Random thoughts on last Sunday’s River Ride; simple new rules for rude River Riders

Now that life has finally settled down a little, let’s talk about last Sunday’s successful L.A. River Ride.

……..

Just a few of the riders resting at the Long Beach pit stop, turnaround point for the 70-mile ride.

First off, a huge thanks to everyone who made this ride possible.

It never fails to amaze me that a largely volunteer organization can pull off an event like this every year. And do it well enough that riders not only come back year after year, but that it keeps growing.

In fact, the one comment I heard more than anything else during and after the ride was how well organized it was.

Credit for that goes to the relative handful of LACBC staffers, as well as the many volunteers who put in countless hours in the weeks leading up to the event. Without them, it wouldn’t have happened — let alone been the success that it was.

So if you had anything to do with it, there are over 2500 cyclists who owe you a round of thanks.

And a special thanks to JJ Hoffman, who once again did the impossible as River Ride Coordinator, along with Volunteer Coordinators Martin Lopez-Iu and Erik Alcaraz.

Update: I inadvertently left Erik Alcaraz’s name out of the sentence above when I first posted; my apologies to Eric, and thanks to Carol Feucht for calling that to my attention.

……..

Several people gave up their Saturday so we could enjoy a clearly defined route.

I was particularly grateful to the people who sacrificed their Saturday to mark the route and keep us all from riding off the rails.

It took me awhile to catch on to how the riders ahead of me invariably knew just where to turn. And yes, I confess that I can be a little slow sometimes.

Once I finally spotted those little tags on the pavement, I was never again in danger of being lost. Even in parts of town where the route strayed far from the river and on which I had never before set foot or tire.

Anytime I started to get confused, I just cast my eyes down to the pavement, and within a few minutes I’d know exactly where to go and what to do.

Now, if someone could just provide the same service for my life.

……..

As we neared Long Beach, concrete and graffiti gave way to beautiful wetlands.

I do have one criticism, though.

The one part of the ride that wasn’t so successful was the exit from the bike path back to the finish at the Autry Museum at the end of the ride, where cyclists leaving the bike path were thrown into bumper-to-bumper traffic with little or no idea where to go.

And while it’s one thing to expect experienced riders to contend with crowded streets, it’s another to ask little kids and parents returning from the family ride to know how to navigate between traffic lanes jammed with frustrated drivers.

More attention needs be paid to the end of the ride next year, including the possibility of arranging for traffic cops to rein in motorists and direct riders safely back to their destination.

……..

After the ride, I had the privilege of talking with biking attorney Howard Krepack, who had allowed me to ride as his guest — and for which I remain extremely grateful.

Part of our discussion centered on the dangers posed by thoughtless road design and construction work that fails to consider the safety of cyclists.

Discussing bike safety with GEK Law's Howard Krepack; I'm the one in full bike drag.

Krepack has spent the last year or so dealing with exactly that problem, resulting from construction work on PCH that left an open trench and loose gravel on the side of the road where countless riders usually pass safely every day. Yet in this case, the lack of consideration given to the needs of all road users left a dangerous situation uncorrected for a full weekend, resulting in a number of riders being seriously injured.

I saw a similar sort of thoughtlessness on the lower section of the L.A. River Bike path below Vernon — which this time, fortunately, only posed a potential danger.

It was at a section where the southbound path forked, with the left fork continuing downriver by passing under a bridge, while the right fork led up to the roadway.

In between was a white concrete retaining wall, with the butt end facing directly towards oncoming riders. And no signs or painted warning of any kind to alert riders to the dangerous obstruction placed directly in the center of the pathway leading up to it.

A moment of indecision or distraction — or getting crowded off the path, which was a distinct possibility at times on Sunday — could easily have resulted in serious injuries.

Cyclists in Long Beach, with the legendary Queen Mary in the background on right.

Of course, since it’s a permanent part of the pathway, it’s a danger riders will continue to confront on a daily basis until it’s fixed.

