Bicyclists with traffic tickets can now get their fines waived at Southern California’s first bicycle traffic safety school in El Monte
Maria Valenzuela rode her beat-up stingray bike down the empty sidewalk along Valley Boulevard in downtown El Monte on Tuesday. She crossed the street at the light and continued on the other sidewalk into the shopping center, eventually parking her bike in front of the 99 Cents Only Store.
When asked if she knew that riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is illegal in the city of El Monte, she said no.
“Where do I ride?” she asked with a shrug.
Fines same as for driving
Although Valenzuela did not get a ticket that day, many others have received tickets for sidewalk riding, as well as running stop signs, not stopping at red lights, having poor brakes and other infractions — even speeding.
Bicycle citations are treated the same as driving tickets by the courts. The fines are the same. For example, a stop sign violation can cost $200 and running a red light costs as much as $400. If you don’t pay them, the consequences could lead to garnishing wages or jail time.
But while Southern California drivers can get their citations expunged and the fines dropped if they complete traffic school, until this past March, there was no such option for people ticketed on bicycles or other non-motorized vehicles. Without exception, they paid the full cost, both fines and court fees, which can amount to several hundred dollars.
After getting calls from bicyclists saying they couldn’t afford to pay their tickets, representatives from Bike San Gabriel Valley — an El Monte-based nonprofit promoting bike-friendly streets — met with Superior Court Judge Daniel Lopez. Through a grant from Metro and a green light from the state Legislature, they formed the first bicycle traffic school in Southern California.