| Motorcycle Riders Complain About Glendale Helmet Signs
By Steve Ryfle
Are Harley Riders Unwelcome in Glendale?
Just ask Richard Quigley, an activist with the Helmet Law Defense League, who wants the city to remove a handful of road signs that he says are both illegal and a demonstration of the Jewel City's bigotry toward bikers.
And ask Steven Shmerler, a 42 year-old rider who says a recent trip to replace his stolen helmet at a Glendale Harley shop has thrust him into a legal battle where the odds are stacked against motorcyclists' rights.
"Our members have had a lot of very harsh encounters with the police and the courts in Glendale," said Quigley. "It's not like they're the only police department in the state that does this, but they have come to be recognized for that type of behavior."
Quigley, who edits the HLDL's newsletter and is based in Santa Cruz, has been trying for the past week to get city officials to take down signs reading "helmet law enforced" that are posted on major roads at city boundaries.
He said Glendale violated state sign codes by printing the signs on yellow (road signs urging motorists to comply with seat belt and helmet laws are typically on white with black lettering).
Furthermore, he said Glendale is the only city his group knows of that has done this, and he thinks officials may have intentionally printed the yellow signs to intimidate motorcycle riders. Now he wants to buy the signs and keep them as a memento of 'ignorance and stereotypes'' of cycle enthusiasts.
"They have to take them down. If they don't, I'll ask the Highway Patrol to cite the City Manager for putting up signs that are not a legitimate warning but an expression of bigotry.
"This attitude, this bigotry, still stems from the old movies of the 50's and 60's and the mythology that was built around Harley riders. At one time the terms biker and outlaw were interchangeable, but they aren't today."
Shmerler, on the other hand, says it's not the signs that reveal the city's true attitude toward Harley owners but the way the law is being enforced on the streets.
On Sept. 25. the Encino resident says he was just a few blocks away
from Harley Davidson of Glendale when a police officer stopped him for riding without a helmet.
According to the state vehicle code, such a violation is a correctable equipment infraction carrying a $10 fine, but Shmerler now finds himself facing possible criminal proceedings.
"When the officer wrote me the ticket, he neglected to check one of two boxes that indicate whether it's a correctable or non?correctable offense," Shmerler said.
"It's not non-correctable unless they charge you with something else, so when I got my new helmet I went to the police department and they approved it and signed the ticket. But when I took it to the court clerk, they said I had to go to court and pay $76 bail because neither box had been checked, and that was the policy.
"If all the judges have gone to the extent of formulating a policy for these unchecked boxes, it must happen quite frequently. Right there, that began to tell me these might be some kind of bigotry going on, and that they were trying to hit bikers with fines they didn't deserve."
So is the city that hosts the annual Love Ride, a charity event that brings hundreds of Harley and other motorcycle riders roaring through town, really biased against bikes?
James E. Rogan, presiding judge of the Glendale Municipal Court, was unavailable for comment.
But police spokesman Chafe Keuroghelian said he found it "in interesting" that the helmet law sign' were interpreted as symbols of an anti-biker mentality.
"That's quite an allegation," Keuroghelian said. "I don't see any reason for people to be intimidated by this type of sign. It's just a reminder, just like the seat belt sign. It's not an expression of any particular attitude. We don't like to cite people, so this is a way of warning them."
Shmerler said officials with the courts and the police department have agreed to look into the circumstances of his case and he believes the matter will eventually be dismissed.
But Quigley said he's been told by the City Manager's office that the offending signs will come down, but that he can't buy them. "I'll give them whatever they paid for the signs, but they'd rather put them in storage and auction them off next year. They're wasting the taxpayers' money," he said.
Officials at City Hall on Tuesday could neither confirm of deny the claim.