Trash cans in LA’s bike lanes: what a drag

I injured my hand riding my kid to school last week – I inadvertently smashed my left hand into a trash can parked in a bike lane. The can was too far out in the bike lane to pass between it and the cars driving by. I tried my luck threading a dangerous needle: a gap between a parked car and an illegally positioned trash can. Someone in a parked car could have opened a door into us (my kid rides in my bucket bike). The other danger when threading this needle is smashing into the trash can – which is what happened to my left hand.

This happened on a street  upon which I have often stopped, dismounted, and politely repositioned trash cans. I have posted stickers on the cans blocking the lanes – informing can owners that it is illegal to block the roadway with them (bike lanes are legally part of the road).

Finally, now that I have been injured thanks to the continued rude, dangerous, and inconsiderate behavior of my neighbors, and finding no reprieve from the LA City Bureau of Sanitation, it’s police officers, the LAPD, nor the highest level of city government; now I have found a way to fight back that matches the inconsiderate nature of this crime.

Sidekicking cans has not been effective, in case you are wondering. People assume other motorists or the trash collector simply operated with an assumed level of incompetence and plowed into their cans. They place them back in the right of way the next trash day.

What works?

My new hypothesis is to give bike lane blockers a taste of what it feels like to have your life endangered by someone inconsiderate of the needs of others.

Now, I grab trash cans and drag them one or two blocks and dump them wherever I feel. Let me tell you: it feels great!

I tried this strategy for the first time this week in front of my kids school. The can that wrecked my wrist got dragged to the corner and shoved against the curb. A good 100′ from where its law breaking owner had left it .

I got my first piece of customer feedback just this evening when an obese man, in a dirty pick up truck, tried to berate me after seeing me grab a trash can positioned in the outer edge of the bike and dragging it two whole blocks before releasing it back into the wild. My reply to his seal like barking and pathetic engine revving??

“¡Llama la policia!”

[Call the cops!]

The big baby was beside himself. His trash can was moved by someone who did not care about his  convenience. The outrage! He might have to take the needs of others into account now. The injustice!

So, bike riders of Los Angeles: drag cans and let’s win this fight!

If you’re tired of having your life put in danger by inconsiderate people take a long drag of trash can justice and let’s see if these abusers of the right of way can take a hint.

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  1. Susan Rocha
    Posted April 29, 2014 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    What a drag is the way these bicyclist run red lights and don’t stop at stop signs and jump in front of cars. Then they wonder why they get hurt. Police need to cite bicyclist that do not obey the rules of the road!!

  2. Posted April 29, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Wow, to what do we owe the honor of your presenting to us the brilliant red herring argument about bike riders and stop signs?

    What about car drivers running stop signs? Or car drivers smashing into store fronts? Or car drivers smashing into houses? Or car drivers flipping their vehicles? Or car drivers running over people? Or car drivers speeding on neighborhood streets?

    So, yes, let’s ticket those nefarious bike riders! Let’s not enforce the laws regarding blocking the right of way and trash cans. Let’s listen to Susan Rocha’s quacking and braying.

    I guess we’ll see you on trash day!

  3. sky
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    tired old rhetoric Susan Rocha… shame on you.
    i come across garbage cans in the bike lane on Venice Blvd. every Monday morning (at 5 am). So tempted to kick each and every one of them over but just doesn’t feel right dumping garbage out into the street for someone else to pick up (and I am sure it wouldn’t be the person who put the can out in the first place). please be careful out there Admin, lots of irrational and angry people out there and many don’t like people who ride bikes.

  4. Aaron
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I like to do residents a favor by moving any illegally & dangerously situated cans into a safe and legal place that doesn’t inconvenience anyone other than the resident: directly in front of their driveway. Strangely, I haven’t had anyone thank me yet for helping them to avoid breaking the law.

  5. mr. rollers
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I say move them to the left – out of the bike lane – and let the motor vehicle drivers deal with them.

  6. Posted April 30, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Each City of LA trash can has a serial number tied to the address, and a phone number where you’ll be able to report an illegally placed can. They can cite property owners.

    However, do this only with full cans, since an empty was left where you find it by the trash truck driver, not the property owner.

    And Susan Rocha, I agree with you that the police need to cite people who don’t obey road laws, but I’d suggest beginning withe the drivers who routinely break speed limits by 10, 20, and 30 mph, which is almost universal among motorists, and who run red lights. They, after all, murder 35,000 Americans a year….

