Tag Archive for Venice

Let’s not let oversized, inefficient SUVs get in the way of much needed bike lanes on Main Street

A proposed road diet could turn this...

Let’s talk road diets.

Or more precisely, let’s talk about the one LADOT proposes for Main Street in Venice.

Following the disastrous reception the Wilbur Avenue road diet generated in the Valley last year, with motorists outraged by the loss of their high-speed, cut-though commuter route — regardless of the benefits or safety for the people who actually live there — LADOT has gone out of their way to engage the public on Main.

And yes, in advance, this time.

Go figure.

Unlike Wilbur, where the arguments for and against the road diet took place after it was installed with no public notice, LADOT reached out in advance in an attempt to build support beforehand. But this time, instead of drivers complaining about the loss of a through lane slowing them down, or having to find an alternate route to one that was never intended as a cut-through commuter route, the complaints came from cyclists who didn’t like the plan’s specifications.

Valley, meet Venice.

And this...

That negative response from some people was surprising, because the road diet merely takes the street design that already exists in the Santa Monica section and extends it south to the Venice portion between Navy and Windward Circle.

So if you want to see what a difference a road diet can make, just take a ride between Windward Circle and Pico Blvd. Or vice versa.

Night, meet day.

I usually bike Main at least once a week; more in the summertime when the crush of tourists and locals out for a little sun make the beachfront bike path virtually impassible for anyone wanting to move above a slow walking pace.

And yes, like most of the bike lanes in Santa Monica, they’re far from perfect. More than once I’ve found myself dodging flung doors and swerving to avoid drivers casually pulling into and out of parking spaces, with no concept that the narrow band of paint on the street next to them might possibly suggest the presence of bikes.

Into this.

After all, why would anyone expect to find bikes in a bike lane?

But despite the fears expressed by some, I’ve never had any problems — with drivers or police — moving out of the bike lane when necessary to avoid obstacles real or imagined.

When time allows, I give a little signal — not quite a full extension of my left arm to avoid confusion that I intend to make a turn, but more of a three-quarter point to the left to suggest that I’m just coming out a little. Then I give a quick wave when I pull back over to thank the drivers behind for giving me a little space.

And I find drivers on the narrowed Santa Monica section far more willing to concede a little road space than on the wider, higher speed stretch to the south.

In fact, the stretch of Main between Rose and Abbot Kinney (called Brooks on the map) is the only road I ride regularly where I legitimately fear for my safety. Between impatient bus drivers, motorists hell bent on remaining well north of the speed limit and clueless beachgoers cruising for free parking — yeah, good luck with that — I’ve probably had more close calls there than anywhere else.

I’ve learned to ride aggressively there. I take the lane and keep my speed above 20 mph, merging into the flow of traffic. Yet still cringe as drivers blow by at over twice my speed, and bus drivers ride my ass so they can lurch to a stop just a few feet up the road. Or sometimes crowd me out if I continue past Abbot Kinney where the road gets narrower.

Which makes me wonder why anyone would prefer the dangerous, bike-unfriendly situation we have now to the much calmer, though admittedly not perfect, situation just a few blocks north in Santa Monica.

As it turns out, that’s not really the case.

For the most part, even most of those who oppose the current plan don’t advocate doing nothing. But other proposed solutions, such as traffic calming or separated bike lanes, while they might be preferable, aren’t viable in the current budget crunch and would require years before they could be implemented, while the proposed plan requires nothing more than a little paint and can be implemented almost immediately

That leaves advocates doing complex math to divide up the street to come up with a better solution, debating the merits of a 10 foot motor vehicle lane and 6 foot bike lane, as opposed to the proposed 11 foot vehicle lane and 5 foot bike lane.

LADOT prefers the 11 foot lane to accommodate all those wide buses, fearing that a rider traveling near the outer edge of the bike lane could risk getting mirrored by a passing bus. And having had sufficient experience with bus drivers in that area, I would contend their fears are well-founded.

