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  1. #1
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    Question No Passing Zone Violation, Passing a Car in the Bike Lane

    My question involves a traffic ticket from the state of: California, Palo Alto, 1700 block of University Ave

    Two lane, two way road. There is a BIKE LANE with the solid white lines.

    A car in front of me stopped and showed the left turning signal. It took a while before the car would actually make a left turn as the incoming traffic was heavy. I drove around that car on the right side using the bike lane. Yes, I checked for the bikers in the blind spot, right side and rear view mirrors. There was none in the bike lane. N O N E. It was a SAFE maneuver.

    I was pulled over by a police car and cited for violating VC 21461(a), No Passing Sign (Actually, it was black and white DO NO PASS sign.)

    This is my first ticket. I have been driving for the last 13 years.

    I passed on the right because I saw cars doing this all the time at this specific spot and over years I started assuming that it was OK if it is SAFE.
    I SAW the police car parked on the same side of the street with the lights off. Had I known it was unlawful, I would have NEVER done it! I obey rules of the road most of the time.

    Even when the officer asked me, I answered that I probably did something wrong. He told me there was a sign on the block stating DO NOT PASS. (I honestly did not see the sign).

    Fine is $244 and $286 with traffic school.

    What is my best option: Trial by Written Declaration or Court Appearance with guilty plea and bargain for the fine reduction? Do I have any ground to fight the ticket?

    Appreciate the advice.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: No Passing Zone Violation, Passing a Car in the Bike Lane

    Quote Quoting dasha200200
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    I was pulled over by a police car and cited for violating VC 21461(a), No Passing Sign (Actually, it was black and white DO NO PASS sign.)
    So at this point we have established that the location was properly posted with a "Do Not Pass" sign, and you passed in violation of the sign?
    Quote Quoting dasha200200
    I passed on the right because I saw cars doing this all the time at this specific spot and over years I started assuming that it was OK if it is SAFE.
    "Do Not Pass" has a different meaning from "Only Pass if it's Safe". When it's lawful to pass, it's the general rule that you should only pass when it's safe to do so. When it's unlawful to pass, it's unlawful to pass. "Everybody else was doing it" isn't a defense.
    Quote Quoting dasha200200
    I SAW the police car parked on the same side of the street with the lights off. Had I known it was unlawful, I would have NEVER done it!
    I appreciate that you believed that the "Do Not Pass" sign meant something else based upon years of seeing other drivers ignore the sign, but I'm not seeing how a court is going to find any validity to the argument that "I thought 'Do Not Pass' meant I could pass if I thought it was safe to do so."
    Quote Quoting dasha200200
    I obey rules of the road most of the time.
    So do I. I've still been pulled over because, for some reason, police officers want us to obey the rules all the time. I mean, c'mon.
    Quote Quoting dasha200200
    Even when the officer asked me, I answered that I probably did something wrong. He told me there was a sign on the block stating DO NOT PASS. (I honestly did not see the sign).
    You've been driving on this road for years and you never saw the sign? Is it hidden or obstructed?

    Added: It looks like an adequate sign to me.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: No Passing Zone Violation, Passing a Car in the Bike Lane

    Quote Quoting dasha200200
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    I checked for the bikers in the blind spot

    I would argue that if it really is a blind spot, you couldn't really check it, could you?


    Quote Quoting dasha200200
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    What is my best option: Trial by Written Declaration or Court Appearance with guilty plea and bargain for the fine reduction? Do I have any ground to fight the ticket?

    I would pick door #2: Court Appearance with guilty plea with traffic school and "a possible offer of a reduced fine"


    Quote Quoting dasha200200
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    Do I have any ground to fight the ticket?

    Only semantic arguments about the meaning of "Do Not Pass" and the possibility of exhausting the traffic school option once you make it to a TBD!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: No Passing Zone Violation, Passing a Car in the Bike Lane

    Let me add this part as well:

    Here is what I believe to be the controlling VC section here:


    21754. The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass to the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions:
    (a) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn.
    (b) Upon a highway within a business or residence district with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles in the direction of travel.
    (c) Upon any highway outside of a business or residence district with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width and clearly marked for two or more lines of moving traffic in the direction of travel.
    (d) Upon a one-way street.
    (e) Upon a highway divided into two roadways where traffic is restricted to one direction upon each of such roadways.
    The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a slow moving vehicle from the duty to drive as closely as practicable to the right hand edge of the roadway.