  7. Susan Rocha
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I am sure it is illegal to move someone’s trash cans and dump trash on the streets. I don’t think there is anyway to avoid this problem. Where are the trash cans suppose to go?

    It is very easy for bicyclist to go around trash cans even if they go into the car lanes to do that. The problem with people putting trash cans into bike lanes is not because they are inconsiderate. It is a lack of education. The city has not told people where to put trash cans if there are bike lanes on the street.

    Please be considerate. Others are just not aware of where to place the trash cans. If this is a real issue for you, and I do think it is an issue too, then make some flyers and tape them on top of the trash cans explaining where the trash cans are suppose to be put.

    Instead of handling this problem in an illegal negative way you can do everyone a favor by educating people where the trash cans are suppose to go.

  8. Posted April 30, 2014 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    It is not illegal to move a trash can that is violating California Vehicle Code Section 21211.

  9. Fritz J.
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink


    I think there is some truth to what you’re saying– more education is needed. But I think for the most part people know exactly where to put trash bins (along the curb or in the driveway). Why are trash cans only placed in the middle of the street when there are bike lanes? Most people who put trash cans in the bike lanes know very well what they are doing, they just think they are being clever since doing so let’s them preserve their parking space. If they want to keep their parking, they could put the trash cans in their driveway (nobody but the owner would move them from there).

    I do think this “solution” is pretty childish and counter-productive. Maybe the LA County Bike Coalition can tackle this by doing a door-to-door outreach campaign on streets with bike lanes.

  10. Posted April 30, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    I agree that this is childish – but counter productive? I have spent a lot of time moving trash cans. I have spent hours posting 4×5 stickers on cans. I have also written about this issue several times on the blog and reached out directly to the special police department (Bureau of Street Services Investigation and Enforcement Division) for the Public Works Department whose main mission is clearing the right of way of things like lined up trash cans. Several times the issue has been put directly to the mayor of LA (at the time Villaraigosa) and various councilmembers from across the city are aware of the issue.

    So, after years of waiting for the non-childish things to work I think I have found a formula that will finally pound the message home on the horrible people who park their cans in the bike lane. I visit some annoyance into their self involved, egotistical, lives. They are putting my life, and the lives of others, in danger with their trash can shenanigans.

    The can that injured my hand has come to rest in the parkway beside a tree, its owner too stupid or lazy to look for it, it will likely never loom in the bike lane as a threat to my personal health again – PROBLEM SOLVED. Being childish can function sometimes, so nyah!

  11. Josef (not Bray-Ali)
    Posted April 30, 2014 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    ” I have posted stickers on the cans blocking the lanes – informing can owners that it is illegal to block the roadway with them (bike lanes are legally part of the road).”

    Susan, did you read the post?

  12. Susan Rocha
    Posted May 1, 2014 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I just spoke to Street Services Investigation and Enforcement Division and they said it is not illegal to put trash cans in the bike lane just like it is not illegal to put them in car lanes. So, if there is any dispute about that it needs to be taken up with them.

    Anyone can trash cans in their lane and can adjust where to drive if they are not speeding.

  13. Posted May 1, 2014 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Susan, what you report is outrageous. I do not believe that you were told such a thing.

    Blocking bike lanes with trash cans is not cool, moreover it is also illegal. It says so in California Vehicle Code Section 21211:

    “(b) No person may place or park any bicycle, vehicle, or any other object upon any bikeway or bicycle path or trail, as specified in subdivision (a), which impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist unless the placement or parking is necessary for safe operation or is otherwise in compliance with the law.”

    You don’t need to call the high priests of doing nothing to find an answer when law books will answer your question for you.

  14. Joe B
    Posted May 1, 2014 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Kudos to you, Josef, for taking the time to make up stickers to inform residents where to place their cans. That’s really going above and beyond.

    Far be it from me to criticize your kind repositioning of the cans, but if you move cans down the block, the resident will just requisition a new empty one. Why not move the cans out of the bike lane and into a safe place, like the parking strip or front lawn? They may not get emptied in that location, but at least they won’t be breaking the law or endangering commuters.

    Where can one get some of these stickers?

  15. Mike S
    Posted May 2, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Susan, LADOT pretty thoroughly disagrees with you.

  16. Posted May 2, 2014 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    We have the same problem with trash cans in bike lanes in Cupertino and San Jose. I just moved here from DC, and never had this problem there because we have alleys where the garbage and recycling are picked up. I like the idea of dragging the cans to god-knows-where and leaving them there, though. An elegant solution! 🙂

  17. Susan Rocha
    Posted May 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Well that is very interesting. I go to the so-called experts and they give out wrong information. City employees need to be educated and so do residents. The problem remains where to place the trash cans? Really there is no place other than in the street.