I won’t reargue the merits of the various widths and configurations; you can find virtually every possibility debated in the comments on Damien Newton’s always excellent coverage of the story. Although as noted above, I have a strong preference for anything that will keep those bus mirrors away from my head.

But here’s the thing.

The entire debate hinges on the width allowed for parking, and the risk posed by the swinging doors of oversized SUVs.

LADOT’s plans call for a 5’ bike lane next to a 7’ parking lane — which means that all those Hummers, Escalades and Navigators so popular in L.A. would offer only a few inches of clearance if perfectly parked, or actually extend into the bike lane if parked like most people do in the real world. And their massive doors would block virtually the entire bike lane when carelessly flung open.

To some, that’s reason enough to kill the road diet and live with the dangerous situation we already have, preferring the devil we know to the one we know just up the street.

But consider this.

According to a study from San Francisco, 85% of all vehicle doors extend less than 9.5 feet from the curb.

Which means we’re concerned about the problem posed by just 15% of drivers who have more money than sense, and are willing waste their resources on the biggest, most expensive, least efficient and most dangerous-to-everyone-else private vehicles on the road.

Then consider that such a vehicle would have to be parked next to the bike lane, and occupied, at the exact moment you pass by. And just happen to fling open a door at exactly the wrong time.

That’s not to say it can’t happen. It happened to me on Abbot Kinney just last year.

But I would contend that the risk is a hell of a lot smaller than the danger posed by the speeding and frequently distracted drivers just a few blocks down the street.

As Joe Linton points out, with or without bike lanes, many — if not most — cyclists will continue to ride in the door zone, preferring the perceived safety zone next to the parked cars to what they see as the scarier, if actually safer, space further out into the lane.

So here’s my suggestion.

Let’s take a foot from the center turn lane, narrowing it from 10’ to 9’, as Linton proposed in his comment above, and add 6” to the bike lane on either side.

But then take it a step further.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no requirement that any car be allowed to park anywhere and everywhere. So let’s ban those massive SUVs and other oversized vehicles from parking along the curb on Main Street.

Do as other cities around the country have done for decades, and paint a line on the street 6’6” from the curb — wide enough to accommodate all but the widest cars and trucks — then ticket any parked vehicle that crosses it.

That will not only effectively ban big vehicles from parking there, but also force all other drivers to park close to the curb without encroaching on the bike lane.

They can find parking somewhere else. Call it their penance for buying a massive motorized behemoth like that to begin with.

After all, if you can’t ban an inefficient SUV in environmentally conscious Venice, where can you?

Yes, there’s a lot of room for improvement in the plan.

But even if we build the road diet exactly the way LADOT proposes, it will make the southern section of Main Street significantly safer than it is now. And provide a more livable, complete street that will benefit everyone who lives, works or goes to school nearby, while encouraging more people to venture out onto their bikes.

So lets try to improve the plan.

But not kill a good project simply because it’s not a perfect one.

.………

Before I forget — again — a friend of a friend is planning a new line of handmade bike accessories, and would like your opinion on exactly what cyclists might want. So please help me make it up to her by taking a couple minutes to complete this quick survey.

After all, it’s not like I’ve been distracted lately or anything.

Texas jogger dies after colliding with a cyclist; is it just a matter of time before it happens here?

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Last week, a jogger on a popular shared use trail in Dallas suddenly turned to reverse direction and collided with a cyclist who was attempting to pass her. She struck her head as she fell, resulting in a fatal brain injury.

The reports I’ve seen don’t say how fast the rider was going or how close he was passing, or if he tried to warn her first. It didn’t help that her headphones may have kept her from hearing the rider as he approached.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to spend much time riding along the beach in Santa Monica and Venice to realized that a similar tragedy could happen here anytime.

Collisions between cyclists and pedestrians occur on the beachfront bike path on almost a daily basis.

Like the elderly rider I saw go over his handlebars when a small child on a tricycle suddenly strayed onto the wrong side of the path. Or the cyclist who was knocked of her bike as she tried to pass a group of pedestrians who stopped to talk without moving off of the path they shouldn’t have been on to begin with.

