Busted – First Ticket of my Life on a Bicycle

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Yesterday was a first for me in cycling.  I received a ticket for running a red light on my bicycle. I have been riding bicycles for a really long time, and had avoided this my whole life.  But yesterday was the day.

I was riding up in Oceanside California and had about 45 miles to get back before dark.  I was in a rush since sunset was less than 2 hours. But being in a rush wasn’t the reason I ran the light.  I ran it because I’d be stopped by a gazillion lights in a row and that they lasted forever.

I ran the light, no doubt about it.  About a mile later an Oceanside police car pulled me over. The officer was super nice and asked me if in Kansas I didn’t have to stop at red lights.  I told him that generally we did.   He went on to explain if there weren’t so many other cars at the intersection he probably would have let me off, but he felt the eyes of all the other drivers on him, so thought he should pull me over to show them he wasn’t being lazy.

At that point I thought that maybe I’d get a warning.  But after a couple minutes, he asked me for my driver’s license.  And he went back and got his ticket book and started writing.

It took a while.  He was very thorough.  He even asked me how many “speeds” my bike was. And wrote Eriksen down on the ticket.  Not sure why that was?

I asked him how much it was going to be and he said he didn’t have any idea.  Then when he handed me the ticket he said that stop light violations tended to be pretty pricey.  Pretty pricey in California is going to be astronomically pricey compared to Kansas, I assume.  I just looked up the violation and I think it is going to be just around $500.  That is unbelievable.  He didn’t think there was a way to pay it up online, that I would receive a “courtesy reminder” in a couple weeks telling me my options.  I saw some fix-a-ticket ads on the internet.  I wonder how those work?

Anyway, I’ve ran a ton of stop lights and signs in my life.  More earlier in my cycling life than present.  So if I divide the $500 by number of violations I’ve committed, then it would be next to nothing.  I just wish it wouldn’t have been in California.


The officer was super nice and professional.

The officer was super nice and professional.

I pedalled pretty hard all the way back and had pretty good numbers for the whole ride. Is that an upside ?

I pedalled pretty hard all the way back and had pretty good numbers for the whole ride. Is that an upside ?




34 thoughts on “Busted – First Ticket of my Life on a Bicycle

  1. scott

    $500??? good god! i hope he’s ticketing all the cars running lights, too.
    so i guess you’ve got to decide if you’ll actually pay it – wonder if kansas & california have reciprocal agreements?

  2. A. Rider

    Welcome to California! Now where is wallet? or purse? or credit card? Seems like it should be the state motto! Warnings are rare out here! You and Toto are surely not in Kansas anymore!

  3. reciever_of_traffic_tickets

    You’ll get something in the mail. Fill out the form, pay the penalty and you are done.

    Otherwise, you are looking at another trip to Cali for the court date and you don’t know how that will turn out.

  4. sdrider

    Recently got one for a stop sign, have gotten one for a red light as well. In CA it’s a bicycle specific violation, doesn’t go against your record, (points etc.) It should be ~ $200.

  5. Barb

    I think $500 is a mistake. You’re not required to pay the same bail as a motor vehicle as follows from the 2014 CA bail schedule for traffic offenses. Bicyclists are in the lowest of 4 categories:

    V. Bail Categories
    Assembly Bill 1344 (Stats. 1992, ch. 696), effective September 15, 1992, amended Vehicle Code section 40310 to classify Vehicle Code offenses into four or fewer penalty categories, according to the severity of the offenses. The Judicial Council has approved the following categories of bail/fine after considering suggestions from its Traffic Advisory Committee and the recommendations made by the National Center for State Courts: Base Additional Sur- Total (*See secs. II–IV)
    Fine + Penalties* & charge +Fees = Bail* /Fees

    “Category 1 Bicyclist, motorized scooter, pedestrian, pocket bike, vehicle registration and equipment offenses $ 25 + $96 + $75 = $196”