  18. Fritz J.
    Posted May 4, 2014 at 12:37 am | Permalink


    Put the trash cans either A) in your driveway B) along the curb, possibly where you normally park your car if you do that on the street.

    How do people get by on narrow streets without bike lanes? They place the trash bins along the curb. That’s the solution.

  19. Susan Rocha
    Posted May 5, 2014 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    I don’t live next to a bike lane. But I would like to solve the problem of trash cans in bike lanes. I appreciate the education. I didn’t know there was a problem probly just like a lot of other people.

    Putting trash cans in a driveway is not always possible. Look at your photo. On that street on North Figueroa there are no driveways and no homes on that side of the street. And, you can not put trash cans on the curb either because there are cars all alone the curb.

    So, the two solutions you mention would work in some areas but not in others. And, definately not in the spot where your photo is. But education is key. Maybe the city council officers can mention this issue in some of their newsletters to get the word out.

    Just remember, in a few areas there is no option but to put trash cans in bike lanes. But those areas are very few. And, to the poster that said to call Street Services, well that turned out to be not a good source of information. It is better to call DOT like someone else said. They know more. It would be a good idea for someone to get involved to educate both departments.

  20. Fritz J.
    Posted May 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Susan, I appreciate your willingness to learn and communicate the other side. The problem is, however, that cars should not be parked along the curb on trash day. I am forced to park my car somewhere else so that my trash cans can occupy the space along the curb. I can’t park my car where I normally do and put my trash can in the street because that would block traffic (my street is narrow and on a hill). We wouldn’t accept trash cans in the middle of “car lanes” and we shouldn’t accept trash cans in the middle of bike lanes.

  21. Miki Jackson
    Posted May 9, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Ratcheting up hostility and acting out is not the solution to much of anything. In reading this I see a number of good points on all sides. It’s better to pick those out and try to find some solutions.

    1. Perhaps work could be done with the city to cite any blocking of bike lanes. I suspect the majority of this is convenience for the home occupant – most simply don’t think about cyclists – good or bad. Blocking lanes car or bike should get a ticket.

    2. Along that line, many cyclists are very good riders and obey traffic laws. This isn’t about them. Others are a real danger. They zip on and off sidewalks suddenly zoom out between parked cars , run lights – we have all seen that. Perhaps the most troubling thing I see is racing along sidewalks and endangering pedestrians, the most vulnerable of travelers. These cyclists don’t me angry as much as scare me. I don’t want to see them get run into, run into a vehicle or cause an accident with another cyclist or pedestrian. They should be subject to the same enforcement as any other vehicle on the road. I drive a car but I am upset by reckless driving by others – I don’t defend it out of some misplaced loyalty to my mode of transportation. We all need to obey the laws equally and to have the goal of navigating the roadways in as safe a manner as possible.

    We need to be strict about all behavior on the roads that impacts us all. Cars need to obey the laws, pedestrians need to avoid jay walking and take care of their safety. They are vulnerable enough without tempting fate. The same is true for Cyclists. Respect works.

    I do think requiring a license to ride ride on a public road is a good idea. Learning and thinking about safety, if only to pass a test or license a mode of transportation is a step in the right direction.

    Respect, safety , cooperation will get us a long way down the road.

  22. Jim
    Posted June 7, 2014 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    josef, josef, josef
    We have had this conversation before. I am so glad to see that the
    “LOS ANGELES GREAT WALL OF TRASH CANS” is alive and well. Just look at that precision. The care, the community commitment. It’s just STUNNING.

    As a cyclist you should be proud and grateful. That perfect line of trash cans creates a wonderful barrier between you and the nasty traffic and requires you to improve your bike handling skills so you don’t hit the parked cars as you thread your way between them and the cans. Also that wall of very heavy trash cans must be very effective at preventing those parked CARS from being driven, A very important feature.

    My recommendation would be to require that the wheels be removed from the cans and that they be permanently anchored to the asphalt, just a little more into the traffic lanes. That would save people the bother of moving them in and out every week and it would permanently trap those parked cars.

    Anyway, ain’t life great. Have fun COOP

  23. Posted June 9, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Jim – you have done it again! I can not control laughing every single time I read and consider your idea. It is brutally ingenious. Ya got my vote!

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