I’ve had several close calls exactly like this one myself, where someone has turned directly into my path without checking to see if anyone is behind them. Sometimes it’s a pedestrian or jogger, sometimes another rider making a left turn without bothering to look back first, evidently operating under the assumption that they’re the only ones there.

I’ve also had a number of close calls when a pedestrian has stepped onto the bike path without looking in either direction for oncoming traffic.

Call me crazy, but I’d think the mere existence of a bike path is a pretty good indication that there could, maybe, just possibly be bikes on it. And simple prudence would suggest that looking for them before attempting to cross would be a good idea.

But hey, that’s just me.

The Texas tragedy has reverberated around country, as the Bike Portland says it shows the need for more, and therefore, less crowded trails, as well as more courtesy on them, and Witch on a Bicycle offers advice on how to ride a multi-use path. Meanwhile, some people have responded by saying a 10 mph speed limit may be necessary on multi-use trails.

But it’s not a question of how fast you ride. It’s a matter of riding safely, and being prepared for other people on the path to do the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time.

I’m usually one of the fastest riders on the bike path. But I make a point of riding with my hands on my brake levers whenever there’s someone else around, which is most of the time. And passing other riders and pedestrians with the same three-foot or more passing distance I expect from drivers.

If I can’t, or if the other person’s actions make me suspect that they may somehow pose a hazard, I’ll announce my presence and tell them I’m about to pass — even though it’s often wasted breath, too many people can’t hear me or anything else over their headphones.

Sooner or later, though, something like this is bound to happen here. And when it does, the question isn’t whether the fault will lay with an overly aggressive cyclist or careless pedestrian.

It’s whether the city agencies who have repeatedly failed to enforce the path’s bike-only restrictions will be held accountable for it.

………

The Santa Monica Public library will host a free discussion with David Herlihy, author of The Lost Cyclist tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. in the Main Library’s MLK Jr. Auditorium, 601 Santa Monica Boulevard; thanks to Dr. Michael Cahn for the heads-up.

David V. Herlihy, author of the acclaimed Bicycle: the History, will discuss and sign his new book, The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance.  The book tells the true story of Frank Lenz, a young photographer who disappeared in Turkey in the spring of 1894 while trying to complete a round-the-world bicycle ride.  Herlihy will show photographs by Frank Lenz, taken before the world tour, when he rode an old-fashioned high-wheeler bike, and during the tour, when he rode a modern-style “safety” bicycle across North America and Asia.  A book sale and signing, courtesy of Diesel Bookstore, will follow the program.

And speaking of L.A.’s city by the bay, the Santa Monica Spoke invites you to attend a social mixer to talk bikes with the candidates for Santa Monica City Council tomorrow evening from 6:30 pm to 8:45 pm at 502 Colorado Blvd.

Plan carefully, and you could even make an evening of it.

………

Rumors that Alberto Contador’ blood contained traces from a plastic IV bag have evidently been confirmed, as the New York Times reports that a new test first used in this year’s Tour de France showed plasticizer levels eight times over the allowed limit; a spokesman for Contador calls the story unfounded.

The Times quotes Bernhard Kohl, who finished 3rd in the 2008 Tour de France before being disqualified as saying:

“It’s impossible to win the Tour de France without doping…. Riders think they can get away with doping because most of the time they do.”

Lance Armstrong’s test samples from his riding days could be subjected to the same tests in a seemingly relentless effort to prove the new-retired rider cheated. Fortunately, not every cyclist is dirty.

………

Word came yesterday that the Massachusetts LAB-certified cycling instructor who was stopped repeatedly and arrested for the crime of riding in the roadway on a state highway had his charges dismissed last month, though authorities still have a few days to appeal.

………

The video may be three years old, but it’s relevant today since it shows the current front-runner for mayor of Toronto. On it, he says his “heart bleeds” for cyclists killed on the streets, but at the end of the day it’s their own fault, comparing bicyclists riding with traffic to swimming with the sharks.

………

Evidently, the anti-bike backlash has extended to wildlife, as riders are taken out by squirrels and wallabies in separate attacks; this comes on the heels of an elite New Zealand rider whose season was ended by a magpie.