    Category 2 Driver’s license, operation of vehicle, and size and load offenses $ 35 + $127 + $75 = $237

    Category 3 Substance abuse infractions, VC 20004, VC 21706.5, and VC 27375 VC 2818, $ 70 + $221 + $75 = $366

    Category 4 Miscellaneous offenses for which the penalties or the fee for dismissal with proof of correction are specifically set by the Vehicle Code, speeding offenses (refer to Speed Chart), and infractions pursuant to PC 19.8

    Although it does say certain counties are allowed to charge more than the uniform amounts the rest of the state are required to follow (San Diego county is on this list), but I can’t imagine it would be much more.

    Here’s the link:

    1. Todd

      My red light ticket here in LA was right around $550, the same as a car.

      From what I understand, the cost of the infraction depends on how the ticket it written and/or entered into the system. You’ll want to double check that it is processed as a bicycle because I did have a friend who got his license AND auto insurance dinged for running a four way stop sign while cycling.

      I ending up pleading not guilty and took it to court. The officer didn’t show up so I won by default but I thought I had a pretty solid argument.

  6. slim


    You’re a professional cyclist. Don’t you know your supposed to deny, deny, deny and then deny again. Then blame it on a faulty test procedure. Then, if that doesn’t work, just say Lance made me do it.

    They’ll probably reduce your fine and let you pay it in the off season.

    Its a tried and true process.

  7. Ted

    Hard to tell because the light bar is all clear whether that is a safety (peace) officer – as they cannot have the red/blue lights on their vehicle – generally yellow only – so you need to contact the local court clerk’s office or the actual Police Department and speak with the traffic sergeant on duty. Each city and town has its own code as to what the duties of the safety officers are – but they limited – most cannot be armed for instance.

    Running a red light on a bicycle is generally a $278 fine – but the clerk’s office can tell you – if you decide to plead not guilty you might also be able to do that with the clerk and they set a trial date.

    Also a couple of things you need to consider – was the officer directly behind you or was he traveling in the opposite direction – if he was he could have had a delayed green light – thus he cannot prove to the Court that you actually ran that specific red light – also on your citation look under the vehicle section – did he just write Eriksen or is there a notation that you were in fact operating a bicycle on the citation and other than the red light violation – any other codes in the notes. Also did you sign the ticket – if you did not the officer has to write – RTS (refused to sign).

    Being that this is your first violation – the court will probably dismiss it – in Rhode Island if falls under the good driving statute (if you have no other tickets in the last 3 years) – you just pay the court cost. The clerk can tell you that also – but you have to ask them – as they cannot provide any legal advice.

    Running a red light is a moving violation also so the ticket has to be written on a Uniform Citation – should printed on the top of the ticket – cannot be written on parking ticket for instance.

    Also should not go against your license even if you were to pay it because you were riding a bicycle – so will not affect your insurance.

    1. Krakatoa East of Java

      That’s a regular ‘ol Oceanside “cop” kinda cop. If you’ve ever been to traffic court in San Diego County, you’ll know that just going to court pisses them off. The cops usually do show up, diagrams in-hand, ready to do battle with you. The ticket won’t be dismissed, but he’ll have the option of traffic school. Because Steve lives in KS, this won’t go on his license, because it is doubtful there is reciprocity with CA for a state that far away.

  8. Ted

    If the officer did not write bicycle under the vehicle information then it could get dismissed on a technicality – so you need to refer to that on the ticket.

  9. Krakatoa East of Java

    “The officer was super nice and asked me if in Kansas I didn’t have to stop at red lights.”

    Doesn’t sound super-nice to me. His job is to enforce laws, not use some passive-aggressive lecturing technique to help himself feel authoritative.

    The last time I was pulled over, my cop asked me if I knew how fast I was going (BTW, this is bait to an admission of guilt… almost all of these stops are at least audio-recorded now). Not wanting to admit anything, I replied: “I have absolutely no idea, but I felt safe and in-control the whole time”. He was a moto cop, and moto cops work “traffic” division. And that means it’s their job to write tickets. No getting outta that one. The moment he flashed the lights, I knew I was getting written up.

