Cyclists May Soon Find Themselves Having To Practice What They Demand From Drivers

At the December 2010 opening of a bike path extension along the L.A. River, David de la Torre and his Elysian Valley neighbors expressed concerns about pedestrian-cycling conflicts. More StoryShare videos from that day can be seen here.

This post is in support of Departures, KCET's oral history and interactive documentary project about Los Angeles neighborhoods. The series comments on urban issues through the lens of community profiles, such as the L.A. River.

On a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk last July, French tourists standing outside The Figueroa Hotel took in a cool California evening after a long day of sightseeing in the sun. One half-block away, a lone cyclist riding at a moderate speed headed toward them and began to shout for the hotel guests to move. They didn't.

Story Continues Below
Support KCET

When the cyclist got closer he countered by refusing to slow down. "I have a right to this pathway, too," he shouted. Bicycle advocacy stickers were scattered on the frame of his bike.

Figueroa was clear of any vehicular traffic, yet the cyclist didn't yield to the cluster of Europeans by gliding off the sidewalk.

Los Angeles cycling activists who applaud the recently approved bicycle master plan and proposed campaign to educate drivers about sharing roads would cite this reversal of roles as an oddity, and maybe chide the cyclist for being on a sidewalk in the first place. Yet, with advocates making strides in changing civic policy with, as the LA Weekly wrote, "the fervor and righteousness of civil rights marchers in the 1960s," the question becomes; should right-of-way bike paths gleaned from protests and lobbying be exclusive?

Or will cyclists be willing to share some of it with pedestrians?

A cyclist's rage on a pedestrian in his path is not very different from drivers demonstrating no tolerance to cyclists on a roadway.

While clearly there is a major difference between a car or bus slamming into a cyclist, this is not about the measurement of injuries sustained, but the irony of focused aggression against anyone who dares to slow down a cyclist.

It is not isolated to a batch of tourists on Figueroa. During CicLAvia's open road opportunity designed for walkers and riders, there were peppered reports of cyclists bullying slower riders. One witnessed a rider on a brisk run over the 4th Street bridge dodging then berating a child on a bike. That is until the father stepped in to scold the cyclist.

It's obvious to say not all cyclists behave poorly, just as it is safe to guess not everyone driving a vehicle targets two-wheelers. But the purpose of the family-friendly CicLAvia was forgotten by a few who believed their faster ride had the right-of-way.

J.J. Hoffman of the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition talks about the different kinds of cyclists. Watch all her interviews here.

Still, it is admirable how the urban warfare for cyclists' rights has matured into civic policy and planning, and they deserve to have bike paths completely dedicated to cycling.

Hopefully it is easily solved by having lanes zoned as bikes-only and bike-walk paths.

But when a walker invades a bike only space, it instantly becomes a shared space with the same considerations as cyclist in a right turn only lane reserved for a bus.

Taking on the same grousing as a haggard Metro driver is the wrong path toward a cycle friendly city.

Twitter: @KCETdepartures
Facebook: KCETdepartures

About the Author

Ed Fuentes is an arts journalist, photographer, graphic designer, and digital muralist who covers a variety of topics and geographies in Southern California for KCET.
RSS icon


Proposed Inland Empire Train Would Connect San Bernardino and Redlands



LEAVE A COMMENT Leave Comment  


The author evidently has no experience using a form of transportation that does not pollute, cause wars, creates havoc for a economy or kill people.

I don't care if it's anything from biking to skateboarding, you should not only respect the people who use such transportation but salute them as well.


Apparently Towelie is a good cyclist who never, ever rides on the sidewalk. However, as a pedestrian who walks to and from work daily, it's a rare week when I'm not nearly plowed over by someone on a bike who is riding illegally on the sidewalk, mere feet away from a clearly labeled bike lane. It's more than high time that bicyclists are held to the same standard as motorists and yield to pedestrians (AND MOST OF ALL- GET OFF THE SIDEWALK!) I went to college in a community that had bicycle cops that ticketed cyclists who rode on the sidewalks, didn't stop at stop signs, or did not have lights at night. That more communities don't do that surprises me. In my city, I've caught bike cops riding two-by-two on sidewalks right next to bike lanes. There is a complete disconnect. When there is a bike lane use it for crying out loud, and don't get all pissy when you have to wait for a pedestrian- who has the right to be on a sidewalk - to move out of your way. You shouldn't be on the sidewalk to begin with!


Flora, I understand your pique with inconsiderate bicycle riders, but it isn't illegal for them to ride on the sidewalk in Los Angeles. It only becomes illegal when a bicyclist rides on the sidewalk “with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property”(LAMC 56.15). If you'd like to find out more about the legality of riding your bike on the sidewalk in LA County, we've compiled the rules for every city here:

The LADOT Bike Program certainly encourages bicyclists to ride on the street (it is, in fact, the safest place for bicyclists to ride), but we would never presume to take away their legal right to ride on the sidewalk in Los Angeles.


Thanks for the info ladotbikeblog! As an inexperience rider, I'm still a bit apprehensive about riding in the streets next to cars.


Thanks LADOTbikeblog. Was going to point that out myself.

I am an experienced cyclist that has never owned a car and never WANTS to own a car. But there are still at times and in certain places (Venice Blvd in Pico-Union is basically a freeway... ugh) that I tend to ride on the sidewalk. And yes, I feel like a total n00b when I do so. Hopefully the LA Bike Plan will solve many of the issues that cyclists complain about and therefore bring many new cyclists into the fold. Hey, I can hope can't I?

Also, the guy in the first video talking about turning the LA River bike path into a hybrid pedestrian/cycling facility is misguided at best. This is one of VERY few Class I cycling facilities in the region. Given, it is more recreational than transportational but I would say leave it alone. If recreational walking is your thing, catch a bus out to Santa Monica (there is even water to look at!) or downtown (think of all those hills!) and walk around there.

My $.02


I drive and ride a bicycle. As a driver, I have been annoyed by cyclists who ride two abreast chatting on single lane streets, and by the one who was speeding along on the sidewalk and crashed into my car as I was slowly edging out of my driveway in the morning and who blamed me for that.

As a commuting cyclist, it's absolutely necessary to ride my bike on the sidewalks in some areas of Los Angeles. Right now, this is true on Santa Monica Blvd. between Bundy and Sepulveda while the 405 freeway is being built out. There is a bike lane on Santa Monica Blvd. from Sepulveda into Century City, and one from the city of Santa Monica (where I commute from) to approximately Bundy (where Ohio Street meets Santa Monica Boulevard). But for that unmarked in-between area, I'm using sidewalks until further notice. But I do so very carefully, making eye contact with or speaking to pedestrians, and looking both ways at every road crossing and alleyway. I'm looking for a good alternate route for this portion of the ride, if anyone has any ideas.

As far as sharing, cyclists are only now gaining their own territory, whereas streets have been primarily for cars, sidewalks primarily for pedestrians. When we finally get bike lanes, it is annoying to have cars blurge onto and over them whenever they feel like it (not just to turn), and to have pedestrians lolling about on bike paths, like at the beach where there is a walkway and a bike path, and people still insist on walking on the bike path.

But I actually loved when I first saw "sharrows" on 14th Street in Santa Monica, it makes the road seem more friendly, and I haven't had any problems on that street. I think people do observe the meaning of the signs painted on the roads. I love that bicycles are starting to get their own paths, not just locally, but in cities all over the country. I guess the bad attitudes people have go along with change of any kind being hard for creatures of habit. If we could change our why-is-it-always-so-late mentality, I think more people wouldn't mind slowing down on the road, bike path, or sidewalk.