………

A warm welcome to L.A.’s newest cycle chic. KPCC’s Larry Mantle had a good program on distracted driving on Tuesday; maybe the solution is hands-free texting. KABC-TV offers a mostly balanced, if somewhat lightweight, look at the conflict between bikes and cars; Damien Newton artfully deconstructs it. A new 3,000 square foot bike shop opens Downtown; link courtesy of @LosAngelesCM. USC’s Neon Tommy says the draft bike plan could make L.A. bike friendly, and reminds us there’s still time to submit your comments. Lisa Simpson, bike shop owner. Census data shows my hometown in the nation’s #3 cycling city behind Boulder CO and Eugene OR; L.A. checks in at a surprisingly high #26. In Oregon, anyone can write a traffic citation, even if the police and courts don’t always know it. And remember to wear orange if you ride there during hunting season. The Wisconsin bike shop owner who was hit by a car five yeas after barely surviving a racing accident died on Tuesday; the driver says he couldn’t see the riders in front of him because the sun was in his eyes. Don’t even try to figure out who’s at fault in this wreck as a salmon cyclist is hit by two drunk drivers in rapid succession; link courtesy of the previously mentioned WoaB. Advice on how to ride with another cyclist. After an Augusta driver hits five riders, critically injuring one, debate rages over how to keep cyclists safe — or whether we even belong on the roads. If you see someone riding your son’s stolen bike, don’t hit him with your SUV. Get out that ugly bridesmaid dress you thought you’d never wear again, as bike Pittsburgh hosts their first Bridesmaid Dress Ride. Rhode Island authorities look for the young motorists who intentionally forced a rider off the road during a triathlon. A London cyclist who was charged with assault after being strangled with his own scarf during an argument with a cab driver has his case dismissed; the court rules the driver’s version of events wasn’t credible. A driver in Singapore hits a cyclist with enough force that the rider smashes her windshield ­— then drives home with his bike jammed under her car, convinced that she was hit a falling branch; amazingly, the judge believed her. A bicyclist is killed when a school bus overturns in India’s Uttar Pradesh province, injuring 12 students; the driver ran away following the incident.

Finally, drivers evidently don’t stop for stops signs, either; then again, there are worse things than getting a ticket. And it looks like the LAPD won’t be pulling anyone over using jet packs, after all.

True grit: surviving the dangerously sand-covered beachfront bikeway

For months cyclists in Santa Monica and Venice have had to ride over a loose shifting surface of sand.

It is — or rather, should be — the crown jewel of the L.A. area bikeway network.

But the internationally famous 22-mile Marvin Bruade Bike Path, also known as the South Bay, Marina and Santa Monica bike paths, has its problems.

Like the section though Manhattan Beach where cyclists are expected to dismount and walk their bikes when the beach area is busy, or a similar restriction in Redondo Beach that’s enforced 24/7. Or the stretch through Hermosa Beach where bikes are expected to observe an 8 mph speed limit as they wind their way through assorted joggers, skaters and pedestrians.

Can you spot the bike in this bike-only section of the Marvin Braude Bike Path in Santa Monica?

And don’t get me started on the near impassibility of the bike path at prime times through sections of Venice and Santa Monica due to the total lack of enforcement of the bike-only restrictions — despite the promises made over a year ago to the Time’s Steve Lopez.

In fact, while it’s popular with casual cyclists, many more experienced riders — myself included — largely avoid it on weekends and summer afternoons. Personally, if I don’t get there well before noon, I usually opt for a less scenic but far more ridable alternative on the streets.

Like Yogi Berra once said, “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”

This is what riders have had to deal with near the Venice boardwalk lately.

Lately, though, there’s been another problem, as the storms of the last few months have left a deposit of sand strewn across the bikeway that lingers to this day.

At first, sections of the path, particularly through the winding curves along Venice Beach, were unridable due to several inches of windblown sand piled high atop the concrete. Yet even now, weeks later, sand remains on major portions of the bikeway, presenting a significant safety hazard to anyone using the path.

