Today’s ride, in which I thank the LAPD

I try to always be courteous when I ride, and respectful of other people’s rights and safety. All I ask is that I receive the same courtesy and respect in return.

Which doesn’t always happen.

Take today’s ride. My route took my down Ohio through Westwood, before cutting through the Veterans Center on my way to San Vicente.

Just west of Sepulveda, the wide sidewalk along the north side of Ohio is designated as a shared Class 1 (off road) bike path. Maybe it shouldn’t be; it’s not a great place to ride, and many cyclists prefer the street. Personally though, I find it preferable to dealing with the drivers along that stretch who try to squeeze by too fast and far too close.

Besides, I almost feel like we have to use whatever infrastructure we have — however crappy it may be — or our good friends at LADOT will question why we need a new Bike Master Plan — again, crappy though it may be — when we don’t use the infrastructure we’ve got.

So when I came up behind a couple of pedestrians blocking my way, I slowed down and moved as far to the side as possible, then politely said “Bike passing on your left.”

No response. At least not from the guy blocking my way, though the other pedestrian further away seemed to hear me clearly. So I said it again a little louder. This time, he turned around, and yelled at me to “get my fucking bike off the sidewalk and ride in the fucking street.”

Now, I could have responded by pointing out that it’s perfectly legal to ride on the sidewalk in Los Angeles. But the stronger argument seemed to be that he was, in fact, walking on a bike path.

He wasn’t having any of it, though, He pointed to a brief stripe on the asphalt and insisted it was a bike lane. And again told me to get my “fucking ass off the sidewalk.”

Now, most days, I might have just flipped him off and gone on my way. But I’ve challenged myself not to make any rude gestures or swear at anyone — no matter how deserving — while riding for the next three months.*

Yeah, I wouldn’t bet on it, either.

Besides, I was damned if I was going to let some indignorant a**hole chase me off one of the few Class 1 paths on the Westside.

So I walked over to the nearby Bike Path sign, and tapped on the arrow pointing to the sidewalk. He responded by showing me the rare double bird. At that point, it was rapidly becoming clear that I might need to defend myself, so I squared up to him and said, “you got a problem?”

“No,” he replied, “but you’re about to.”

At that exact moment, we both noticed a police car driving by in the opposite direction. And like the idiot he was, he yelled out to them for help. Then as the officers made a U-turn and pulled up next to us, he walked off — leaving me to deal with them.**

They both stepped out of their car and asked what was going on. So I explained the situation as carefully as I could, pointing out the sign indicating this was a bike path, and saying I was just trying to ride safely and courteously when I had indicated my presence. And complaining that it was bad enough dealing with people who aren’t willing to share the road, nodding at the cars that passed by, without having to deal with it on a bike path.

The senior officer nodded, and said, “You know, some guys are just jerks.” And then added, “We’ll go talk to him.”***

So I apologized that they had to get involved, thanked them both, and shook their hands, hoping that my bike gloves weren’t too sweaty yet. Then I rode off, taking extra care to come to a full stop and signal for my turn at the next light.

I just hope the other guy showed them more respect than he did me.

Well no, actually, I don’t.

*And no, I didn’t. Today, anyway.
**Highly abridged version of conversation.
***Ditto.

………

Lovers of bicycle comics can come in off the ledge now — Yehuda Moon is back. Damien Newton fills us in on today’s TranspoComm meeting, which most of the committee evidently considered less important than the Lakers victory parade. The lawyer for the pedestrian-killing Swedish hip hop star wannabe wants us to believe he beat a Hollywood jazz musician to death in self defense. The Cycling Lawyer suggests how to cover your ass since American insurance won’t cover cyclists. Thanks to the other cycling lawyer for calling attention to a plot by drivers to block an upcoming Colorado century ride. London’s cycling mayor thinks mirrors on stop lights could help save cyclists’ lives. Looks like my old stomping grounds are becoming bike-friendly, just a few decades too late to do me any good. Finally, a former downhill champion discovers weed dealing can take you down faster a good mountain bike.

3 comments

  1. Gah, we can’t win can we? Motorists try to cuss us onto the sidewalk and peds try to cuss us into the street! I guess I should stop being amazed at the level of unprovoked kneejerk idiotic belligerence cyclists get confronted with, and kudos to you for handling it so well.

    After my harrowing February encounter with the 6’9″ mohican I’m still doing my best to “go Ghandi” when I ride (and mostly succeeding), but I’m sure I would’ve lost it with that jerk.

    You did the right thing getting on your way. Me? I would’ve most likely ratcheted things up a notch or two by demanding the officers cite the jackass for impeding bicycle movement on a Class I bikeway, and if they declined to do that I would have demanded he be arrested for verbal assault and a threat to do bodily harm, or at least made to apologize on the spot.

  2. Ed Greenberg says:

    >>> Now, I could have responded by pointing out that it’s perfectly legal to ride on the sidewalk in Los Angeles. But the stronger argument seemed to be that he was, in fact, walking on a bike path. <<<

    Are we certain about this?

  3. What is with the sudden questioning of whether or not it’s legal to ride in the sidewalks? I saw a lot of it at Streetsblog also. Yes, I’m certain of it. I actually sat through a discussion in the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday about requiring cyclists passing a pedestrian to shout out a warning or ring a bell.

    But back to the point of the post, I had a good encounter with the LAPD on Wednesday as well. As I was pedaling North from part of the parade route back to Olympic and parts North. At Olympic, I noticed they were starting to remove the road barriers, so I took a left towards home. As I pedaled to Olympic and Fig, the barriers were still up, but the officer looked at me and back a little to the miles of backed up and ready to go cars, smiled and motioned me around the barriers. Gave me a head start and let me go before I was competing with all the motorists ticked off and held up by the parade.

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