    Though there is no VC section that I am aware of that would prohibit your entry into the Bike lane "for purposes of making a right turn" (in fact you're required to enter the bike lane as you make your approach and your turn from the rightmost edge of the roadway as required by VC 22100 and in fact, your entry into the bike lane is required when making a turn under VC 21717, doing so to pass in this case is prohibited under subsection 21754(b).

    How? Well, if that roadway did in fact have sufficient room for a second lane, it would be in addition to -not including- the width used for the bike lane! And that would apply without the "Do Not Pass" sign. With the sign, the officer in this case opted to cite a more general violation of a regulatory sign, which would be equally applicable here, though it would require his explanation as to which sign was violated and by which of the drive's actions!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: No Passing Zone Violation, Passing a Car in the Bike Lane

    Let me begin by saying that this is a somewhat odd and arbitrary use of the "do not pass" sign. Per the MUTCD, the typical scenarios are to prohibit passing on the left on undivided two-lane roads, and to prohibit passing on the right when the right lane is being "dropped" (i.e., merging into the left lane).

    Quote Quoting dasha200200
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    What is my best option: Trial by Written Declaration or Court Appearance with guilty plea and bargain for the fine reduction? Do I have any ground to fight the ticket?
    VC 21754 doesn't matter here. What you were cited for is 21461(a), and by its language, that section MAY provide some small opportunities to mount a "semantic" defense.

    When is your appearance date? And can you get an automatic 30- or 60- day extension? If so, I would highly recommend doing a public records request from the local transportation dept. for all records, reports and the date when the sign was put up. Post those once you have them, and then we can see if there is any chance for a defense.

    If your appearance date is close, you can try going to the local court and watch a trial session or two to see if the judges are lenient about granting traffic school even after the defendant loses, and how many of the citing officers (from "your" agency) show up. And then decide whether to fight or fold.

    If you can't do that, I agree with TG -- take traffic school. In the absence of "favorable" documentation, this will be impossible to fight if the cop shows up.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: No Passing Zone Violation, Passing a Car in the Bike Lane

    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
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    VC 21754 doesn't matter here.
    Actually,. it does... The only way the officer can describe the violation is by using the language of 21754!


    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
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    In the absence of "favorable" documentation, this will be impossible to fight if the cop shows up.
    To use your three terms in a different order, I think the only "favorable" part here would be the absence of any documentation relating to the sign, and that way you can claim that the sign is not regulatory because it wasn't installed by order of "the" regulatory agency (but that is a huge stretch there)... I mean even if existing documentation were to specifically state that the sign was installed to prohibit passing on the left, it still, in its variety of meanings prohibits passing on the right, as well, (i.e. "Do Not Pass" means ""No Passing")!

  7. #7
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    Default Re: No Passing Zone Violation, Passing a Car in the Bike Lane

    Quote Quoting That Guy
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    Actually,. it does... The only way the officer can describe the violation is by using the language of 21754!
    Huh? He can use whatever language he wants, but he has to prove the elements of 21461(a)! Which are, put simply, "disobeying an official sign." Here is the official standard for the "do not pass" sign:

    Quote Quoting CA MUTCD 2010, sec. 2B.29
    When used, The DO NOT PASS sign shall be used at the beginning of, and at intervals within, a zone through which sight distance is restricted or where other conditions make overtaking and passing inappropriate.
    The officer only has to testify that the defendant went past such a sign while passing another vehicle. 21754 is irrelevant -- if he wanted to use that, he should have cited for it.

    In any case, the car ahead of the OP had its left blinker on and was "about to make a left turn." That is explicitly allowed under 21754(a), with no restrictions except for VC 21755, which requires any such movement to be made safely and only using the "main-traveled" portion of the road (i.e., no using the shoulder or unpaved area).