Or until someone is seriously injured, or worse.

All because someone failed to think about the safety of cyclists on a pathway intended for our use.

And because of a quirk in state law, no one will ever face any liability for such a dangerous obstruction, or have any legal obligation to fix it.

……..

Speaking of getting crowded off the pathway, there was an ongoing problem throughout the ride of a handful of bikers behaving badly.

To be fair, the overwhelming majority of cyclists seemed to be very considerate, as riders of widely varying types and abilities went out of their way to make room for one another and ride safely.

Unfortunately, though, a few riders seemed to think they had no obligation to ride safely around their fellow cyclists. Time and again, I found myself or other riders passed by mini-pacelines with no warning and just inches of clearance, or in some cases, even grazing other riders as they rode by.

In one particular case, I was amazed to watch a slower rider being passed on both sides simultaneously, with no warning whatsoever and just inches to spare on either side — and an unprotected drop of over 30 feet to the concrete riverbed below.

A very bored paramedic, one of the best signs of a successful ride.

Had he been startled by the unexpected pass, all three could have found themselves tumbling down the steep embankment. And they could have easily taken a number of other riders with them, myself included.

So for anyone unclear on the concept, here are a few rules to remember for next year’s River Ride.

Or any other ride, for that matter.

  • Don’t pass unless you can do so safely. That means don’t start a pass if you can’t get back before oncoming riders get in the way, or if there’s not sufficient room to do it without interfering with the safe movement of other riders.
  • Always pass on the left. Cyclists will instinctively move to their right when startled or if they feel a need to avoid objects or other riders, and won’t expect to find you there.
  • Don’t pass closer than an arms-length distance to another rider. While you may be used to passing shoulder to shoulder in the peloton, it’s guaranteed to startle, threaten and/or piss off most riders. Like me, for instance.
  • Never try to pass a rider who is already in the process passing someone else. That’s just begging for trouble, even under the best of circumstances.
  • Call it out before you pass. A simple “On your left” or “Passing left” will avoid the overwhelming majority of collisions — let alone altercations — between cyclists.
  • That said, shouting “Left! Left! Left!” is not French for “Get the hell out of my way.” Other riders are under no more obligation to get out of the way of jerks on two wheels than they are the ones on four.
  • Speaking of jerks, calling out “Rolling” does not give you a free pass to run red lights; particularly when there is cross traffic waiting for the green — and especially when a few dozen of your fellow riders are already stopping.
  • Never put other riders at risk. Save your aggressive riding tatics for race day, when you’re riding with people who are presumably willing to assume the same risks, rather than people who are just out for a good ride on a nice day.
  • Show a little respect to everyone you pass. It’s entirely possible that the rider you just cut off could run you down and drop you like freshman English if the mood strikes. Or that the plump girl or guy struggling to finish the 30-miler could end up being the hottie on the century who won’t give you the time of day in another year or two.

……..

One thing seldom comes up in the seeming endless conflict between cyclists and equestrians over who should have the right to ride off-road trails.

Undoubtedly, some riders could show more consideration to other trail users. But I’ve never seen a bike leave a massive, steaming and slippery pile of crap in the middle of a heavily used pathway.

I am legally required to clean-up after my dog — and do so gladly — even though she does her business out of the way, where no one is likely to step or slip in it.

Yet horse owners seem to feel no similar obligation to clean-up after their animals. And left several mounds of manure in the middle of the river bike path on the busiest day of the year, where it posed a health and safety danger to everyone that passed.

Thanks again to Howard Krepack, Lisa Waring and the entire GEK Law team for the chance to ride with them on Sunday.

4 comments

  1. Shouting ‘Left! Left! Left!’ is not French for ‘Get the hell out of my way.’ Other riders are under no more obligation to get out of the way of jerks on two wheels than they are the ones on four.

    Word.

  2. cycler says:

    So you have massholes even in California? :)

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