I am, admittedly, a bit miffed.
Though not a problem on Longbeachize, the comment section on the other publication I write heavily for, the Long Beach Post, brings out some of the most epic of anti-bike (and misogynistic and sexist) sentiments. A seemingly endless barrage of “bicyclists do this” and “bicyclists do that” and everything in between. And as a staunch defender of bicycling, I felt slighted and even defensive.
“It’s just the Post,” I would tell myself. “It is, after all, the home of a commenter who told you to ‘save yourself the time and words and just write, “I am an asshole,” because that’s what Brian Addison is.’”
And while I feel that deserves a badge of some sort as a writer, I refused to assume that all the readers (and Facebook commenters) were just spewing venom because bikes are in their way. (Don’t get me wrong, I know some trolls do this but I am not one to believe that reader after reader, commenter after commenter, is a single troll ruining it for all.)
So I decided to take an avid look at the many things these readers were complaining about. I admitted before taking to this task that I am very much a Point-A-to-Point-B bicyclist: I am fast, rarely do I ever slow down to enjoy the scenery or cruise, and other bicyclists or drivers don’t particularly bother me much (or at least, they’re so momentarily in my way that I just don’t care because I am already beyond it come two seconds later).
So, for several weeks, I have taken to become a rider that is more aware of all the other cyclists and their behavior in Long Beach. And day after day, those reader comments rang more and more…
True. Absolutely and utterly true.
Long Beach cyclists, let me be loud and clear with the following things: stop. Just… For the love of everything urban, stop. Stop, stop, stop.
STOP riding your bike on the sidewalk. I’ve even hit the point where I don’t care about the confusing Long Beach law as to whether one can or cannot ride on a sidewalk. I am becoming so draconian after seeing several people every day cruising on a sidewalk—sometimes right next to the protected lane—that I wouldn’t even hesitate in banning all forms of sidewalk bicycling. It’s not a “sideride” for a reason and if you’re sideriding is a result of your insecurity about riding next to traffic, that is something you are gonna have to hurdle over. Scary? Sure, riding where you’re supposed to ride is scary. But what is just as frightening is being a pedestrian and not even feeling safe on a sidewalk because someone is barreling through on their bike. This isn’t to mention that being a pedestrian is already more dangerous than being a cyclist. And when there is a protected bike lane nearby? Literally? Like, right there? For realsies? And you’re in Downtown? STAHP. Speaking of protected bike lanes…
STOP riding your bike in the wrong direction, especially in the protected lanes. It’s truly not difficult to avoid doing so. On any level. Not only are there nifty, gigantic arrows that direct you as to which direction you are supposed to be riding, but if you need to be going the other way, you simply go one street over to Broadway or 3rd depending on your direction. Voi-flippin’-la. Same with the Alamitos Beach area: need to head east instead of west? Hope on 1st and get off 2nd. STAHP. Now. And for spokes’ sake, stay in the lane designated for your bike. Speaking of which…
STOP acting like you are the gods’ gift to the road, where cement is your kingdom and you get to do whatever you want on it, including ignoring every traffic law known to man. I was seriously baffled at the amount of bicyclists that didn’t pause for red lights (let alone stop), blocked cars from safely turning, didn’t communicate with cars (or anyone for that matter) as to where they were pedaling… And this goes beyond my deep support of the fact that I feel bicyclists should not have to stop for stop signs because I am not referring to keeping the flow of traffic going smoothly. I am referring to blatant violations that increase the chance of a severe accident happening (and increasing the annoyance of drivers, fueling more anti-bike sentiments). STAHP.
STOP riding at night without lights. It’s dangerous, it’s inane, it’s illegal. There’s one time when a driver can legitimately say, “I didn’t see you.” And this is it. So STAHP.
STOP being an ass. This is more of a difficult one to untangle because what I witnessed was experienced bicyclists who had obviously had their fair share of being unfairly treated by drivers. And I get it: the whole all-drivers-are-assholes sentiment and feeling so over their lack of understanding (and knowledge of law) that you feel the need to be aggressive, pushy, or just outright rude. Well, put the pile of puerile temper tantrums back under your lycra because this game is not tit-for-tat. You have a driver who is being rude to you or even trying to push you off the road? Give them a thumbs up and smile. Get their license plate and report them. Whip out your phone and record them. Hell, maybe even just pull off to the side and breathe deeply, lamenting about the idiocy of the world. But don’t return the rudeness (or lack of legality). It’s petty and it increases anger in drivers (which is counterintuitive since most drivers are angry because they often sit in traffic with other angry drivers. It’s just a whole big car train of anger behind those wheels). STAHP.
The point is this: while we might have made leaps and bounds in getting biking infrastructure and awareness on the streets and in the books, there is still a bitter contention between the two-wheeled and the four-wheeled. There is still a lotta education that needs to happen.
And even more: the world is not getting smaller—and that shockingly includes precious little Long Beach. More people are moving here and more people are riding bikes. As cheesy as it sounds, the whole let’s-just-all-get-along thing? It needs to be applied not just philosophically, but behaviorally. Every time you ride in the wrong direction, not only does a baby kitten cry but you just turned a possible ally behind the wheel into a vitriolic enemy. Think twice.
And staaaaaahp. The bad things. Keep pedaling. Definitely keep pedaling.