Not too long ago, a neighbor of mine came up to me with a question.
Every week, he said, on the same day each week, he’ll sit in heavy Sunset Blvd traffic waiting to make a left turn to drop his daughter off at school. And without fail, he’ll see a large group of cyclists riding east from the Palisades turn right at the same intersection — regardless of whether they have the right of way or the color of the traffic signal.
In fact, he’s had to jam on his brakes in the middle of his left as the leaders of the group blow through the light directly in front of him. Then he sometimes has to sit there through the light cycle, blocking the roadway until the riders clear the intersection.
Is that legal, he asked? Don’t cyclists have to obey the same laws as everyone else?
Uh, no. And yes.
I explained that there are reasons why riders in a peloton will keep going rather than stop, ranging from maintaining their momentum to the added safety of staying bunched together as they make their way through traffic.
But it’s not legal. And it’s hard to explain to angry drivers why they need to share the road when we don’t, at least not from their perspective.
I can offer every argument in my arsenal, from the fact that bikes pose a minute fraction of the risk that cars and other motor vehicles do, to statistics that show that the overwhelming majority of drivers don’t stop for stop signs, either. As well as the fact that most cyclists actually do stop for red lights, and that some cyclists think that going through a light is actually safer than waiting for it to change.
But the conversation usually ends up like this one did. “But I have to stop for red lights and observe the right of way. So why don’t they?”
Clearly, he’s not the only one who asks that question. And some of those end up calling the local police department to complain.
Which seems to be exactly what happened in Redondo Beach.
Jim Lyle recently forwarded me this very politely worded letter from the Redondo Beach Police Department Community Services Unit, which makes it very clear that they are prepared to crack down on cyclists if they think they have to.
The Redondo Beach Police Department would like to respectfully underline the message of obeying all of the rules pertaining to the California Vehicle Code while cycling through the city. Increased disregard for stop signs by individual cyclists and by large groups or pelotons at several intersections has resulted in numerous calls to the Department for additional enforcement. Please work with us in getting the word out to all bicyclists that their compliance will prevent a directed enforcement detail for bicycle violations in the City of Redondo Beach.
We wish you continued enjoyment toward a safe and healthy lifestyle.
Of course, we have every right to expect that they will enforce the rules equally against drivers and cyclists.
For some reason, though, few people seem to notice when drivers slow down without coming to a complete stop, while we seem to stand out if we don’t come to a full stop — even if we slow just as much.
So much for the argument that bikes are hard to see. And fair or not, we’re the ones that people complain about.
So be courteous. Play nice. And stop for red lights and stop signs.
Especially in Redondo Beach.
Charges have been dropped against Michael Bryant, the former Ontario Attorney General who killed a Toronto bike messenger in what appeared to be a deliberate attack last summer.
Despite video showing the victim, Darcy Allen Sheppard, clinging to Bryant’s car moments before his death, prosecutors blamed Sheppard for escalating the events, noting that he was legally intoxicated and had a history of violent confrontations with drivers.
Although how many people would keep their cool after being struck twice while waiting for a red light to change — the second time hard enough to throw him onto the hood of Bryant’s Saab — is subject to debate.
The whole event took less than 30 seconds.
Cycling advocates question whether it was really Sheppard’s temper or Bryant’s political connections that lead to the dismissal, though some say that Sheppard is the wrong kind of hero for cyclists, while others note that Bryant’s career is probably dead in the water now.
Federal official consider expanding their investigation into other areas — including the possibility of fraud charges — if it can be shown that money from Lance Armstrong’s former team sponsor US Postal Service was used to buy illegal substances. Meanwhile, Lance is running out of time to get in shape for this year’s Tour.
Glendale moves forward with a riverfront park, including a bike/pedestrian bridge connecting to Griffith Park. Evidently, you can’t just make a scraper bike; now there are official rules — and L.A. residents need not apply. A San Francisco judge will consider officially lifting that city’s misguided and unwanted injunction against bike infrastructure. Lose the support of cyclists, and Davis area candidates risk losing an election; that’s exactly where we need to get here in L.A. When leading a ride for beginning cyclists, always carry a 5/8” wrench just in case. A Dallas rider discovers a ‘70s era bike that apparently doesn’t exist, at least as far as Google knows. Also from Dallas, a blow-by-blow account of dodging Hummers and sorority girls on the city streets. Lack of a helmet cannot be used against a cyclist in Illinois courts. Safe cycling is courteous, but not always legal. A report from Holland MI says building more bike paths may mean more cyclists on the roads. How London can cut the rapidly rising rate of bike theft — note that a government program will pay commuters up to half the cost of a new bike. Britain’s Bristol City FC encourages fans to bike to their games; is anyone from the Dodgers or Lakers paying attention? A teenage girl is forced off the road by a speeding car and impaled on a barbed wire fence, as people passing by ignore her pleas for help. Paris plans to double its bike path network, while adding 1,000 bike parking spots. Toronto may be a boneyard of broken cyclists, but city officials don’t give them an inch.
Finally, a Canadian driving instructor offers advice on how cyclists and drivers can get along — and actually gets it right for a change.