“Cargo Cycling is Not a Crime” or Repeal LAMC 80.27

Nihola is not a crime t-shirt design

When you outlaw cargo bikes, only outlaws ride them!

With Los Angeles’ long awaited bike plan entering its final stage of approval, I think it is a good time to discuss the repeal Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 80.27. I think we should strike the law from the books, or to replace it with the California Vehicle Code Section 21204 (which supersedes it, I believe).

LA Municipal Code, Chapter 8, Section 80.27
"A person operating a bicycle shall not ride other than upon the permanent and regular seat attached thereto, nor carry any other person upon such bicycle other than upon a firmly attached seat to the rear of the operator, nor shall any person ride upon a bicycle other than as above authorized. (Amended by Ord. No. 122,716, Eff. 10/5/62.)"

This sounds reasonable (especially when it was written in 1962, prior to the modern California Vehicle Code) in that, at the time, there were no bicycles commercially available that safely carried cargo or passengers in front of the pilot.

Test Riding a Gazelle Cabby at Flying Pigeon LA bike shop

Today, however, there are lots of commercially available cargo bikes (many of which we carry at the Flying Pigoen LA shop) with front-mounted passenger space. These include my own Workcycles Bakfiets cargo bike, Babboe cargo bicycles and tricycles, CETMA’s bakfiets, and the famous Christiania cargo tricycle. These are as safe as a rear-mounted baby seat or trailer (probably more safe!), so a prohibition on these bikes seems, to me, unreasonable.

Aside from this, the California Vehicle Code offers up a much better law, which carries the spirit of this older law forward:

(a)(1) A person operating a bicycle upon a highway shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto, unless the bicycle was designed by the manufacturer to be ridden without a seat.
(b) An operator shall not allow a person riding as a passenger, and a person shall not ride as a passenger, on a bicycle upon a highway other than upon or astride a separate seat attached thereto. If the passenger is four years of age or younger, or weighs 40 pounds or less, the seat shall have adequate provision for retaining the passenger in place and for protecting the passenger from the moving parts of the bicycle. (Amended Sec. 1, Ch. 594, Stats. 2009. Effective January 1, 2010.)

Front loading cargo bikes are a massive improvement over the standard “drag ’em from the back” child trailer strategy that most bike-riding parents employ for several reasons. First,  it is a lot of fun to ride around with your kid(s) in front, looking at things, singing songs, and generally taking in the day together. When the kids are behind you and several feet back, the magic of the bike ride is of a different nature.

Chariot Mode in a Nihola

More importantly, these front-loading cargo bikes represent a safe, fancy-looking, high status appearance to those that operate them – making bicycling a mainstream activity. For several generations, there has been no practical method of moving multiple children safely through the city other than by private motor car (or a very frustrating bus or train ride). These bicycles offer parents an escape from being merely chauffeurs to being active and visible participants in their childrens’ lives as well as showing that normal, employed, reasonable people can still have fun and ride bikes to get stuff done.


Now, if that isn’t reason enough to repeal LAMC 80.27, I don’t know what is!

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  1. Erik G.
    Posted February 19, 2011 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Look, another criminal!:


    (Two future Kings of Denmark on one cargo-bike)

  2. Posted February 19, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    So has anyone suggested this to Huizar? that’s what councilmembers are for (yes, among other things). He would probably be quite supportive of amending that now-archaic legislation. since LAMC 80.27 is more restrictive than the state regs you quoted, it might even be done as an administrative action, yes?

  3. Posted March 8, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink


  4. Judy
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    It is not necessary to repeal the law, as the law itself is illegal. Municipalities may not override state traffic laws: Principles of Traffic Regulation

    A. The State Preempts Local Regulation of Bicycle Traffic
    Is it enough to look at state law, which is uniform over a wide area, or do we need to examine local laws, which can vary widely from place to place? Under the California Constitution, the powers of counties[5] and cities[6] are provided by the Legislature. Counties and cities may make and enforce police regulations not in conflict with general laws.[7] In the case of traffic law, however, there is such a conflict. The State of California preempts the entire field of traffic control in the California Vehicle Code:

    Except as otherwise expressly provided, the provisions of this code are applicable and uniform throughout the State and in all counties and municipalities therein, and no local authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance on the matters covered by this code unless expressly authorized herein.[8]

    The operation of bicycles on highways is regulated by the state under the provisions of the Vehicle Code.[9] Thus bicycle operation is among “the matters covered by this code,” and all local regulation is preempted except where expressly authorized. None of the authority delegated by the Legislature in the Vehicle Code permits local regulation of bicyclists on conventional roads.

  5. nick f
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Those laws apply to bicycles, which are two wheels vehicules and not to tricycles like most cargobike which are three wheels vehicules.

  6. Posted March 10, 2014 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, Nick, the way a bicycle is defined in both the state and city law a tricycle is a “bicycle”. The good news is that, as Judy has pointed out, the state law on how a passenger can be carried on a bicycle supersedes the local law on the books.

  7. Gern
    Posted March 8, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I think the law should be repealed. My first thought is that cargo bikes with passengers up front, are safer than ones having the passengers behind the pilot. The pilot can safely keep an eye on his passenger(s) or cargo at all times. Get rid of it, so there are no questions or possible tickets. What if the California vehicle code only covers roadways. I don’t think it covers private property, city property or county property. When we arrive at our destination and we exit the roads and go into parking lots, we don’t need someone trying to enforce this law. If that makes it illegal, and the fact that, it does not allow three wheeled or four wheel Bicycles, makes this an outdated law.

2 Trackbacks

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