Santa Cruz Police Stop, Frisk and Ticket Cyclist in “Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community”

Since 2007, Santa Cruz, California has been designated as a “Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community” by the Washington, D.C.-based League of American Bicyclists. There are currently 27 Bicycle Friendly Communities in California, and Santa Cruz is one of seven Silver Level communities. Davis, California was awarded the Platinum Level, while San Francisco, Palo Alto and Stanford University received Gold recognition.

According to the League of American Bicyclists, “The Bicycle Friendly Community Program inspires communities to improve conditions and opportunities for bicycling.”

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012, was a sunny summer day in downtown Santa Cruz, and the farmers market was bustling. One block away from the farmers market, on Walnut Avenue between Pacific Avenue and Cedar Street, a Santa Cruz Police Department cruiser was parked in the street as two officers stood over a young man seated on the curb with his hands cuffed behind his back.

The young man’s cruiser bicycle was leaning on the curb to his right, and his backpack and other possessions were on the curb to his left. In this article, I will call the young man “Oscar”, however that is not his name.

Oscar was stopped while riding his bicycle by officers William Winston and B. Warren of the Santa Cruz Police Department. Oscar was riding through an alley called Commerce Lane, then across Walnut Avenue, to an almost parallel alley called Pearl Alley.

Commerce Lane is an alley from Church Street to Walnut Avenue, and Pearl Alley is an alley from Walnut Avenue to Lincoln Street. Walnut Avenue is a one-way street, between Pacific Avenue and Cedar Street.

From Church Street to Lincoln Street, Pacific Avenue is a one-way street, north-only. Therefore, it is very common for cyclists to safely ride through the alleys when commuting through town.

Oscar says that another cyclist was riding behind him through the same alleys. However, SCPD officers Winston and Warren selectively stopped, detained, and ticketed only Oscar, not the other cyclist, for violating Vehicle Code Section 21650.1 which states, “A bicycle operated on a roadway, or the shoulder of a highway, shall be operated in the same direction as vehicles are required to be driven upon the roadway.”

Oscar was not arrested, but his hands were cuffed behind his back while he was detained. Officer Winston tried to get Oscar to admit to having a “gang affiliation”, and probed him over his tattoos and fashions.

The officers reportedly told Oscar that he was stopped, and not the other cyclist, because Oscar is on probation. After two years of incarceration, Oscar is on probation for two years until 2014.

Is Santa Cruz “An Extremely Bike-Friendly Place”?

The enthusiasm to promote bicycling is clear in the high percentage of streets with bike facilities, efforts to close the gaps in the cycling network and the use of innovative design solutions such as a unique signage, contra-flow bike lane and smart-card bicycle lockers.

League of American Bicyclists

Casey Coonerty Protti, owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz and sister of councilmember Ryan Coonerty, says the portion of Pacific Avenue to the north of the bookshop is cut-off for pedestrians as well as drivers by the big red “Do Not Enter” signs flanking the street corners.

Protti points to the perpendicular one-way streets, such as Walnut Avenue and Lincoln Street, that feed traffic on to and off of Pacific Avenue, as being a source of confusion.

“That can make getting around downtown very confusing,” she says.

Santa Cruz Good Times, June 26, 2012

You only need to spend an hour or so in Santa Cruz to realize that it is an extremely bike-friendly place.

Santa Cruz Good Times