Al Pacino Closed My Bike Lane

It’s the classic urban cycling problem: when faced with the indignities of riding in a car-centric city like Los Angeles, do you make it all one big fun challenge or become what Bikesnob calls “the righteous cyclist?”  Righteous cyclists, according to Bikesnob, are “convinced that the very act of turning the pedals will actually restore acres and acres of rainforest, suck smog from the sky and refreeze the ice caps.” In short they are sometimes so obsessed with the issues surrounding cycling that they fail to enjoy actually, well, cycling.

So one rainy day earlier this month, heading down busy Sunset Boulevard, I came upon a film crew blocking the bike lane. This happens fairly often, especially at this section of Sunset. Your choice is to hop on the sidewalk, rarely a good idea in my opinion, or merge into fast moving traffic.

Normally, I take the stoic approach and treat a situation like this as a challenge, an opportunity to practice living in a real life version of Frogger, somewhat like Laird Hamilton might treat a particularly gnarly big wave. But on this dark and rainy morning, I thought I owed it to any cyclist pedaling behind me to try to do something about the situation. So, acting the role of the righteous cyclist, I rode up to the security guard and asked if the film permit specified a bike lane closure. He said he’d get the production manager for me.

The production manager introduced himself and I said hello. I again asked if the film permit allowed for the closure of the bike lane. He said no, that it allowed for the closure of the “curb lane” and that it was not his fault that the curb lane was too narrow to fit his trucks. He said that originally the trucks were supposed to be parked elsewhere but that the “talent didn’t want to cross the street.”* The “talent,” I later found out, was Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. He also said that film companies only need a permit to close the “special green bike lanes downtown” (not true).

I decided to keep my cool. What I really wanted to say at this point was something along the lines of “you Hollywood folks haven’t made a decent movie in around 30 years.” And, “I want to put Lars Von Trier in charge and force you all to go Dogma 95–then I’d have my friken’ bike lane back, not to mention decent movies.”

But I kept my cool. I thanked him for his precious Hollywood time and rode off, promising to take it up with the entity that issues the permits, Film LA.

First though, I called my friend Colin Bogart at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. He called the police who looked up the permit and found out that, indeed, this film company did not have a permit to block the bike lane.

Now, on my last trip to Portland during our book tour I snapped a picture of what happens in that city when a truck blocks the bike lane. Portlandians put up some cones to route cyclists around work vehicles:

Now here’s how we do it in Los Angeles. LAPD heads down to the location and finds out that they don’t have a permit to block the lane. Then, I’m guessing, Al Pacino comes out to sign some autographs and we get a “compromise”:

The bike lane was still closed, cyclists still had to merge into fast moving traffic, but we got a bunch of “bike lane closed” signs. Problem solved! Note the production manager on the right, none to happy to see me again. I resisted the urge to ask him if he thought he was John-Luc Fricken’ Godard.

So the Sunset Boulevard bike lane remained closed for three days all for yet another crappy Hollywood action movie. I may make my boycott permanent.

Should anyone in a position of power being reading this post, this closure was against the state’s traffic rules, “Section 6D.101(CA) Bicycle Considerations . . . E. Bicyclists shall not be led into direct conflicts with mainline traffic, work site vehicles, or equipment moving through or around the [work] zone.” 

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* Note from the Mrs.: Perhaps Messrs Pacino and Walken didn’t want to cross the street because they’ve heard that we had two tragic pedestrian fatalities in the immediate neighborhood last month. Both of those persons were simply attempting to cross the street. They died because our city streets could be mistaken for freeways.

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10 Comments

  1. I used to work in films and I remember that whenever we had to block off the street we had to pay an off-duty police officer to be there. So maybe that would be another avenue of people to contact?

  2. It sounds like bikers are expendable and actors aren’t. In your situation, I would have taken the stoic approach and hit the sidewalk. If hauled to court, I would tell the judge I was more afraid of getting smeared by a car than I was afraid of the judge. Depending on the judge, I would have said, “What if it was your son/daughter/father/mother that was put in mortal danger because the cops disobeyed the law to favor (whoever) was being coddled.”

    Keep us posted. Defy authority.

  3. Riding on the sidewalk is legal in the city of Los Angeles (http://ladotbikeblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/more-biking-for-newbies/) although illegal in many other places. But I agree with Erik… it’s usually not a good idea. It’s often more dangerous because car drivers don’t expect (or don’t see) bicyclists on sidewalks.

    Erik, kudos for keeping your cool and doing something productive about this issue. My “righteous cyclist” syndrome too often voices itself in expletives thrown at the offending party. Although cathartic, it’s not very useful in the long run.

  4. I don’t like this. As if bicyclists didn’t have enough to deal with. My partner was hit while riding her bike a couple months ago. She was following all the rules, wearing a helmet, but the driver just didn’t see her because she spotted a parking place…

  5. Is it in our right as citizens to remove illegal obstructions from the bike path? I always do. I also call tow companies on people who blatantly park in/block bike lanes in dangerous areas like above. The police are not there to protect you, but the tow company makes it’s money by towing illegally placed vehicles ;D

    I’m tired of being pushed into traffic, I’ve been hit six times and it’s starting to take a toll. Five of them were drivers dicking around on cell phones.

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