    Quote Quoting That Guy
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    To use your three terms in a different order, I think the only "favorable" part here would be the absence of any documentation relating to the sign, and that way you can claim that the sign is not regulatory because it wasn't installed by order of "the" regulatory agency (but that is a huge stretch there)
    That isn't a stretch at all. But that wasn't my idea --- considering the unconventional choice of sign, there has to be some record of "engineering judgment" or other justification, as to WHY that sign was installed. If there isn't, then there is a very valid argument that OP's movement was not otherwise illegal, in fact explicitly permitted by VC 21754, and is not a violation. If anything turns up, considering the area, it will probably involve something about bicycle traffic/safety. In which case, the OP has the defense (better yet, cross-examine the officer and get him to admit) that there were no bicycles nearby that would have been affected by his movement. To assume that the sign prohibits passing even if it is otherwise legal AND there are no bicycles nearby is "preposterous":

    Quote Quoting Powell v. Bartness (1956) 139 Cal. App. 2d 394
    Instruction 38 reads: "Whenever a driver of a motor vehicle observes that vehicles traveling in the same direction as he is have stopped at an intersection, such driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake and pass the vehicle stopped at the intersection." [b][i.e., "DO NOT PASS"] This is clearly an erroneous statement of the law. Taken literally, this instruction would tell the jury that even if a vehicle was stopped at an intersection because of motor trouble, it could not be overtaken and passed, which is preposterous on its face.
    Quote Quoting That Guy
    Well, if that roadway did in fact have sufficient room for a second lane, it would be in addition to -not including- the width used for the bike lane!
    Again, where does 21754(b) mention lanes or any other markings? All it says is "unobstructed pavement"! All that means is any paved portion. The only exclusion is by virtue of VC 21755 -- "maintraveled" -- which excludes a shoulder but includes a bike lane.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: No Passing Zone Violation, Passing a Car in the Bike Lane

    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
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    Huh? He can use whatever language he wants, but he has to prove the elements of 21461(a)! Which are, put simply, "disobeying an official sign."
    That was in rebuttal to your claim regarding the officer's use of the 21461 and the "Do No Pass" as being "odd and arbitrary".... if you make such an argument on behalf of the defendant, I would expect the judge to say "well, let's see what the officer has to say about why it is illegal to pass in the manner you did".

    That would be just the added bonus

    And in trying to clarify that part, you gave away the reason why your claim of "odd and arbitrary" isn't really fitting here simply because the standard you posted below states clearly includes conditions that are present in this case. Meaning: "... other conditions [which] make overtaking and passing inappropriate..."


    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
    View Post
    Here is the official standard for the "do not pass" sign:

    Quote Quoting CA MUTCD 2010, sec. 2B.29
    When used, The DO NOT PASS sign shall be used at the beginning of, and at intervals within, a zone through which sight distance is restricted or where other conditions make overtaking and passing inappropriate.

    Now, unless you can find a definition for "passing on the right" that cannot be described as "overtaking and/or passing", then you really couldn't prove much even if you could find a document that states that this particular sign was installed to prohibit passing on the left, simply because the sign, by its very nature, prohibits passing and overtaking in general (including left and right).



    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
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    The officer only has to testify that the defendant went past such a sign while passing another vehicle. 21754 is irrelevant -- if he wanted to use that, he should have cited for it.

    21754 is relevant in that it further shows why -even without a sign (for those who want to claim "I didn't see the sign")- such a pass is illegal!

    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
    View Post
    In any case, the car ahead of the OP had its left blinker on and was "about to make a left turn." That is explicitly allowed under 21754(a),
    So in our opinion, all of the conditions listed under 21754 have to exist for 21754 to become relevant?

    SO in a similar case, and as long as the other vehicle has its blinker on, does that mean I can drive on the shoulder to pass on the right??? (I hope our answer is "no")!


