Andy and I were on the sidewalk the other day with our dogs, and we stopped to chat with another couple who had their dogs, and we weren’t taking up that much space–there was room for people to walk around us–but a bicyclist went around us and yelled “You’re blocking the sidewalk!”
How dare we use the sidewalk for interaction and conversation when he wants it as a dedicated bikeway where he can go 30 mph without cars? If I move out of downtown Los Angeles, it won’t be because of the pervasive pee smell, the dodgy after hours crime, and the ridiculous per-square foot prices for what you get. It will be because of the weenie bicyclists.
Yes, I said it. If you ride your bike on the sidewalk in downtown LA, you are a big weenie. The traffic in downtown Los Angeles is not NEARLY as dodgy or difficult as places, like Georgetown or Manhattan or downtown Paris, where real bicyclists ride–if they want to ride quickly–in the street. There are some of those bicyclists here. But most downtown bicyclists are weenies who bully pedestrians on the sidewalk by going way too fast, missing pedestrians by inches, and just basically being jerks.
I have no problem with people who ride on the sidewalk if they go along at a pace appropriate to the flow of pedestrians. Those are bicyclists who adopt their speed to the right level and act like part of the sidewalk community. But once a cyclist starts going fast enough to really hurt somebody on sidewalk–which is slower than most people think–he or she should get on the street.
Given this behavior, it’s hard for me to support the arguments that most cyclists make for public investment. When bicyclists tend to speak in planning discussions, they take on a heavy tone that they are doing right and the rest of us are doing wrong: they are clean and green and healthy and the rest of the world–and by this they mean car drivers–are lazy planet killers. Only many of the rest of us are not drivers or cyclists. We’re pedestrians. We move slowly. We have toddlers by the hand, bags of groceries in our arms. When bicyclists tear through the space pedestrians occupy, cyclists become the safety equivalent of an SUV–the biggest, heaviest, most forceful kid on the block. So my feeling is that in the eyes of the average downtown bicyclist, I am an obstacle to be shoved around the way they themselves feel bullied and ignored on the street. Instead of making it work through decency, respect, and goodwill, it’s about who is biggest and has the most metal behind them.
I’m sorry there isn’t more space for cyclists and I’ll do what I can to advocate for more, but at some point, bicyclists have to stop acting like weenies in downtown LA. Fine, do all your protests where you take up the whole road, by all means, but don’t expect anybody to respect what you are doing and see this mode of transport as a positive, constructive force if large portions of the biking community are self-indulgent street bullies who make the sidewalk miserable for the rest of us.