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Bicycle ire from cyclists, motorists and pedestrians. And then there's cycling on the sidewalk...

November 2, 2009 |  4:14 pm

BikeThis week's Health section article on cycling in the city touched a nerve with readers. Cyclists are menaces on the road, write some. Cars are menaces on the road, write others. And then--what about cyclists on sidewalks? They're a menace on the sidewalk, some readers write.

A few snippets (the ones without profanities) from our mail:

"Nowhere in your article did I see the following observation: 'Cyclists run red lights.' Often, I drive down Los Feliz Boulevard (in the vicinity of Griffith Park), and I will inevitably come across this hazardous behavior. Can they all just slow down and try to not beat the red light? Believe me, motorists will be grateful and lives will be saved!"

And: "I owned a Yamaha Vino scooter (like a Vespa) that was street legal to get around my little neighborhood of El Segundo. In September 2008 on a lazy Sunday afternoon, a car at a stop sign turned left in front of me while I was going straight with the right of way... It is not the two wheelers who are not careful when driving. Until automobile drivers get used to sharing the road with all two wheeled vehicles, it is not safe for the two wheeled drivers out there."

 "I now see bicyclists just launching themselves into intersections oblivious to what other traffic is doing, sometimes even oblivious to another cyclist traveling across their path. The other day, I even overheard a woman asking a police officer 'Is it true that bicycles have to stop at stop signs?' I almost fell off my balcony."

"Most of the folks I see riding their bikes are inconsiderate idiots. They run red lights, try to pass you up and in general are asking to get run over. Why can’t they ride in the park or better yet try the freeway…"

Several of the letters alluded to the issue of cyclists riding on sidewalks, which is permitted in Los Angeles, although not "with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property," according to the city's municipal code. Some examples:

"Please consider addressing the increasing problem of people riding bicycles on sidewalks, brought on, I suspect, by the installation of handicap ramps at most intersections. Because the curbs are no longer there to discourage bike-riding, sidewalks have now become de facto bike paths, no doubt making bike riders feel much safer but in effect making sidewalks more hazardous for pedestrians and even for the wheelchair-bound citizens that the ramps were intended to assist." 

"I have lived in Downtown Los Angeles for 37 years and, prior to retirement, walked to work (at the LA Times) for 34 years. I continue to walk downtown, but now I take my welfare, if not my life, in my hands to do so. Bicycles--particularly Bicycle Messengers--have become a severe danger to pedestrians on downtown sidewalks."

The issue of bicycles on sidewalks was one we failed to address in the article--and we should have. Some studies suggest that cycling on sidewalks is actually riskier than cycling on the road. Here's a summary of those data courtesy of Cornell University. From that report:

"The perception is that someone is safer riding on the sidewalk than on the road—and many motorists and even law enforcement officers repeat that message. The problem is that, as the numbers ... suggest, bicyclists are not safer on the sidewalk because they become almost invisible to the motorist. When a driver turns, either left or right, or into a driveway or alley, they are simply not looking for, or expecting to encounter, a bicyclist. And even if they do look and see a bicyclist they may still underestimate the speed a rider is traveling on the sidewalk--because it will likely be much faster than a pedestrian."

Please feel free to post your comments on that issue, or others raised by the article.

-- Rosie Mestel

Photo credit: Ken Kwok / Los Angeles Times

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