I’d planned on taking a nice, sunny spin down the coast today. After all, this was supposed to be an easy day, since I’d ridden hills yesterday and only needed another 20 miles to meet my goal for the week.
But once I got down to Santa Monica, I found the weather wasn’t so inviting. It was cool, overcast and windy at the beach; the most un-summer-like August day I think I’ve ever seen around L.A. So rather than fight the wind, I decided to just take a quick ride along the beachfront Marvin Braude bike path — despite my rule of thumb to never ride there during on Fridays during the summer, due to the early weekend influx of tourists, kids, pedestrians and other assorted path-clogging flotsam.
To be honest, though, it wasn’t that bad. Sure, I had to dodge the occasional training-wheeled toddler weaving across the path with no parents in sight, as well as the usual clusters of tourists stopped in the middle of the path to chat or gawk at the view. And it certainly didn’t hurt my cheerful disposition knowing that I had an Old Speckled Hen on ice at home, waiting for my return.
That is, until I encountered a couple of young women walking up the bike path, despite the presence of a pedestrian walkway just a few feet away, and “bikes only” markings on the one they were walking on instead. And they were walking on the wrong side, headed straight for me, directly in my path.
Now, as anyone who has ever ridden along there knows, that’s not entirely unusual. Usually, such people will look up, see a cyclist coming, and politely move out of the way. Which is exactly what I thought these two would do.
Instead, they just kept walking directly towards me, with the same uncomprehending stare one would expect to see in a flock of sheep. But then I saw a small gap to their right and attempted to slip by, just as one of them moved in that same direction, bumping up against me and almost forcing me into the sand.
I just couldn’t help myself, and yelled out, “Other side, stupid,” as I rolled past. And immediately regretted adding the word “stupid,” although, to be fair, it was the mildest of the many words that popped into my head.
Of course, the catcalls from bystanders started immediately, including, among many other epithets, “rude” and “arrogant.” So there it was once again, as I found myself being called a rude, arrogant cyclist.
My mind reeled.
How was it that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, on a pathway build exactly for that purpose, while they were exactly where they weren’t supposed to be, doing exactly what they weren’t supposed to be doing. Yet I was the bad guy?
Suddenly, something snapped, and my mind I became a driver. Not the courteous, safe kind that actually make up the vast majority of local drivers, but the indignorant, letter-writing kind who feel perfectly justified in taking out their anger on cyclists.
So I thought, just for a moment, that I should have just ridden directly into them and knocked both women on their ass. After all, they were in my way, and so clearly they deserved it.
When the police came, I would say it was an accident, and I just didn’t see them, because they weren’t where they were supposed to be. Then I could give him a knowing look, and say “When pedestrians learn to respect the rules of bike path, then we’ll respect the rights of pedestrians.”
And I’d get away with it, too. Because drivers usually do.
But then I snapped out of it, and realized, no matter how hard I might try, I could never really be that big a jerk. And so, once again, I was just another rude, arrogant cyclist.
But for once, it really didn’t seem so bad.
Mack Reed writes about riding tandem with arachnids, while Will•I•Am (no, not that one) puts his bike cam to work nailing parking tards. David Byrne, ex-Talking Head, now the Dick Cheney of bike rack design. Bicycling tells us how to de-escalate conflicts between cyclists and drivers. Finally, VeloNews’ own cycling PI attorney recaps the recent road rage incidents, including the good doctor’s Mandeville Canyon brake check and biker-on-biker violence in Portland.