Shocked — shocked! — I am to find bikes on the bike path

I never cease to be amazed at people who are shocked — shocked! — to discover bikes on the bike path.

Like the people who casually stroll along the bike lanes on Santa Monica’s Montana Avenue, the Marvin Braude (nee Santa Monica) bike path along the beach is inexplicably full of people who seem to have no clue that they might actually encounter bicycles as they blithely ignore the Bikes Only and No Pedestrian markings under their feet.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking the entire 22.3 mile length of the path. The upper portion along Will Rogers State Beach is usually okay, as is the lower portion through the South Bay, at least until you get to Hermosa Beach. No, I’m referring to the vastly over-populated portion from the Venice Pier north to the walkway under PCH at West Channel Road.

I’ve had a number of bizarre encounters there over the years, such as the time a toddler darted out from the parking lost directly in front of me. I jammed on my brakes and managed to come to a panic stop just inches from her.

So did the bystanders chastise her parents, for letting a small child run unsupervised like that? Or did they commend me for riding defensively, and putting the safety of a child ahead of my own?

Of course not.

Instead, I got to hear an old guy complaining about “all the damn bicycles on the bike path.” And I rode off, wondering just exactly what he expected to find there.

Then there was the woman so engrossed in her cell phone conversation that she stepped directly onto the bike path — and right in front of me — without ever looking up. So I yelled out a warning and learned hard to my left, then immediately back to the right, carving a perfect C shape right around her.

And then I made my big mistake. I stopped to make sure she was okay.

She started screaming at me — without ending her call, of course — for having the audacity to frighten her. Never mind that if she’d done the same thing on a city street, she’d probably be dead now. Or that a less experience cyclist probably would have crashed right into her, sending both of us to the ER.

No, as far as she was concerned, she was blameless and I was the bad guy, just because I tried to spare us both from serious injury.

In other words, blame bicyclists first.

Or take the large family of very large Texans I encountered near the volleyball courts awhile back. There were about 12 of them, all gathered in a group and completely blocking the entire bike path in both directions.

Eternal optimist that I am, I assumed that they would move aside to let me pass when I got close. But no, they just stared at me, their bovine expressions unchanging as they gazed at the approaching cyclist.

Polite requests to pass accomplished nothing. So finally I came to a full stop just feet in front of them and, exasperated, yelled at them to get out of the way.

That had the same effect as poking an enraged bull. The women started screaming at me and the men started moving angrily towards me. One woman, apparently the matriarch of the group, sputtered that they were from Texas, and had never encountered such rudeness.

So let’s recap, shall we? They were far from home, blocking a major pathway, preventing anyone else from passing in any direction, and ignoring every reasonable request for passage.

And I was the rude one?

Finally, some other riders approaching on the other side of the group called for them to move, as well, and slowly they gave way to either side, not unlike Moses parting the Red Sea.

And I rode off, wishing them a safe and speedy return to Texas.

Okay, so I may have left out the safe part.

Today’s must reads: Streetsblog reminds readers about tonight’s DWP meeting to discuss the annual Festival of Lights, giving us an opportunity to protest their absurd — and illegal — ban on bicycles (thanks to Alex Thompson for pointing us to section 21 of the state vehicle code). Speaking of Alex, he’s posted a beautiful reverie on racing a magical wave on Ballona Creek. The Time’s Bottleneck Blog provides the details of the proposed sales tax increase, which still lacks any provision for bicycles and pedestrians. And finally, sad news from my home town, where one rider was killed and another severely injured when they were stuck from behind by a drunk driver — at 5:20 in the morning.

One comment

  1. John Howes says:

    My experience was very much the same as yours. My brother-in-law and I set out from Pacific Palisades Dec. 29, 2008 to ride the Marvin Braude Bike Trail to the start and back (46 miles). We were visiting relatives in the Palisades, but we are from San Francisco and Sacramento. We found it to be a slow, but entertaining ride. The section through Santa Monica and Venice is brutal though. It is exhausting to deal with all the clueless pedestrians! I rode through that stretch last summer and it was even more crowded then. I’m not sure I have the fortitude to bike that stretch again! If you ever get up to Sacramento, try the bike path along the American River. It is great! Hardly a pedestrian in sight anywhere. Very refreshing. If you make it to San Francisco, we have some great rides here heading up across the Golden Gate Bridge.

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