    My advice: Don’t engage in the banter. Especially the kind of friendliness that focuses on your law-breaking behavior. You can still be nice without doing so. It gets you outta there faster, and there is less ammo for them if you should decide to fight the ticket (and don’t bother… you’ll lose).

  10. caliracer

    Allow me as a rider and cop in Cali to clarify the wrong comments above.

    If he wrote your license # on the ticket, most likely your home state will get it as a moving violation in Cali. That thing called a computer allows this state to send the info to your state with a click of the mouse. (Sorry being a bit sarcastic)

    There is no differentiating between this violation in a car or on a bike. The Calif. Vehicle Code (CVC) requires that bikes follow the same rules (21453(a) CVC) as a car, that you got cited for. It will be the same price as a car, around $500 (actual amount depends on a few things). Unless that is the cop was super nice and only cited you for 21461(a) as that base fine is $25 plus penalty assessment (PA). 21453(a) is $100 plus PA. Yes, those PA’s are what drives the ticket price through the roof….yes, ticket prices here are insane, even I think so.

    You may or may not get a warning letter in the mail. A lot of courthouses stopped doing that during the financial crunch. Your ticket has an appearance date on it, that is your reminder.

    You most likely will be able to pay it online, typically takes about 2-4 weeks to show up on their website.

    You may be able to take traffic school for an additional court sign up fee plus whatever the school charges. Online classes are available so you don’t have to come back to Cali. If it’s your first time taking traffic school in Cali in the last 18 months then the point and violation comes off your record.

    As for the light bar comments. Many departments here have gone LED which means they no longer need those old fashion red/blue/yellow light bar covers over the white lights that spun in circles. It’s called technology and though governments can be slow even we change. (sorry being a bit sarcastic but that happens when people who have no idea what they are talking about start talking).

    As for not signing the ticket. Don’t listen to a thing Ted said (Sorry again). In Cali not signing will get you arrested, booked, and your bicycle (or car) impounded. You will stay in jail until you sign the ticket or see the judge. If it’s Friday after about 2-3pm you’re screwed and will enjoy 3-hots-and-a-cot until Monday morning. If it’s a holiday weekend you’re really screwed. I don’t recommend that. Signing it is only a promise to appear later in court, not an admission of guilt.

    Sorry to hear about the ticket 🙁

    1. Mike Rodose

      Thank you Officer Cali. Now I understand why the Oceanside officer pulled Steve over and wrote him the ticket.

      Regarding Ted, maybe they have different laws in RI, Officer Cali? I’ve watched the TV news and unless I’m mistaken, they show mobsters walking openly in that RI state house. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


  11. Terri Thater

    Why all the sympathy for Steve? Reminds me of fans of Alberto when he ate some “tainted” beef…

    This says it all – “Anyway, I’ve ran a ton of stop lights and signs in my life.”

    You’re lucky you didn’t get yourself killed, Steve. Now start following the traffic laws like the rest of us!

  12. BRUCE

    Root Cause:
    But being in a rush wasn’t the reason I ran the light. I ran it because I’d be stopped by a gazillion lights in a row and that they lasted forever.
    • Wisconsin (2006) A motorcycle, moped or bicycle is permitted to run a steady red light after making a complete stop and waiting at least 45 seconds and then yields the right–of-way to any vehicular traffic or pedestrians using the intersection. (Statute 346.37)

  13. Mark Weber

    I got one for doing 40 in a 25……downhill obviously. I had to practically dare him to give it to me because I thought it would be COOL!! Didn’t realize that it went on my license as a moving violation and at renewal my insurance went up $50 every 6 months. Wahwah…

  14. Luke

    Steve, baby…I grew up in San Diego and have ridden the Oceanside – La Jolla corridor my entire life…Can I ask you….WHAT WERE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LICENSE ON YOU?

