I hate the bike path. Over the past several years it was always a rarity to get out on it, although in the last few months I’ve ventured forth a dozen times or so, riding north with Mrs. WM en route to coffee shops in Venice or Santa Monica.
Yes, I know, it’s some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. You, your bike, the beach, the first thongs of spring, the beautiful blue ocean, and Catalina shimmering off the coast like Treasure Island. What’s not to like?
In my opinion, three things. And they’re all biggies, big enough that I avoid the bike path like I avoid formulas in Excel.
Sand in your crack
When you ride on the bike path, you get sand in your chain, sand in between your cogs, sand on your bike, and sand in your shoes. Sand is not good for bicycles or for the movement in your Philippe Patek. No one has ever said, “Hey, I know how to fix that squeak! More sand!”
But cleaning my bike and de-sanding it isn’t the worst thing about the bike path. Not by a long shot.
Do you know anyone who regularly uses the bike path who hasn’t hit someone, gotten hit, had a bad fall, or seen one? Here are just a few of the things that I personally know have happened on the Marvin Braude Bike Path that runs from RAT Beach to Santa Monica.
- Friend’s mother was killed in Hermosa when a cyclist hit her on the bike path.
- An older guy, unfamiliar with the bike path, rode down the stairwell after the exit northbound from the garage at King Harbor, killing himself.
- I slammed into a woman who crossed the bike path without looking. She was unhurt, my ego was badly damaged and required extensive rehab.
- A friend was clipped by an oncoming idiot near SM Pier, hit the sand, and broke her humerus against the edge of the concrete bike path. Lifelong disability.
- A woman rider was hit by two drunk cyclists and suffered permanent damage to her hand and fingers.
- A guy slipped on the newly resurfaced, uber-slick asphalt in King Harbor and broke his hand.
- Numerous friends have fallen, some getting badly injured, at Cobley Corner north of Dockweiler.
- One friend was battered by an asshole in Hermosa, who intentionally kicked his skateboard in front of the friend’s bike to watch him fall.
- A member of a local club got clipped by a passing, out of control rider, and shattered his wrist.
These are nothing more than the most superficial of anecdotal scans that pop up in my brain when you say “bike path.” There are hundreds of such collisions and injuries on the bike path every year, some resulting in catastrophic injuries. However, since it is not a public road, there are no state-logged SWITRS collision reports that you can obtain to quantify the number and type of collisions.
Suffice it to say that virtually everyone who regularly rides the bike path has seen and/or been involved in a gnarly crash. The reasons aren’t really that important to me; as more people start biking and as more people discover the joys of high-speed electric bikes, the bloodbath will only grow. I know the thing is dangerous and I avoid it. As Mrs. WM’s on-road skills improve, we have quit riding it almost completely, using it at six or six-thirty for a few miles to avoid commuter traffic on Vista del Mar.
Not getting paid
But there’s an even better reason to avoid the bike path than sand and guts. It’s the fact that if you get hurt on the bike path, it is highly likely that you will never be able to hold the wrongdoer accountable.
First, when you are hurt by another cyclist, the offending rider often hops on his bike and pedals off. Later, dude.
Second, even if the person stops, there is no liability insurance for cyclists like there is for cars. This means that if the person doesn’t own a home or have renter’s insurance, they have no coverage. There’s a phrase for these folks: Judgment proof. And of course your UM/UIM coverage only applies to bicycle collisions if you’re hit by a car. Bike-on-bike? SOL.
Third, many of these injuries are the result of poor maintenance, failure to repair the bike path, and bad design. If it were a roadway you would sue the city and force them to pay for the damage they caused. But guess what?
In California, injuries caused by dangerous, badly maintained, negligently designed bike paths and recreational trails are immune to suit. Because of this immunity, the bike path is almost always covered with sand at some treacherous point or another, even though the trail maintenance crew has machinery to sweep the path. But why bother? They can’t be sued.
If you have to get hurt, better to do it on a city street where the likelihood of insurance and favorable laws will at least help you cope with the disastrous consequences of injury. Moreover, riding in the street with lots of bike lights and using lane control techniques is a lot safer than cramming yourself into the narrow confines of the bike path, where pathletes on TT rigs, people pushing strollers, joggers wobbling hither and yon, volleyballs wandering onto the path, and surfers headed for the waves create a constant stream of lethal hazards.
Leave the bike path to those who don’t know enough to be terrified. Because I am.
Avoid the path. Buy lights. Ride on the road. And … please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!