Last week I was a nice guy; yesterday, I was an asshole.
The difference was that the seasons officially changed, June Gloom finally ended and local schools let out for the summer. And that lead to an exponential increase in the number of people on the Santa Monica and Venice portions of the Marvin Braude bike path — the Class 1 bikeway that runs along the beach from Palos Verdes to Pacific Palisades.
And that means it’s time to ride somewhere else for awhile.
From September to May, it’s one of the most pleasant rides in Los Angeles, offering beautiful views, lots of sunshine and no worries about traffic. Even as late as last week, it was still a pleasant place to ride.
As always, pedestrians ignored the faded No Pedestrian and Bicycles Only markings, and walked wherever they wanted. But for the most part, they were considerate of other users, and vice versa, and there weren’t so many that I couldn’t easily ride around them.
As I rode, I came across a young woman who had just fallen off her bike after hitting a patch of sand.
Fortunately, she wasn’t badly hurt. If she had been, the city could have been liable, because state law requires adequate warning of any hazards along an off-road bike path. And loose sand is a common problem on the bike path, frequently resulting in falls.
She did have a large road rash abrasion on her upper hip, though. So I stopped just long enough to offer an antiseptic wipe and a large bandage from my first aid kit. She and her friends thanked me, and I continued on my way.
Yesterday was a different matter.
The upper section of the path, from Pacific Palisades down to the Santa Monica Pier, was crowded but still ridable. Closer to the pier, though, it was virtually impassible.
Large groups of pedestrians blocked it in both directions, ignoring the yellow line down the middle — as well as the markings indicating they shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Some walked their dogs along the path, allowing the leash stretch across the bikeway, which could have been dangerous to me — and fatal to the dog — if I hadn’t seen it. Skaters swerved across the path, oblivious to the presence of anyone else, let alone the warnings blocked out by the earbuds from their iPods.
And tourists raced by on rental recumbents, gawking at the sights and paying no attention to which side of the path they were on. Or whether anyone else was in their way.
In other words, it was not a pleasant ride.
However, the tipping point came when I noticed three young children, all under the age or four or five, riding their tiny bikes and tricycles with no adult supervision.
Personally, I think anyone who leaves their children alone on a crowded bike path is guilty of child endangerment. But hey, that’s just me.
As you might expect, they were all over the place, swerving from one side to the other with total unpredictability, regardless of whether anyone else was occupying that space.
I watched as other people dodged out of their way, some annoyed, others thinking it was cute. But I’ve seen people seriously injured by little kids like that, including an older man who went over his handlebars when a toddler on training wheels drifted across the center line and crashed into his bike.
So I slowed to a crawl as I passed. And concerned for their safety, as well that of those around them, I called out to them to ride carefully.
For that, I was called an asshole.
The woman who said it was part of a group of pedestrians that clogged the better part of the bike path. And she seemed unaware of the irony, as they literally stood on a No Pedestrian symbol, just feet from a separate pedestrian walkway.
Yet somehow, I was the asshole.
It was over a month ago that Steve Lopez of the Times wrote about Santa Monica’s complete lack of enforcement of its own bikeway restrictions. He quoted city officials promising that steps would soon be taken to correct the problem.
It hasn’t happened yet. And I doubt we’ll see it anytime soon.
Or in my lifetime, for that matter.
And yet, the League of American Bicyclists cited this bike path as one of the prime reasons they recently gave Santa Monica a Bronze Award as a Bicycle Friendly City. And local cyclists consider it just one of many reasons why that award was undeserved and should be revoked.
So I’ll stop riding that part of the bike path for another summer, just like I do around this time every year. And yet another bike to the area’s overcrowded streets until school is back in session and the tourist season is over.
And we can once again use it for its intended purpose.*With apologies to Martha and the Vandellas, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, among others.
Streetsblog compares New York’s bike safety PSA with one from our own LADOT. Guess which one puts the blame on bikers? LAist reports the TransoComm will once again take up cycling issues tomorrow, and swears Alta Planning and the LAPD may actually show up this time. A local cyclist relates his recent ride up Mt. Baldy. Bicycle Fixation discusses a recent encounter with a false cycling prophet. LACyclist wrenches his way through C.R.A.N.K. Mob. Speaking of wrenching, Flying Pigeon encounters a rare Shanghai Forever. The governor of Texas decides cyclists don’t need to be safe in his state. The 91 year-old hit-and-run driver who injured 10 Arizona cyclists, leaving one with severe brain damage, gets three years probation — and sues the county for damages the next day. Opus analyzes the cost of wear and tear on the roads for bikes compared to cars and trucks, and Bob Mionske makes the case for cycling insurance. The next phase in Google Maps’ Streetviews is being done by tricycle. Finally, more uncoverage of the World Naked Bike Ride, as cyclists in London and Seattle celebrate the solstice.