EBBC Fights to Protect Bicycle Tours from Oppressive New Bicycle Ordinance

EBBC Letter to Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern, sent Aug. 29, 2007:


August 29, 2007

Gregory J. Ahern, Sheriff
Alameda County Sheriff’s Office
Lakeside Plaza
1401 Lakeside Drive, 12th Floor
Oakland CA 94612-4305

Re: Adoption of Bicycle Ordinance

Dear Sheriff Ahern:

Our organization has reviewed the proposed Bicycle Ordinance that was place on agenda for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting of July 31, 2007. We have serious concerns and request that your office withdraw this proposed Ordinance, for further review and input by the members of the public impacted by it. We note that hundreds of bicycle tours and club rides take place on unincorporated Alameda County roads each year without incident. Riders are always urged to conduct themselves according to the California Vehicle Code.

We have been working with the County Supervisors as well as your office on this issue starting back in 1997 when your predecessor sought to arrest the Cherry City Cyclists for staging a bicycle tour. In connection with our efforts over the last 10 years, we have attended meetings of the Rural Roads Committee of the Board of Supervisors and discussed the issues involved with concerned residents. From these efforts, we have heard concerns on three issues:

Notice to residents of upcoming bicycle tours;
Traffic flow along Mines Road; and
Public urination.

The proposed Ordinance does not address the 3rd issue of public urination, and introduces numerous unneeded issues that are irrelevant to the concerns of residents on Mines Road and other rural roads of the County.

We propose the following revisions to the Ordinance:

Delete the threshold number of bicyclists of “fifty” in §10.25.010A. It’s unnecessary and arbitrary. The traffic safety issue the Ordinance is attempting to address here is fully captured in the same line with the language “significantly affect traffic or create a safety problem…’. We are comfortable with the goal of having large bicycle tours that have so many cyclists as to create a traffic safety issue be subject to the ordinance. In our experience, such bicycle tours have at least 1000 riders and up. Recently, the Mt. Hamilton Challenge had approximately 150 riders in Alameda County and the police officers from your office who were out on the road that day shared with our organization that there were no problems with traffic along Mines Road. In fact, the only bicycle tour we are aware of that has sufficient riders to warrant traffic control is the Cinderella, which has over 2000 riders;

The attempted definition of “Bicycle event” to capture tours that don’t create any safety issues by subjecting them to liability and insurance requirements is just plain vague. Here’s the language used: “for which there will not be a procession or assemblage of bicycles on the highway at any time during the event, are not ‘bicycle events’, except….”. This is different language than that used previously to define a bicycle event as one that significantly affects traffic. The different definitions leave open the question of what falls between a “procession or assemblage that significantly affects traffic” and a non-procession or assemblage of fifty cyclists;

More importantly, any bicycle tour that complies with the California Vehicle Code and is not a “procession or assemblage” cannot be subject to county regulation under §21100 of the California Vehicle Code, which protects the rights of cyclists to use public roadways. We are aware of no authority to the contrary that allows the County to impose insurance and liability requirements on cyclists, over and above the requirements of state law. If you are aware of such authority, please share it with us and the public at large through a public process discussed below;
For large bicycle tours that meet the definition of bicycle events by potentially creating traffic safety issues, the requirement of having insurance makes sense, but there is no need to have such insurance include additional insured endorsement pages for the County, the Board of Supervisors, etc. It’s unreasonable to expect volunteer ride organizers to go to every jurisdiction their ride traverses and get an endorsement page. This provision should be deleted. Their general insurance policy should suffice;

Any permit issued by the County under this Ordinance should supercede the permit requirements of any other jurisdictions. There should be only “one” permit required. Again, volunteer ride organizers can’t be expected to go to every jurisdiction to obtain a permit. It would put bicycle tours out of business;

The signage requirements of §10.25.040D should be eliminated. Again, they are unnecessary. Notice to residents along rural roads of the County can be arranged by a agreed upon website where rides are listed with maps, times, dates, etc. Such a webiste can be set up with RSS feeds and email notification, if requested. From this, any concerned resident can adjust their travel plans accordingly. There is no need again to have a volunteer go out along the roadways and tack up signage, or pay for the Sheriff’s Office to do to, and then go back after the ride and take down the signage.

The proposed ordinance also talks of “bicycle units” which is a term that relates to parades, not bicycle tours. All references to such units should be eliminated from the ordinance, as the person who drafted the ordinance apparently does not understand the significant differences between a parade and a bicycle tour. Thus, in §10.25.030B(10) and (11), there should be no requirements asking for information about times for bicycle units to assemble or spacing between bicycle units. Also, in §10.25.090, most of this section can be eliminated as not applicable. The only requirement that might be included here is one that “motorists shall only pass cyclists when conditions make it safe to do so.”

In addition, the public process thru which this proposed Ordinance is reviewed needs to be expanded beyond its introduction to the “Consent Calendar” by a single County Supervisor. Good public process involves input and review by not only members of the public concerned about an issue, but also by the members of the public affected by any proposed solutions. We respectfully request that your Office convene a public meeting to discuss this issue, and that your Office work to ensure that all interested parties are invited and have an opportunity to provide input.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to hearing back from your Office on this important matter.


Dave Campbell

cc: Scott Haggarty, County Supervisor
Nate Miley, County Supervisor
Gail Steele, County Supervisor
Alice Lai-Bitker, County Supervisor
Keith Carson, County Supervisor