Last weekend, we took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and took what we hoped would be a relaxing bike ride along the coast. We hopped on our cruiser and headed south along the bike path, but instead of enjoying the view and the sun bathing our backs, we were white-knuckled and distracted by the countless number of pedestrians and joggers using the bike path.
That dangerous mix of bikers and peds is something City Hall, in particular the police department, needs to address immediately or risk significant exposure to litigation.
City Hall is responsible if accidents occur on the path because it is so widely known that pedestrians do not pay attention to signs warning them that the path is for bikes only. City officials are aware of the danger, yet there is no active enforcement, no educational campaign and seemingly no concern for public safety — and were fed up. It’s like hosting a Farmers’ Market in the middle of a busy street and using only plastic and wood sawhorses to keep cars from driving through. We know what a disaster that turned out to be when an elderly man plowed through the barricades and killed 10 people on July 16, 2003.
While enforcement on the bike path is severely lacking, the Daily Press has received reports from several cyclists who have recently been ticketed for riding bikes on sidewalks in violation of municipal code. In particular, cyclists said they were targeted along a deadly strip of Lincoln Boulevard, where there are serious cracks and crevices in the roadway, no bike lane and cars traveling in excess of 45 mph. It’s a risky route to take, so cyclists use sidewalks.
What we’re concerned about is the presence of a double standard, one that cannot stand. If the Santa Monica Police Department is going to be aggressive in ticketing bikers on sidewalks (which it should), officers should be equally vigilant about ticketing pedestrians on the bike path. On our ride we were behind two officers on bikes and watched as they failed to cite or even talk with pedestrians, this despite the fact that the path was packed with peds and their kids, some of whom were left unsupervised to swerve in opposing lanes. This would have been a perfect time to raise awareness that the bike path is for bicycles.
People need to be more responsible and respect the law, and that includes cyclists who fail to stop at stop signs or ride without lights at night. And the police department needs to stop the selective enforcement. City Hall needs to live up to its reputation as being bike and pedestrian friendly. Right now, the bike path is neither.