Eyes on the Street: LADOT Rides the Sidewalk

12_1_09_ladot.jpgPhoto: The God of Thor

This photo of an LADOT parking enforcement cyclist riding down the sidewalk was taken yesterday afternoon.  Of course, riding in the sidewalk is perfectly legal in Los Angeles. However given some of the actions by the LAPD and the warnings by bicycle safety experts that sidewalk riding is the most dangerous place for a cyclist; it would be nice to see LADOT’s "official" cyclists take to the street, and set the example for other cyclists, when it’s time to ride.

As for the above reference to the LAPD, you might remember the incident where a woman was killed in a crosswalk in the valley by a DWP truck?  The LAPD deemed the slain cyclist at fault because she was "illegally in the crosswalk" and "illegally going the wrong way" in the crosswalk.  I can’t help but notice that this public servant is biking the "wrong way" on the sidewalk.

When it comes to cycling laws and our city-employed cyclists; I have to ask again: "Who Is Teaching the Teachers?"

  • Brent

    I’ve always wondered about that safety idea of the sidewalks being less safe than the roads — isn’t it speed dependent? If you bicycle at a running speed (say, 10 MPH or less), wouldn’t you be as safe on a bicycle on the sidewalk as you would while running on the sidewalk? I suppose I’m opening a can of worms…

  • Car_Free_DTLA_Lady

    Thank you for saying something about this! Having recently moved here from a city where most cycling is done in the streets (ideally in bike lanes) I’m constantly baffled and saddened by the poor form shown by LADOT and other LA cyclists. Seems dangerous as a pedestrian to have to dash out of the way of a cyclist zipping by on the sidewalk. I guess it does not foster much confidence in any level of cyclist to see even LADOT riders afraid of the road… Much advocacy and education yet to be done.

  • sean

    I have no problem with slow moving bikes on the sidewalk. Riding 5 miles an hour in the road sounds dangerous to me. I never do it, but if old folks, kids, and LADOT are moseying along that’s fine with me.

  • The problem with riding on the sidewalk isn’t one of speed, it’s that drivers aren’t looking for you there. A driver backing out of a driveway often has obstructed vision and a poor viewing angle of a cyclist on the sidewalk, while drivers on the street don’t anticipate a bike rolling off of the sidewalk into the street — and certainly aren’t expecting one coming from the “wrong” direction.

    A 1999 Cornell study by Dr. William Mortiz found a 24.8 times greater risk factor for riding on the sidewalk, as opposed to rising on a street with no biking infrastructure: http://tiny.cc/moritzstudy

    Even a slow cyclist is usually more visible, and therefore safer, on the street — though I’d certainly suggest staying on bike lanes or low-traffic side streets if you can’t ride any faster than 5 mph.

  • That’s the reality of biking in places like LA. There are so few bicyclists, most drivers just don’t know how to drive safely them. It’s safer to ride on the sidewalk. At least there aren’t many pedestrians in this car centric town. So riding 5 mph is not too much of an issue. When I approach pedestrians while biking, I just slow down. It’s slower for sure, but beats getting hit by a car.

  • Joe

    I just think it’s funny that the City Department in charge of Building bike infrastructure and planning has their own cyclists hiding from traffic on the streets. It’s really the most dangerous place for a cyclist.

    Maybe their officers need to take a urban riding course though the LA bike Coalition. It help me greatly.

    Once again, as shown by this ladot officer, the LADOT has no clue what to do with bikes.

  • angle

    Riding at walking speed is an issue if you want to treat bicycles as legitimate transportation. If you ride much faster than walking speed, it is not safe to ride on the sidewalk.

  • tortuga_veloce

    i’ve been told a number of times by my local police that riding on the sidewalk is safer. if you never ride, it seems logical that delicate things belong on the sidewalk, but in reality, the safest place is usually the most visible place.

    i say “usually” only because i’ve been assaulted by resentful drivers on numerous occasions. when i try to report these incidents, i am told by the LAPD that i have a right to risk my life in the street, but that it’s safer on the sidewalk.

    miseducation by the LAPD is one of the most critical barriers to safety. there has really been no improvement in education or awareness since mandeville. it seems to me that police feel that it’s easier to advise cyclists to stop riding bikes than “take up a cause” to stop drivers from being reckless.

    i understand where they’re coming from, but i still think LA deserves better.

  • Tortuga, you’re absolutely right. One of the biggest problems L.A. cyclists face is a lack of adequate training in bike law at the police academy. If you, or anyone else, has a similar experience, you should contact Lt. Andre Dawson, who has been appointed by Chief Beck to look into complaints from cyclists, at 312/792-3551. If he hears from enough of us, maybe they’ll finally do something about it.