    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
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    ... with no restrictions except for VC 21755, which requires any such movement to be made safely and only using the "main-traveled" portion of the road (i.e., no using the shoulder or unpaved area).
    Well, there is also the restriction under 21209 prohibiting the use of the bicycle lane for passing:

    21209.
    (a) No person shall drive a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane established on a roadway pursuant to Section 21207 except as follows:
    (1) To park where parking is permitted.
    (2) To enter or leave the roadway.
    (3) To prepare for a turn within a distance of 200 feet from the intersection.
    (b) This section does not prohibit the use of a motorized bicycle in a bicycle lane, pursuant to Section 21207.5, at a speed no greater than is reasonable or prudent, having due regard for visibility, traffic conditions, and the condition of the roadway surface of the bicycle lane, and in a manner which does not endanger the safety of bicyclists.


    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
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    which requires any such movement to be made safely and only using the "main-traveled" portion of the road (i.e., no using the shoulder or unpaved area).
    So now the "main traveled portion of the road" is limited to "the shoulder and unpaved area"?

    If that is the case then what is the purpose of 21209? And why is there a need for a bike lane, if vehicles can randomly use that as part of "the main traveled portion of the roadway"?


    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
    View Post
    That isn't a stretch at all. But that wasn't my idea
    Well, it wasn't my idea that the officer should only testify to the elements of 21754 and leave 21461 alone. We both know better than that!


    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
    View Post
    .... considering the unconventional choice of sign, there has to be some record of "engineering judgment" or other justification, as to WHY that sign was installed.
    Quirky, just because you have only seen that sign installed as a prohibition to passing on the left does not make that the only use for it!!! The "standard" -YOU- posted clearly makes it applicable to any passing situation that is inappropriate!

    Why is there a need for engineering judgement and further justification?


    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
    View Post
    In any case, the car ahead of the OP had its left blinker on and was "about to make a left turn." That is explicitly allowed under 21754(a)
    It is NOT allowed by 21754,

    It is NOT allowed by 21755,

    It is NOT allowed by 21209,

    And it is simply forbidden by virtue of that black and white sign and its definition which you yourself posted!

    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
    View Post
    If anything turns up, considering the area, it will probably involve something about bicycle traffic/safety. In which case, the OP has the defense (better yet, cross-examine the officer and get him to admit) that there were no bicycles nearby that would have been affected by his movement.
    Well, 21209 does not permit the use of the bike lanes only if bicycles are not around. It only allows it under 3 strict conditions. None of which would apply in this case!



    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
    View Post
    To assume that the sign prohibits passing even if it is otherwise legal AND there are no bicycles nearby is "preposterous".
    Then the legislatlative act to make 21209 as part of the vehicle code without it including some provision that dictates bicycle presence as a precursor, is "preposterous".... They could have included that as a safety element, but they DIDN'T!


    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
    View Post
    Again, where does 21754(b) mention lanes or any other markings? All it says is "unobstructed pavement"! All that means is any paved portion.

    It does mention: "sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles in the direction of travel", and that is sufficient for me. Sorry it doesn't meet your standards!


    Quote Quoting quirkyquark
    View Post
    The only exclusion is by virtue of VC 21755 -- "maintraveled" -- which excludes a shoulder but includes a bike lane.
    Who's definition is that? And does it not contradict 21209?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: No Passing Zone Violation, Passing a Car in the Bike Lane

    Hello,

    Thank you very much for your time and the valuable input !

    I called the court and requested an extension of 30 days (According to the court clerk they do not grant 60 day extension). Now the due date is in 1.5 month.

    To quirkyquark: It seems to be out of the ordinary use of the Do Not Pass sign. When I called local transportation department, the engineer started explaining to me the traditional standard of the Do Not Pass sign until he realized that in this specific case it was used differently.

    I asked about relevant paperwork and got a copy of the Transportation work request with the work request # on it dated 2008 requesting to relocate the sign “Do Not Pass” and “Bike Lane” closer to the spot where the cars make left turn into the Center Dr.

    I guess, I need to make a request for engineering judgment. (The engineer told me over the phone that there was a lot of bike activity in the area. Cars usually pass on the right other cars that have stopped in order to make a left turn. There is a chance that passing vehicles do not notice bikers. It is relatively heavily travelled road as one way leads to downtown and the other to highway.)


