Strip Santa Monica of Bike Friendly Award?

bikeMy 20something year old neighbor never learned how to ride a bike.  Her sweet English stud muffin of a boyfriend bought her a grown-up version of a tricycle for her birthday – or maybe it was Valentine’s Day – there was some occasion for this three wheeled wonder – and one of the first things she did, of course, was take the little trike out for a ride.

We live in Santa Monica.  She decided to test her new wheels on Arizona and to head west towards the Promenade and, eventually, the ocean.  By all accounts, though, the ride was horrible: drivers honked and cursed when she was in the bike line, pedestrians and random drivers yelled when she moved to the sidewalk; drivers not quite at a full stop at the signs were angry that her three wheels were not as fast as their four; and the bike lane randomly, abruptly came to an end a few blocks before the Promenade, which is really where you would think a biker would most need a separate lane.

If you recall, Sean posted a month or so ago about the League of American Bicyclist’s bronze medal award to Santa Monica for being a “Bicycle Friendly Community.”  Per the Santa Monica Daily Press, Alex Thompson – who runs the fairly awesome Bikerowave bike clinic in Santa Monica that pretty fairly awesomely has a “Bikerobabes” night on Tuesdays that is for women and transgendered individuals only – has upped the anger about the award and is circulating a petition to get the League to either withdraw the medal or to appoint a local biking committee to re-evaluate whether Santa Monica should earn such bragging rights.  I’m fairly certain that it is difficult to strip prizes once they’re already awarded, but I suppose the take-home message about being nice to tricyclists is being well made.  For those interested, I found the petition online hereCritical Mass, anyone?

A pretty sweet shot courtesy feaverish via the Metblogs’ Flickr pool.

9 thoughts on “Strip Santa Monica of Bike Friendly Award?”

  1. I am an “urban biker” myself, have been for many years in L.A. and other cities such as New York, London, Paris. It’s though in traffic, and I would say from experience that Santa Monica is comparatively bike-friendly.

    I am also a driver though, and every day I see bikers (and skateboarders) in Santa Monica ignoring red lights and stop signs, or riding on the curb oblivious to pedestrians; it’s really dangerous, and I dread the day that I might hit one despite being cautious.

    The Santa Monica Daily Press reports that Alex Thompson “feels the police and lawmakers are not concerned enough with cyclists’ safety.” I feel the police and lawmakers are not concerned enough with cyclists breaking the law, and putting themselves and others at risk.

    We all have to share the road. Respect is not a one-way system.

  2. It’s a shame what your friend experienced on her inaugural ride, and the award bestowed upon the city of Santa Monica is decidedly suspect, but I’m troubled by broad generalizations made as to the prevailing level of bike-hate as standard equipment with any vehicle. With the 10,000 bike miles I’ve logged in Los Angeles this past 18 months, I’ve found the opposite: that the vast majority of motorists in the greater Los Angeles area (including adjacent cities) to be pretty bike-tolerant.

    Could the streets be made more bike-accessible? Could motorists be better educated and made more aware? Absolutely and absolutely. Is extrapolating a few negatives and applying it to the whole fair? Absolutely not.

  3. Will, I’m glad you’ve experienced good things. I never ride bikes–I’m terrified of them–but as a car driver, I constantly see other drivers tailgating, harassing, & driving intentionally close to cyclists. Yelling out their windows at cyclists. Making rude gestures at cyclists. Whipping around cyclists & slamming on their brakes in from of cyclists. I hardly ever see bike-friendly driving–and I’m a motorist.

  4. Michele, constantly? As in “every” or “every other” or “every third” bike/driver encounter you witness is negative and intentionally so? You need to tell me where you drive so I can come meet all these mad motorists and knock the obviously rose-colored sunglasses off my pollyanna perspective.

  5. Have to agree with Will here.

    As I said on the earlier post, while Santa Monica might not be perfect, I think it does a lot better than most cities in Southern California when it comes to bicycle issues. I’m usually ready to protest and raise hell on just about anything but here I think some pragmatism is called for. By all means, we need more bicycle-friendly cities. But, I don’t think this is a “all-or-nothing” situation. Things aren’t going to change for the better overnight, and people that only drive need to be held by the hand and see that changes that benefit bicyclists aren’t stripping them of their god-given right to drive as much as they want.

    And finally, while your neighbor’s experience sounds bad, Queequeg, I hope she doesn’t give up the bike based on one bad ride. Like Will, I’ve been lucky enough not to experience any truly rude or dangerous drivers, but they’re obviously out there. But that doesn’t mean that one should give up the bike–those scary drivers are out there no matter what your mode of transportation is, and I’m just as afraid of them as when I’m driving as I am when I’m riding my bike.

  6. It’s funny, she’s taken that trike out at least 3 more times since her initial ride, and each time has been fairly awful. My one experience with her was apparently typical: even though the bike lanes are more than big enough to accommodate the width of her trike, there was a LOT of honking. Some of it was courtesy honking (i.e., light taps on the horn), others were pretty heavy handed. Someone yelled at her to learn how to ride a “real” bike. I guess the point really is: we need a petition to promote tolerance for adult tricyclists.

  7. Thanks for writing about this Queequeg.

    Will – as you know – with biking – it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch. One aggressive entitled driver in 1000 might only pose a minor threat to other motorists, but for cyclists, pose a lethal threat. When you get passed by 40 or 50 motorists per mile, 1 in 1000 is already too high.

    My hunch is it’s a lot more than 1/1000.

  8. Alex & Will: “It only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch.” I couldn’t agree more. As a biker, pedestrian but also a driver in Santa Monica, I would say that 70% of the bikers pay no attention to the rules of the road. Out of that, 50% play it gently, by cautiously cruising through red lights & all, while 50% come barreling down no matter what. No lights at night is also a (dangerous) common. Remember: if we hit each other, my body is my car, your body is yours.

    The worse is when we get those Critical Mass meets. I know they want to make a statement, but the message they bring across, through their “activist,” bad-ass, take-over-the-city attitude (with zero respect for anyone not on a bike — pedestrrian or driver) is that they are obnoxious schmucks to get rid of. And it transpires in the City council meetings. What a shame. As I mentioned before, we need to share the road, and the first step is mutual understanding, and respect.

    If we want drivers in Santa Monica to respect bikers, *we* (bikers) have to lead by example, while lobbying with the City for more bike-friendly routes ans signs.

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