Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Well F%*K Off...

Bike Lane Icon

Encouraging safe and proper riding while on the street seems to be a tough sell to some people. Bike Girl has politely pointed out problematic riding behavior to other cyclists only to receive the response, "Oh Well". Other cycling folks I know have received feed back from other cyclists that was a little more antagonistic in similar circumstances.

I'm quite used to motorists yelling obscenities at me, whether it's because I pointed out they didn't use their turn signal, made an illegal turn nearly causing an accident, or passed just shy of clipping me with their mirror. Sometimes they yell at me for no other reason than that I exist on the road, but that is a whole other issue. Being told off by another cyclist is not something I'm accustomed to.

Well today I was finishing the last leg toward my house after returning from a night in Hollywood, and I made a left turn onto the 17th bike lane from Broadway in Santa Monica, like I do all the time. Only this time I was surprised to make the turn and come face to face with another cyclist riding the wrong way in the bike lane. After swerving to avoid nearly hitting him, I tried to say as politely as I could given the circumstances, "Wrong way dude." To which he replied "Well fuck off", in a mumbly unconcerned voice, that gave the impression of someone sleep walking only to suddenly be confused when confronted with reality. Even though I was doing the perfectly normal thing by riding you know, in the direction the arrow on the ground is pointing, he seemed more annoyed by me than I of him.

The Santa Monica Police Department invests thousands of tax payer dollars employing officers to follow Santa Monica Critical Mass every month and write tickets. Some of these tickets are legitimate, but it seems just as often that these tickets are bogus accusations that get thrown out in court, or obscure technicalities that are never enforced in any other context. Most critical mass riders know the basic rules of the road and move with the flow of traffic. However, douche bags like this guy this morning roam the streets freely every day defining the rules of the road how ever they want to, because they feel immune to ridicule or punishment by anyone else and certainly not law enforcement.

The whole situations reeks of politically motivated selective enforcement. If you make your voice heard about cyclist issues, you can expect a ticket no matter how silly it happens to be, like Alex C. who was given a ticket for no lights on his bike at night when his bike in fact had 5 of them. Break the law blatantly, but keep your mouth shut, and you can expect the law to turn a blind eye.

The SMPD seems only interested in enforcing the laws for cyclists one day a month, and only against a particular group, presumably to make some kind of example. That is some dubious logic considering most people who rides bikes in Santa Monica every day have likely never been to Critical Mass, and probably never will. Even if they have heard of the "crack down," all it communicates to them is that cops target a group who rides once a month. I've also heard of cops doing isolated busts of certain high traffic sidewalks where cyclists (who shouldn't be there in the first place) often fail to yield to pedestrians or on the Promenade, where cycling is expressly forbidden.

So as long you don't ride with Critical Mass, on the side walk along Ocean or at the Promenade, everything else is pretty much fair game. Could you imagine if law enforcement only ticketed motorists one day a month and only at certain places to set an example for everyone else? Like lets set up a drunk driving trap once a month and ignore drunk driving every other day.

I don't think necessarily going around writing high dollar amount moving violations for bikes is really necessary, but at least give some of these people low fine warnings so they know what they are doing is against the law. People only receive rudimentary knowledge of the road laws in drivers education, which is also devoid of cycling issues, and there is no such thing as mandatory cycling education. So at the very least people need to be made aware of these things and know that cops are paying attention.

I still feel hazardous driving is the larger problem due to the potential for lethal repercussions in car accidents, but ass holes deserve to be called out for their behavior whether they are behind the wheel or gripping handle bars. Since many cyclists also drive, I'm sure some of them are guilty of being ass holes in both modes of transit.


Will Campbell... said...

Sometimes I get to work via a route that takes me by USC, and I've had enough head-on encounters with students biking the wrong way that I've renamed the school the University of Stupid Cyclists.

bikinginla said...

From time to time, I see SMPD motorcycle cops lined up on San Vicente to catch speeders; I've never yet seen one stop all the cyclists who blow through the stoplight at 7th.

I think the key is in your last paragraph, though. I've always suspected that people ride like they drive; a careful, courteous cyclist will usually ride the same way. And an asshole is always an asshole, regardless of the circumstances.