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

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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.

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.

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.

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