Users crowd to the relatively clear portion, cutting the usable surface area to just a small band.

In many sections, it covers most or all of one side of the path, pushing riders, skaters and pedestrians moving in both directions onto a single side of the bike path, greatly increasing the risk of collisions. In other places, it coats the entire pathway with a thin veneer of loose sand, forcing cyclists to traverse a surface that can shift dangerously beneath them, risking a spill if they take a corner too quickly or misjudge an angle.

I’ve used my first aid kit more in the last few months patching up strangers who’ve wiped out on the sand than I have in the last few years.

A small band of sand can cause a bikes wheels to slide dangerously; many are barely visible.

Even more dangerous are the barely visible wisps of sand that spread across many of the path’s curves, threatening to take down any unsuspecting cyclist who happens to overlook such a seemingly insignificant obstacle as they take in the many sights of Venice.

I find myself breaking well before most curves, taking even relatively clear-looking corners slower than I would have earlier in the year on the off-chance that there may be a fine layer of sand I don’t see. But on a bike path frequented by tourists, not many riders have the local knowledge required to anticipate problems like that.

Loose sand makes traction treacherous, especially for narrow-tired bikes and inexperienced riders.

Which means that, sooner or later, you’re going to end up paying for the injuries suffered by a cyclist who looses control and takes a serious spill, or the pedestrian he or she slides into — assuming you’re not the one it happens to. Because even though the state law absolves local governments of any liability for off-road (Class 1) trails, it also requires adequate warning of known hazards.

And if two months worth of sand piled on the bike path isn’t a known hazard, I don’t know what is.

Santa Monica isn't much better; this was taken by the pier.

Of course, a beachfront bike path should imply the presence of sand. But the length and amount of sand, as well as the amount of time it’s been allowed to remain there, goes far beyond any reasonable expectation.

In the past, both the Santa Monica and L.A. sections of the bikeway were swept on a semi-regular basis to keep conditions like this from building up. But this year, budget cutbacks have apparently impacted cleaning operations, making any attempt to clear the path a rarity.

Several cyclists have fallen or crashed into pedestrians attempting to go around this curve.

And on the few occasions when they have tried to clean the sand off, the tool used has been a heavy industrial front loader, rather than the smaller and more efficient Bobcats, sweepers or even hand brooms that have been used in the past.

A front loader may be fine for moving a few tons of sand, but it’s entirely inadequate when it comes to removing the last few layers of sand that can make it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain traction. In fact, it can make the situation worse, as the thin layer of sand a front loader leaves behind is often more dangerous than the thicker layer that was there before.

It’s simply the wrong tool for the job. Like using a pipe wrench to adjust your spokes.

A front loader on its way to yet another attempt to inadequately clear sand off the bike path.

Last week, after riding through Venice, I emailed a city official to say that something had to be done before someone gets seriously hurt. The response I got back said that they were working on it, but having trouble determining exactly what department has jurisdiction for the path.

You’d think that would be an easy question to answer after years of previous maintenance. But maybe that’s the effect of several rounds of staff cutbacks, as the institutional knowledge required to actually run the city is seriously depleted along with its staffing levels.

Evidently, though, they must have figured something out. As I rode back along the path on Wednesday, I passed yet another front loader on the bike path, apparently on its way to another semi-effective attempt to clear the concrete.

You can see the sand left behind by a front loader; notice scrape mark and tire tracks.

I’m not holding my breath.

This weekend marks the busiest time of the year on our local beaches, as tourists and locals alike crowd their way onto a few feet of prime beachfront real estate, competing for space on a thin strand of overly popular concrete.

Will the bike path be ready for them — let alone safe?

I wouldn’t count on it. I also wouldn’t count on it being ready for riding anytime soon afterwards.

Because if they can’t manage to sweep off the sand left behind by a few storms, how are they going to clean up after a few hundred thousand beachgoers?

This is what cleaning with front loaders leaves behind, as shown by the scrape marks; a loose sandy surface that can easily bring a cyclist down.

Summer’s here and the time is right for riding in the streets*

Last week I was a nice guy; yesterday, I was an asshole.

