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Op-Ed: Is bicycling the new rude?

It usually begins in Brand Park near the top of the debris basin. An initial push-off down the steep Brand Motorway approach can get a bicycle up to 40 miles per hour as it zooms past the Doctors House and finally onto the main park thoroughfare. Watch out, hikers, pedestrians and unsuspecting park visitors — no brakes allowed here!

The downhill thrill becomes enhanced as the exit from Brand Park onto Grandview reveals a straight shot toward San Fernando Road, thwarted only by those pesky stop signs and traffic lights along the way. Just last week while I was stopped in my car at Bel Aire Drive, three teenagers bolted past me through the stop sign (the last one snapping a GoPro picture as he turned around); then, further down, again ran the red light at Kenneth Road, nearly hitting a lady and her child who had just stepped off the curb. More pictures while twisting backward.

What is it that can turn normally law-abiding citizens who would never run a stop sign while driving a 4-wheeled vehicle to suddenly disobey the law while driving on two wheels? Is it the polyester unitard that decreases blood flow to the brain causing mental lapses? Or the spandex cloak of invisibility that makes them impervious to those around them? Maybe it’s the pack mentality normally attributed to coyotes or free range marauding lions that establishes the false security of “safety in numbers?” When does the free-spirited quest for the rush of cool air past the ears devolve into a sinister challenge to disobey the rules of the road?

While reviewing to renew my driver’s license, the most additions I’ve noticed in the vehicle handbook involve the rights of pedestrians and bicyclists while sharing the road with motorists. However, with those protections come equally important responsibilities such as “must obey all traffic signals and stop signs,” “should ride single file on a busy or narrow street,” and “must signal all their intentions to motorists and bicyclists near them.”

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To be sure, I have good friends who are responsible bicyclists, using them to get to work or perform daily chores on the streets of our city. They are courteous, watchful and obey all the rules of the road. These are caring people who regard the bicycle as a nonpolluting means of transportation and a healthy alternative to our gas-guzzling automobiles. However, they are far outnumbered by the weekend warrior mentality of the spandex laden daredevils who challenge any other vehicles with whom they share the road. Teenagers aside, these are grown adults who should know better and set examples rather than flout the law. Rodney King once coined the phrase “Can’t we all just get along?” He apparently never rode a bicycle.

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PETER RUSCH is assistant director of the Doctors House Museum. He can be reached at peterrusch@yahoo.com.


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