Bicycle Helmet Laws in El Cerrito, CA

Matthew Gramly, a partner at Rahman Gramly LLP recently fought and won a case concerning El Cerrito bicycle helmet laws. Check out the press release below.

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April 8, 2009

Press Release

Bet You Did Not Know that El Cerrito has a Helmet Law for ALL Bicyclists?

On the morning of November 5, 2008 Michael Schaller, a Berkeley resident, boarded BART with his bicycle and rode to the El Cerrito station. As he had done each day for the past year, Mr. Schaller, exited the train in El Cerrito with his bike to cycle the short distance to his office. As he rode his bicycle (in a striped bicycle lane) an El Cerrito motorcycle police officer stepped in front of him and asked, “Where is your helmet?” Mr. Schaller, who was aware that the California Vehicle Code only requires that helmets be worn by cyclists who are under 18 years old, was surprised at being stopped. As it happens, the El Cerrito Police Department was in the middle of a two-day “enforcement campaign” in the area of the BART station, the sole purpose of which was to cite bicyclists not wearing helmets.

Mr. Schaller was issued a citation for violating El Cerrito Municipal Ordinance Section 11.64.100 (c), which reads, “It is unlawful to ride a bicycle as an operator or passenger without wearing a safety helmet.” The citation carried a fine of $127. Mr. Schaller, who prior to receiving his citation had been unaware of the helmet-related ordinance, chose to fight this citation and hired the San Francisco law firm of Rahman Gramly LLP to represent him.

Matthew Gramly, a partner with the firm of Rahman Gramly LLP, represented Mr. Schaller at the March 24, 2009 hearing in the Superior Court of Contra Costa County. Mr. Gramly argued that the City failed to post any notice about their helmet law, as required by El Cerrito’s Municipal Code Section 1.10.010, the citation should be dismissed. Mr. Gramly also argued that as the California Vehicle Code is at odds with the City’s helmet law, the California law should pre-empt the local ordinance.

The police officer who issued the citation testified that despite many years as an officer, he could not recall ever having issued another citation under El Cerrito’s helmet law.

After taking the matter under submission, on March 26, 2009, the Court determined that Mr. Schaller was not guilty and the citation was dismissed. Mr. Schaller and his attorneys were pleased with the result, however, Mr. Gramly noted “My partner and I represent many cyclists and as a result of the often devastating injuries we see, we encourage all of our clients to wear protective gear, including helmets. The issue for Mr. Schaller was one of fundamental fairness.”

Be warned. El Cerrito has a helmet law and they are enforcing it.

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