Ask a Cop: Is it safe to bike in Alhambra?

The Alhambra Source asks your questions to the Alhambra Police Department's Sergeant Brandon Black. Got a question? Send it to info@alhambrasource.org

As a resident who also happens to own a bicycle shop in a neighboring city I have found is extremely dangerous to ride on many Alhambra streets, but it is ILLEGAL to ride a bicycle on any sidewalk in the city of Alhambra. I wanted to know how common accidents are involving cyclists. Are they increasing? And what should someone do to stay safe biking? Is this an issue that Alhambra Police Department is concerned about?

The question about the dangers of cycling in Alhambra is one that I find very important. As an Alhambra Police Department's Sergeant Brandon Blackexperienced cyclist, as well as a one of the members of the Department’s Bike Patrol Team, it is my experience that cycling is extremely dangerous in Alhambra, but it also extremely dangerous in every other jurisdiction. With millions of vehicles on the roads of California coupled with all of the distractions that are available to motorists, it is inherently dangerous when bicycles and automobiles are operated in the same vicinity. Most cyclists recognize this and generally take the precautions necessary to minimize the risks of cycling. There is a similar inherent danger that exists when riding motorcycles and when walking across a street which is not unique to Alhambra, but is dangerous everywhere. In my opinion, motorists simply do not see bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians as readily as they do other automobiles. Automobile operators need to be more aware of and pay better attention to their surroundings, with special attention to bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists.

Collisions between automobiles and bicyclists are not common, but they do occur. Collisions between automobiles and pedestrians are much more common, which is the primary reason that our Traffic Section conducts so many pedestrian decoy operations. One reason that automobile and pedestrian collisions are more frequent than bicycle and automobile collisions is that pedestrians tend to be less aware of their surroundings that cyclists. We have all seen people walking across the street engrossed in conversation with someone or talking on a cell phone or otherwise distracted. This is not something that is common amongst cyclists, which is one reason why for the relatively low frequency of automobile and cyclist collisions.

Another point to be made is that riding bicycles on sidewalks poses a greater risk to pedestrians and does not eliminate the risk for cyclists. Most every municipality that I’m aware of has a local ordinance prohibiting riding a bicycle on a sidewalk just as Alhambra does. The California Vehicle Code states: “Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle . . . except those provisions which by their very nature can have not application.” I interpret this to include not driving (or riding) on a public sidewalk.

The bottom line is that whenever and wherever you ride a bicycle, it is important to be vigilant about paying attention to your surroundings to minimize the inherent risks of cycling in today’s fast-paced society.

9 thoughts on “Ask a Cop: Is it safe to bike in Alhambra?”

  1. Antoinette Morales

    Just this morning, I saw a cyclist almost get hit by several cars because he was riding against traffic on Main St., just past Palm. This is not an uncommon practice, but really needs to be stopped. If riding in the street, cyclists MUST ride with traffic. It’s unsafe for everyone.

  2. I second seeing some signage like “share the road” signs on the streets, so motorists are a little more aware of cyclists. Its not much, but I am sure people will notice.

  3. First, I want to thank Alhambrasource.org for posting this article. It is old but the bike issue remains. According to my research, the City of Alhambra does not (nor did it ever to anyone’s knowledge), have any sort of comprehensive bike plan. Unlike the city of LA or Pasadena, bike paths, bike lanes, etc. are NON ENTITIES in the city.

    Earlier this year, the newly formed West San Gabriel Biking Coalition, an affiliate of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition asked for and was presented with an Alhambra City Council proclamation declaring June Bike Month in Alhambra (Thank you, Mayor Yamaguchi). The WSGBC is now seeking cyclists (commuters and pleasure riders) from Alhambra and other local SGV cities who would like to get involved with the next step, working with local and state officials to make Alhambra and other local SGV cities more “bikeable”. If you are interested, please join us on at http://www.facebook.com/bikeSGV.

  4. I’m a frequent bicyclist in Alhambra. I recently stopped because I feel like theres almost no point. When riding on Main St. I have two choices, risk getting in trouble and ride on the sidewalk or risk my life riding on the street. I’ve been always riding on the sidewalk because I’m very polite to pedestrians and observe my surrounding. But why should I get fined for riding on the sidewalk when I’m being extremely careful? I wished there was a way for Alhambra to have bike lanes. When I ride on the streets, the motorists are never polite.
    All I want to say is, I don’t want to have to worry about riding on the sidewalk. Until then, I guess I’m just going to have to be a motorist and waste more gas to go a couple of blocks to the library.

    1. I just got all three of our family bicycles registered as legal bicycles in the City. Feeling very empowered!

  5. I have heard a similar interpretation of CVC Section 21200 from other officers, but that interpretation is simply incorrect. This section of the code does not prohibit sidewalk riding and municipalities are free to either allow or prohibit it. It’s a local issue and Section 21200 simply doesn’t enter into it.

    Alhambra apparently has a provision in its municipal code explicitly prohibiting sidewalk riding, as is its right. But Sergeant Black’s suggestion that “most every municipality” prohibits sidewalk riding is incorrect. The city of Los Angeles allows it (assuming it is not done in an unsafe manner), and the LADOT Bike Blog ran an excellent series on many of the municipalities in the Southland, explaining that many communities allow sidewalk riding (with varying levels of restrictions). Alhambra would be free to do the same, so residents should contact their council members if they want Alhambra to follow suit.

    From a policy perspective, I think LA’s approach is clearly the best. Sidewalk riding is permitted, but if done dangerously, a rider can be ticketed. Most cyclists still ride in the street and take the lane, which is generally the safest option for everyone. But on certain streets where street riding is obviously incredibly hazardous, cyclists have the option of riding the sidewalk (which I do only occasionally and only on certain streets).

  6. It’s safest then for cyclists to ‘take the lane’ and ride in the center of the right hand lane. Then they are more visible to drivers and safer, as well. I’ve definitely noticed a difference in automobile driver mentality in Alhambra when I pass through. The feeling is that all roads are mini-freeways, which is unfortunate for everyone else.

  7. As someone who has biked to, from, and through Alhambra many times, I’d like a follow up with some of the councilmembers, or perhaps the city manager, in Alhambra. Many streets in Alhambra could really use calmer (slower, better flowing) car traffic and safer conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. In certain areas, it would really help retailers and would get people out and walking their neighborhoods.

    What is the local government doing to install traffic calming? How many crashes and injuries are taking place on Alhambra’s streets? Where are these crashes happening and what is the human and the financial cost?

    Further, Alhambra is connected to other cities on all sides – yet the connector streets are woefully prepared for bicycle or pedestrian traffic. This is a blemish on the city, and ought to be corrected. We can’t, nor would we all choose to, all drive cars.

  8. Thank you for your reply.

    When I try to ride my bicycle from my home near Main street to the commercial areas near Main Street and Garfield I’ve learned that if I attempt to ride on Main street I either need to ride on the sidewalk OR put myself at higher than average risk of being injured by cars. My reaction is to try and ride on the smaller streets in the city that work very well.

    As far as I know, there are no bike paths or signage in the city of Alhambra suggesting to motorists that bicyclists have a right to the road.

    Last week, while riding with my son to his elementary school on Commonwealth and Olive we were run off the road by a car that simply didn’t see us. Because I know it is illegal to ride on the sidewalk we do not ride there but the danger of cycling to school on a road that isn’t a major thoroughfare is simply too much for a 6 year old. Since that incident we ride on the sidewalk, respect the pedestrians and use our bells to alert them to our presence.

    Does the department enforce the ‘no riding on sidewalk’ law or is the focus more on the pedestrian crosswalk stings?

Leave a Reply