It’s been less than a decade since the disaster at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, when a confused motorist plowed through a crowd of pedestrians, killing 10 people and injuring 63.
Last weekend, it could have happened again. This time on a busy Venice Boardwalk crowded with tourists.
Fortunately, a cyclist named Kim Rivera was riding her bike north through Venice around 8:30 pm last Saturday night, making her way towards Santa Monica, when she saw a possible tragedy in the making.
As I approached one of the parking lot entrances, I saw a car driving on the Boardwalk. Right behind it, I saw a black Jeep follow the first car. Both continued driving north on Ocean Front Walk. The 1st car was driving at a normal speed (I estimate 22-25mph). The Jeep was slower. They both drove past a restaurant with people sitting outside. Pedestrians moved to the sides of the walk and were calling out “wrong way!” but the drivers seemed clueless.
A lot of people would have just shaken their heads and continued riding on their way, or stood to watch it all unfold before them. Instead, Kim swung into action to try and catch the drivers before it as too late.
I was riding right behind the Jeep. My intention was to ride up along side him and point him in the right direction, but I couldn’t safely get to the side since people were already moving to the sides of Ocean Front Walk. Soon the Jeep got a clue and turned right toward the alley.
That left one more car still threatening the safety of everyone on the Boardwalk.
The 1st car was well ahead of him. I road toward him cautiously because I didn’t know if he was drunk or what he might do next. He started to drive onto the Santa Monica Pedestrian Path that parallels the bike path, about half a car length, before stopping. He backed up and started to make a U-turn. His car was now sideways on Ocean Front Walk.
That’s when I felt it was safe enough, and rode up about five feet away, stopped my bike lengthwise along the passenger side of the car and waved my arms, yelling “No! No! You can’t drive here. No cars!” He asked where he was supposed to go. I told him this was not a street, and pointed for him to drive alongside the condos at the end there and enter the alley.
Unfortunately, the confused driver still didn’t get it.
He slowly continued to make his U-turn, so I started doing the same thing again; parked in front of him with my bike, arms waving. He pointed to the Boardwalk and asked me, “But I can go back this way?” So I said a THIRD time, “No cars! This is not a street. You could hurt someone!”
He finally ended up going where I told him and into the alley.
Disaster averted, if barely.
Overall, they didn’t drive very far on the Boardwalk. I think they entered from Rose, but there were still a lot of people there that could have gotten hurt. Especially toward the far end near Santa Monica where it gets real dark.
Next time I ride that way, I plan to stop and take a look at the entrance to the Boardwalk at Rose, and see if something needs to be done to keep clueless drivers off.
And say a little thanks that Kim was there that night to keep a minor incident from turning into something worse.