    To That Guy: I do not have to go to court. I have an option to pay fine and go to traffic school - $286.
    I mentioned court appearance only as the opportunity to negotiate a lesser charge and some other less likely occurring events such as the officer does not show up (what else? Deal to settle as parking violation? The officer was very nice and he even apologized for “being my first”)….

    The road does have “sufficient width for two or more lines” and it is in “addition to … the width used for the bike lane”. Basically, there is a lane where cars travel, the bike lane and “spare space” for vehicles to park (by driving through a bike lane).

    You quoted CA MUTCD 1020, sec 2B.29. Does it make any difference that the DO NOT PASS sign was used only once (at only one point where the cars stop to turn left)? The way it is used seems to just prevent from passing other cars at this SPECIFIC spot on the road.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: No Passing Zone Violation, Passing a Car in the Bike Lane

    Quote Quoting dasha200200
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    It seems to be out of the ordinary use of the Do Not Pass sign. When I called local transportation department, the engineer started explaining to me the traditional standard of the Do Not Pass sign until he realized that in this specific case it was used differently.
    As I initially suggested

    Quote Quoting dasha200200
    View Post
    I guess, I need to make a request for engineering judgment. (The engineer told me over the phone that there was a lot of bike activity in the area. Cars usually pass on the right other cars that have stopped in order to make a left turn. There is a chance that passing vehicles do not notice bikers. It is relatively heavily travelled road as one way leads to downtown and the other to highway.)
    I don't know if the rational above is what the engineer told you, or what you inferred from whatever he told you. But YES, you absolutely need something in writing that contains a justification for that 2008 work order.

    Quote Quoting dasha200200
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    I mentioned court appearance only as the opportunity to negotiate a lesser charge and some other less likely occurring events such as the officer does not show up (what else? Deal to settle as parking violation? The officer was very nice and he even apologized for “being my first”)
    Usually doesn't happen, sorry. You can try visiting an arraignment or two (on the same time/day-of-week yours is), to see if the judge is as lenient as you'd like for those who plead guilty. A "plea deal" (parking!?) is 99.9% unlikely.

    Quote Quoting dasha200200
    View Post
    The road does have “sufficient width for two or more lines” and it is in “addition to … the width used for the bike lane”. Basically, there is a lane where cars travel, the bike lane and “spare space” for vehicles to park (by driving through a bike lane).
    This is the most IMPORTANT part -- thanks. It's clearer from the overhead view that there's enough room to park (the previous block, by contrast, has the bike lane between the one lane and the sidewalk). Therefore, that "parking lane" is NOT A SHOULDER. Arguably, it is also a separate roadway -- it's not used for travel, per se, just parking. Therefore, VC 21209 allows you to cross the bike lane momentarily to that leave the "regular" roadway and get to the "parking roadway" (and back). The necessary passing to the right is allowed by VC 21754, as long as there are no bicyclists around (VC 21755).

    Thus, the only illegal act you did is disobey the do no pass sign. Assuming that the paperwork backs it up as appropriate, your only defense is an affirmative one. (affirmative = you did what you're accused of, but you shouldn't be liable for it). And you will have to make that using case law, e.g. the one I quotes where it said, if a car overheats and stops there, should you NEVER pass it, even if otherwise legal, just because of the sign?

    A TBD is best suited to this defense. I'll try to see if there is other case law that can back you up.

    Quote Quoting dasha200200
    View Post
    You quoted CA MUTCD 1020, sec 2B.29. Does it make any difference that the DO NOT PASS sign was used only once (at only one point where the cars stop to turn left)? The way it is used seems to just prevent from passing other cars at this SPECIFIC spot on the road.
    Unfortunately, it does not. It is an atypical use of the sign, but nothing in the MUTCD says it can't be used this way. See, the "zone" can be arbitrarily short, so there may be no need to post additional "DO NOT PASS" signs. Say it's 50 feet before and after that intersection.

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