  • Brent

    “The problem with riding on the sidewalk isn’t one of speed, it’s that drivers aren’t looking for you there.”

    True enough, but if drivers can’t see cyclists on the sidewalk, how do they see runners and pedestrians? I’m not a fast runner, but I can usually maintain somewhere north of ten miles per hour for about twenty minutes (e.g., an eighteen minute 5K), or about the speed of a casual, sidewalk riding cyclist. Since I generally run on the sidewalk … well, maybe I should be running on the road! ;-)

  • David Galvan

    I almost got hit by a pickup truck while cycling last weekend. The situation seems somewhat similar to the incident where the female cyclist was killed, as linked in the post. I’d say the fault for my near-miss was shared by myself and the driver, though if I had been hit I think the driver would legally be at fault, as I was cycling in the crosswalk while I had a lit “walk” sign. Doesn’t really matter if the driver would have been legally at fault though, as far as I’m concerned, since I would probably be dead and wouldn’t be able to feel vindication for being legally in the right. There’s acting legally, and acting smartly, and I think in this incident I was doing the former but not the latter.

    I was riding on the sidewalk of Sepulveda southbound at a slow pace (probably ~5-7mph or so. .. I always ride much slower when I’m on the sidewalk) on the “wrong” side of the street, similar to the pic in this post. I approached the intersection of Sepulveda and Oxnard, where my crosswalk ahead had the “walk” sign lit, and a pickup truck was stopped at the red light on Oxnard waiting to turn right onto Sepulveda to go north.

    As I approached the street, I noticed that the pickup truck driver was looking to his left (away from me, as I was approaching from his right) in order to judge when there would be an opening in on-coming traffic so he could turn right onto Sepulveda. He seemed to be moving his head back and forth a bit, so I made the stupid and wrong assumption that he would see me coming during one of his head tilts to the right. I slowed a bit, but did not stop (as I really should have), and rang my bike bell continuously. Apparently, the driver could not hear my bell as he had his window up. As I rolled into the crosswalk, the driver started revving his engine and the truck lurched forward when I was directly in front of it. I swerved a bit, but more importantly the driver then saw me and halted the vehicle inches from my left side. I continued to roll through the crosswalk, past a pedestrian who was coming from the other direction, who had just shouted “God!” in reaction to the near miss he saw take place right in front of him. I then turned left onto Oxnard (eastbound), now riding in the street, and looked back at the driver of the truck. His face looked shaken (not angry). I rode home.

    This incident left a pretty strong impression on me. On the one hand, I think that I wasn’t doing anything illegal by riding in the crosswalk “the wrong way”, because under those conditions I am comparable to a runner/jogger, and the walk light for that crosswalk was lit. On the other hand, I was not being careful enough, because once I saw how focussed the driver was on the cars, I should have just stopped on the sidewalk and waited until either he saw me or he had turned right already. As for the driver, he should have been looking for pedestrians/cyclists coming from the sidewalk on his right, but I don’t really blame him because I’ve made plenty of right-hand turns onto busy streets where I was pretty focussed on the cars coming from my left, so I can relate to his behavior, though I realize he should have been more careful as well. And, when he did see me, his quick reflexes probably saved my life.

    The reason I was riding on the sidewalk on that side of the street in the first place was because I was coming from the Orange Line bike path (just a block north), and needed to get onto Oxnard eastbound. This meant crossing sepulveda from west to east (which I did at the bike path crosswalk) and riding south on the sidewalk until I got to Oxnard, then turn left onto Oxnard St. The other option would have been for me to not cross Sepulveda at the bike path crossing, but instead ride on Sepulveda st. southbound to Oxnard, then use the crosswalk at Oxnard to cross Sepulveda. If I had been in a car, I would have driven south on Sepulveda and turned left onto Oxnard, but traffic was too heavy for me to feel comfortable making my way into the lefthand lane on Sepulveda on a bike.

    In the future, I think I will continue to ride in the sidewalk, but I will slow down to true walking speed when approaching intersections, and I will NOT enter an intersection unless I make eye contact first with the drivers waiting at the red light.

  • traffic officer

    i am a traffic officer and i do ride on the side walk its not the safest way for a regular citizen that’s for sure but it is for a traffic officer. we ride against traffic so we can see motorists coming. i cant tell you how many times angry citizen’s try to chase us in there vehicles if i had my back turned i wouldn’t see them coming and could get ambushed or hit by an angry motorist. we are not doing moving violations just parking violations so its more officiant to read the back of the meters instead of getting whip lash having to turn back for the meters. from the street i cant see the red zones etc as well.i agree at a glance it might look like we are doing the wrong thing but until you take the grueling training we receive and slap on that uniform you can only comment about What u think we do .

  • Mamiller63

    This surprises you, city employees ride their Segways on the sidewalk

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