One of the primary arguments used to attack bicyclists lately has been the alleged carelessness — or aggressiveness — some bike riders show around pedestrians.
Never mind that a solid collision between a cyclist and someone on foot is likely to result in injuries to both. And while people can point fingers at a handful of cases where careless riders have seriously injured — or even killed — pedestrians, it is a problem that goes both ways.
As just about anyone who has ever ridden any of Southern California’s beachfront bike paths can attest.
Case in point, this email I received yesterday from frequent South Bay contributor Jim Lyle.
Nine days ago, I was returning home from my morning ride up the coast. As I navigated the bike path under the Redondo Beach pier, a woman ducked under the chain that separates the bike path from the pedestrian walkway directly in front of me. I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting her and went down, hard. As I hit the pavement, I heard a “pop” and knew it wasn’t going to be a good thing. I unclipped and tried to get up, but couldn’t bear any weight on my left leg due to the pain.
Here’s where it gets surreal. The woman, with a bunch of her friends, did not offer to help me, did not ask if I was OK, or if I was hurt; they simply walked away as if nothing had happened. Does that qualify as a “hit and walk?”
I was able to pull myself up using the bike to lean on and hobbled to an open area where I had cell phone coverage. I called a friend who lives near the pier and asked her to come get me. She arrived, put the bicycle in the truck bed, but I couldn’t get into the cab, it was too high and it hurt too much to move the leg. I started to go into shock, tunnel vision and losing consciousness. My friend called 911. The EMTs arrived, put me on a gurney, and transported me to emergency. X-rays revealed I had snapped a bone on my femur, but there was no displacement. They gave me pain meds and crutches and sent me home. I return to the orthopod in a couple of weeks to make sure there’s been no movement of the bone and I’m on the road to recovery. Otherwise, they’ll have to do surgery. Meanwhile, I’m moping around the house feeling sorry for myself. It could have been worse, much, much worse.
As you know, it is illegal (CVC and city ordinances) for pedestrians to use the beach bike path. There are signs posted and “BIKES ONLY” is painted on the path every few yards. Because these laws are not enforced, pedestrians, nannies, dog walkers, skaters, illiterates, and scofflaws use the bike path instead of the pedestrian walkway which is often within spitting range. I always knew this created a dangerous situation for cyclists and pedestrians. And, now, I’m a victim.
In the past, a polite “on your left” or “bikes only, please” would be sufficient. In future, when I’m back riding, I am no longer going to be very pleasant when I encounter the brain dead idiots who insist on endangering my health. Police chiefs in the beach cities are going to know my name. All it would take is a little public education and the occasional ticket to make the beach safe for all users, on two wheels or none.
I’m still fuming about the lack of humanity shown by people. Surely, they’re in a minority, or are they?
Make no mistake.
Pedestrians are the only class of road users more vulnerable than we are. And we need to go out of our way to protect their safety, especially when riding on sidewalks and through crosswalks, where they should have unquestioned right-of-way.
And yes, I’ve seen cyclists plow through a crowded crosswalk, seemingly oblivious to the harm they may cause. And a Santa Monica cyclist was recently convicted, fairly or not, of assault with a deadly weapon for doing just that.
But as Jim’s email suggests, we aren’t always the problem. And we are just as vulnerable to their carelessness as they are to ours.
One other point.
Had he been able to stop the woman, she could have been held liable for his injuries, just as a bicyclist can be held legally liable for injuring a pedestrian. Or another bike rider, for that matter.
But whether she could be charged with leaving the scene of a collision is a question I can’t answer.