair of officers who deemed it fit to light me up and write me up.
I coulda done several illegal things instead of dutifully and respectfully stopping and obeying their requests:
1) Being but 40 feet from the entrance (too narrow for a vehicle to pursue) to the Ballona Creek Bikeway I could’ve gone fugitive and dove in there in an attempt to elude The Man.
2) When asked to produce identification I could’ve told them I didn’t have my license with me and provided false information.
Don’t think the first scenario didn’t cross my mind. In those moments of “face the music or flee” I even thought I might be able to get away with feigning surprise if apprehended by stating that I did not see or hear the officer’s lights and siren.
But ultimately I figured what could’ve potentially resulted was some sort of APB “officers in pursuit of cyclist” call being issued, and that could’ve brought all their brothers in arms out as well as possibly a contingent of news copters, to capture “breaking news” footage of me pedaling like a madman flanked by motorcycle units until I was eventually taken down hard and arrested. Who am I to interupt regularly scheduled programming across the SoCal airwaves?
The second “I don’t have my wallet with me” scenario would’ve given the officers probable cause that I was lying and allowed them to execute a search of my bag and produce the ID and I think a taser is mandatory for that, followed by arrest and subsequent bonus cavity search.
So instead I pulled to the curb, stopped, dismounted and powered down my iPod Shuffle while they completed their u-turn, pulled in behind me and got out.
“I guess you know why we stopped you?” asked the smaller of the two officers whose nameplate read “Gold.” The big one just stood off on the sidewalk his hand resting on what looked to be a Colt .45. Yikes.
“I guess me stopping and waiting for you gave that away,” I replied.
“Why didn’t you stop at the stop sign?” Gold asked.
I wanted to say “Because I didn’t see you there,” but instead I said something about being afraid I’d skid out on the wet pavement.”
Gold’s eyes lit up like Bobby Fischer about to checkmate an opponent. “Well then it’s your responsibility to travel at a reasonable enough speed to allow you to stop safely.”
“Indeed,” I said, thinking that sounds suspiciously as if he’d memorized it word for word out of the department’s official traffic stop script.
Then he mentioned something about my iPod headphones, which were still in my ears and informed me they were illegal, too.
“They are!?” I exclaimed, pulling them out with a flourish. The left one popped like a tiny champagne cork.
The look he gave my faux incredulity read “Cut the crap.” I complied with that demand too.
I didn’t think they’d find it at all funny if I attempted to lighten the mood by saying I had been *thiiiiiis* close to going fugitive down the creek path, so I kept my mouth shut and instead “Yessir’d!” and “Nosir’d!” and respectfully listened while the otherwise professional and courteous Officer Gold expressed his institutional bias against cyclists. First he told me he’d bet I never stop at t-intersections, then he told me that every cyclist v. car accident he’s rolled on has been the fault of the cyclist.
I started to say “Yeah, we suck, don’t we?” But instead I bit my tongue until it bled and produced my license without delay or excuse when he requested it, after which he retired carside with his ticket book to pen the citation while his partner kept a silent and wary eye on me and a silent and wary hand on the butt of his gun.
What was really cool was that in the course of his completing the ticket two other southbound cyclists and one northbounder ran the stop sign and passed me. Good for them.
When he returned for my autograph he promised me he’d done me a huuuuuuge favor. “I could’ve written you up for failing to stop at a flashing red, and that would have been a $370 fine, but instead I just wrote you for failing to stop for a posted stop sign. That’s only $170.”
Clearly his definition of “huge favor” differed with mine, with mine being something along the lines of “I’m letting you off with a warning and you’re free to go.”
But since that wasn’t to be, I choked back the desire to tell him not to do me any favors throwing only part of the book at me and instead was appropriately and theatrically thankful for his kindnessesses — and he wasn’t through yet!
“And I’m not writing you up for the headphones,” he said.
“Well in that case where do I sign!?” I inquired perhaps a bit over the top.
Officer Gold pointed out the red box, and handed me back my license and copy of the ticket after I handed him back the signed document.
He then schooled me on it being legal to wear one headphone on the streets and two on the bike paths. Good to know.
We parted amicably with him telling me to “Drive — er, ride — safe!” And I said “Or at least safer!”