    Sheesh, it’s easy. You don’t have a license, your bike is a custom bike (with no serial number) and you tell the cop you’re name is Bobby Lea, the famous doper.

    No more ticket.

  15. Flahute

    You’ve had a pretty good run. @least you’ve still got your great sense of the absurd…

  16. Bil Danielson

    For cyclists, a red light should be a stop sign and a stop sign a yield sign. Also known as the Idaho Stop.

    October 2015 SF Chronicle: “Nearly everyone in the Gem State, and particularly in the Boise area — from bicycling advocates to police and transportation officials, and even the state’s AAA chapter — says the law works fairly well. It speeds travel for bicyclists, clears intersections for drivers, makes bicyclists more visible, and isn’t a common cause of accidents or even complaints.”

    SF Chronicle Article: http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Cyclists-Idaho-stop-becomes-hot-potato-in-San-6552279.php

    Idaho Law: https://legislature.idaho.gov/idstat/Title49/T49CH7SECT49-720.htm

  17. Howard Beale

    Fuck the police! I’ve been pulled over on the bike several times. I never provide i.d. and I never give my correct name. Fuck them. Criminal thug tax collectors can kiss my ass.

    1. dave

      Mr. beale you’re just one of those punk-ass bikers with no regard for others, just all about yourself. What about the example you set to any kids that may be watching you? Just grow up. You’ll feel better.

  18. FSonicSmith

    I am a lawyer, though in Ohio and not Cali. I am not aware of any requirement that you carry your drivers license with you when you ride a bicycle. I can pretty much promise you that if you had told the officer you did not have your license with you, rather than look up your KS license info, he would have taken the lazy route and given you a warning. I say that from personal experience. Perhaps Officer “Caliracer” will chime in with what he would have done (assuming he is a patrol officer) had he been told that you did not have your drivers license on you. That said, I can also tell you from personal experience that running red lights is dumb. Getting hit by a car is far more time consuming and annoying than being forced to ride in the dark.

    1. Caliracer

      Correct, as a pedestrian, or in this case a rider, one does not need to carry photo ID. However, before you lie about your name keep in mind a lot of departments now carry around portable fingerprint readers. Lying to a cop on a traffic stop (yes, this is a traffic stop) will get you arrested. It’s covered in 31 CVC. Using someone else name also runs the risk of that name coming back with warrants or other issues which will get you arrested and then you have to explain why you lied about your name as you get booked for the above section. Not a good idea.

      Until you get called into your supervisors office because someone called and complained that you didn’t take action when someone on a bike (cause most driver’s don’t like us) or in a car did something illegal right in front of you and you didn’t take action then you’ll understand the officer’s statements. I know an officer that was driving the speed limit on the freeway and someone called his supervisor and complained he was driving too slow and holding up traffic (Where is the head banging emoticon when I need it)

  19. darkcloud

    “…but he felt the eyes of all the other drivers on him, so thought he should pull me over to show them he wasn’t being lazy.”

    That’s BS plain and simple. He is lazy. He’s writing tickets because California is broke and he’s doing his part to insure that he gets his pension, lifetime medical and all the other bennies that he’s “entitled” to.
    After writing your ticket he probably had tough decisions to make. “Where shall I eat for free today.”

  20. Larry T.

    Back-in-the-day I told the cops I was “Sean Kelly” or “Stephen Roche” a time or two and got off with just a warning. Wouldn’t take that chance today. Instead I have a laminated color photocopy of my driving license and passport always in my plastic cycling “wallet” along with cell phone and some cash. Last time I got a ticket while cycling was in Redondo Beach, CA for some BS “blocking traffic” claim after I scared a moto cop who pulled out into the road without seeing me. As I recall they let me attend traffic school rather than pay a big fine, but I’m still pissed off about the cop being the one in the wrong – while I got the citation!!


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