The difference was that the seasons officially changed, June Gloom finally ended and local schools let out for the summer. And that lead to an exponential increase in the number of people on the Santa Monica and Venice portions of the Marvin Braude bike path — the Class 1 bikeway that runs along the beach from Palos Verdes to Pacific Palisades.

And that means it’s time to ride somewhere else for awhile.

From September to May, it’s one of the most pleasant rides in Los Angeles, offering beautiful views, lots of sunshine and no worries about traffic. Even as late as last week, it was still a pleasant place to ride.

As always, pedestrians ignored the faded No Pedestrian and Bicycles Only markings, and walked wherever they wanted. But for the most part, they were considerate of other users, and vice versa, and there weren’t so many that I couldn’t easily ride around them.

As I rode, I came across a young woman who had just fallen off her bike after hitting a patch of sand.

Fortunately, she wasn’t badly hurt. If she had been, the city could have been liable, because state law requires adequate warning of any hazards along an off-road bike path. And loose sand is a common problem on the bike path, frequently resulting in falls.

She did have a large road rash abrasion on her upper hip, though. So I stopped just long enough to offer an antiseptic wipe and a large bandage from my first aid kit. She and her friends thanked me, and I continued on my way.

Yesterday was a different matter.

The upper section of the path, from Pacific Palisades down to the Santa Monica Pier, was crowded but still ridable. Closer to the pier, though, it was virtually impassible.

Large groups of pedestrians blocked it in both directions, ignoring the yellow line down the middle — as well as the markings indicating they shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Some walked their dogs along the path, allowing the leash stretch across the bikeway, which could have been dangerous to me — and fatal to the dog — if I hadn’t seen it. Skaters swerved across the path, oblivious to the presence of anyone else, let alone the warnings blocked out by the earbuds from their iPods.

And tourists raced by on rental recumbents, gawking at the sights and paying no attention to which side of the path they were on. Or whether anyone else was in their way.

In other words, it was not a pleasant ride.

However, the tipping point came when I noticed three young children, all under the age or four or five, riding their tiny bikes and tricycles with no adult supervision.

Personally, I think anyone who leaves their children alone on a crowded bike path is guilty of child endangerment. But hey, that’s just me.

As you might expect, they were all over the place, swerving from one side to the other with total unpredictability, regardless of whether anyone else was occupying that space.

I watched as other people dodged out of their way, some annoyed, others thinking it was cute. But I’ve seen people seriously injured by little kids like that, including an older man who went over his handlebars when a toddler on training wheels drifted across the center line and crashed into his bike.

So I slowed to a crawl as I passed. And concerned for their safety, as well that of those around them, I called out to them to ride carefully.

For that, I was called an asshole.

The woman who said it was part of a group of pedestrians that clogged the better part of the bike path. And she seemed unaware of the irony, as they literally stood on a No Pedestrian symbol, just feet from a separate pedestrian walkway.

Yet somehow, I was the asshole.

It was over a month ago that Steve Lopez of the Times wrote about Santa Monica’s complete lack of enforcement of its own bikeway restrictions. He quoted city officials promising that steps would soon be taken to correct the problem.

It hasn’t happened yet. And I doubt we’ll see it anytime soon.

Or in my lifetime, for that matter.

And yet, the League of American Bicyclists cited this bike path as one of the prime reasons they recently gave Santa Monica a Bronze Award as a Bicycle Friendly City. And local cyclists consider it just one of many reasons why that award was undeserved and should be revoked.

So I’ll stop riding that part of the bike path for another summer, just like I do around this time every year. And yet another bike to the area’s overcrowded streets until school is back in session and the tourist season is over.

And we can once again use it for its intended purpose.

*With apologies to Martha and the Vandellas, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, among others.

……….

Streetsblog compares New York’s bike safety PSA with one from our own LADOT. Guess which one puts the blame on bikers? LAist reports the TransoComm will once again take up cycling issues tomorrow, and swears Alta Planning and the LAPD may actually show up this time. A local cyclist relates his recent ride up Mt. Baldy. Bicycle Fixation discusses a recent encounter with a false cycling prophet. LACyclist wrenches his way through C.R.A.N.K. Mob. Speaking of wrenching, Flying Pigeon encounters a rare Shanghai Forever. The governor of Texas decides cyclists don’t need to be safe in his state. The 91 year-old hit-and-run driver who injured 10 Arizona cyclists, leaving one with severe brain damage, gets three years probation — and sues the county for damages the next day. Opus analyzes the cost of wear and tear on the roads for bikes compared to cars and trucks, and Bob Mionske makes the case for cycling insurance. The next phase in Google Maps’ Streetviews is being done by tricycle. Finally, more uncoverage of the World Naked Bike Ride, as cyclists in London and Seattle celebrate the solstice.

A jerk by any other name

Let’s talk about jerks.

I mean, it’s not like there’s any shortage of them around here. Like the one I ran into — almost literally — on the bike path in Venice last week.

Thanks to the winter-time lack of crowds, it was easy to maintain a good head of speed. So I made a point of letting slower riders know I was there before I passed them, and gave them as much clearance as possible when I did. No point in ruining someone else’s day just so I could enjoy mine.

Unfortunately, not everyone felt the same.

Just as I was rounding a sharp bend in the path and about to swing around couple slower riders — in other words, at the worst possible moment — a cyclist suddenly appeared on my left. No warning, and passing so close that he actually brushed against me as he went by.

Needless to say, I was pissed. But the massive over-the-ear headphones he wore suggested that he wasn’t likely to hear a word of it, so I saved my breath.

Instead, I warned the other riders ahead that I was about to pass. And about the jerk who was also passing them right in front of me.

As it turned out, he wasn’t that much faster than me. So I watched as he passed other riders in the same fashion; at one point, nearly knocking over a young mother riding with a small child on the back of her bike.

And that, in my book, pretty much defines the word “jerk.” Along with several others I’d rather not use right now.

Problem is, to much of the non-riding public — and even some members of the cycling world — such riders are the rule rather than the exception. They see us as a rude, arrogant and lawless band hellbent on obstructing their God-given right to the road, and flaunting every law and courtesy in the process.

And people like him — the ones Bob Mionske calls scofflaw cyclists — offer all the proof they need.

I have another theory.

As far as I’m concerned, a jerk is a jerk. And it doesn’t matter if that jerk is on two wheels or four. Or pushing a shopping cart through a crowded market, for that matter.

Because really, what’s the difference between an aggressive driver who weaves in and out of traffic at high speed, and a cyclist who blows through red lights even in the presence of oncoming traffic?

They both operate as if the law doesn’t apply to them, with total disregard for the havoc they leave in their wake. To people like that, it doesn’t seem to matter if they cause an accident, as long as it doesn’t involve them.

It appears to be exactly the same mentality at work when a driver intentionally cuts off a cyclist, as when a cyclist blows through an intersection and forces everyone else to swerve or brake to avoid him. Or her.

A jerk is a jerk is a jerk.

And while it is in everyone’s best interest to encourage everyone to ride safely, as cyclists, we bear no more collective responsibility for the two-wheeled jerks, than other drivers do for the four-wheeled ones who are undoubtedly speeding down the 101 or 405 at this very moment.

Which is to say, none at all.


Evidently, cycling isn’t the only sport with a doping problem. Even Arkansas considers sharrows, so what’s taking L.A. so long? Following Bob Mionske’s final column for Velo News, comes word he’s moving to Bicycling Magazine. A New York writer says bike lanes aren’t the whole solution; you have to learn to ride safely in traffic, tooA Santa Monica columnist, who gave up cycling because it was too dangerous, insists that creating livable streets and making the roads safer for bikes is wrong if it means slowing down traffic, and rails against the “small cadre” of “snarky” “gonzo cyclists” who dare to disagree with him. And finally, a current Santa Monica cyclist sells his Burley bike trailer, only to see it in the pages of People. Welcome to the bike blogosphere, J.

%d bloggers like this: