Safety on York Boulevard
By John Nese
The new bike lanes on York Boulevard scare me. Not just as a business owner, but a resident of the area and a grandfather.
I see cars, as many as 1,200 an hour I’m told, rushing down the street and, with the introduction of these bike lanes, I am fearful that when they meet up with a two-wheeled biker, things won’t be pretty and with the bicyclist getting the short end of the stick.
Don’t get me wrong! I am not anti-bike! In this day and age of $5 a gallon gas, I think people are better off jumping on a bike than starting up their car. We have always welcomed bikers in the store, letting them bring bikes into the store while they shop. One bike group from San Gabriel makes a regular monthly trek to the store and we open the back for them to put their bikes in safety since many of them don’t own a bike lock.
That said, bike racks in the area often sit unused. Right now, I look out across the street at a bike rack that is empty, but just steps away, an unlocked bike is casually leaning against the building. It just seems that many riders don’t own locks and chains – I see this every day on the boulevard. Every day.
I didn’t want officials to put bike racks in front of the store – where they were proposing the racks would have been right in front of the driveway into the store. It would have been too congested and I would have worried about cars hitting cyclists again. Most of the time, local bike racks sit unused as I said before.
I think bicyclists can be good for businesses like mine. In fact, I would love to see how creative cyclists can be with carrying their purchases. I know in some countries, it’s quite a feat to carry large packages, boxes, etc. atop a bike.
But my overall issue with bikes is about safety.
I know there are safer routes for bikes, residential streets without the traffic we have on York. I wish that officials would have put the bike lane up one street away from York, say on Meridian, a street that connects four schools – Occidental, Aladma, Yorkdale and Luther Burbank. Right now it’s labeled a Bike Route. Why couldn’t that have been a bike lane?
I am very sensitive to cars hitting cyclists because it happened to me.
About 6 months ago, I was leaving the store, heading out the exit onto York Boulevard. A mother and her three kids were cycling on the sidewalk and her little boy (all of them without helmets) was riding ahead of her and going very fast. He didn’t stop at the driveway and I didn’t see him until he was under my car and I heard a crunch.
I can’t tell you how frightened and scared I was. We called the police, ambulance and paramedics. The boy was fine, nothing broken, just scraps, but very shook up – as we all were. The police told the mom that he could have given her a ticket for riding on the sidewalk and for not wearing a helmet.
That episode turned out OK, but I worry that something similar is going to happen again with these bike lanes.
I worry that cyclists will think that bike lane line means that they are magically safe from two-ton cars that swish by at top speeds. I also can’t tell you the number of times I see cyclists riding without helmets or not adhering to simple laws of the road – like stopping for stop lights, signaling when they want to turn. For every biker with a helmet, I see 7 others without lights, reflectors or helmets.
Then there’s bikers plugged into technology, listening to MP3s or iPods while cycling. How on Earth can this be safe? I see that all too frequently! How do you know what’s going on around you?
I wish our bike community would really communicate to riders the importance of wearing a helmet and of riding like a vehicle in the street . Other cities in the country, like Boulder, CO, are wonderful examples of riders knowing the rules of the road. We need to better educate our bicyclists here about safety, consideration and learn to share the road with other vehicles.
Here’s an idea: let the local bike communities organize a free helmet give-away but first recipients must take a bike safety class and learn the right and wrong way to cycle.
The other day, I was driving and saw a rider go through a stoplight intersection without stopping. I beeped my horn at her, not just letting her know that she broke the law, but that also she could have been hit by side traffic. She turned to me and gave me the finger.
Once again, I worry about the safety of York Boulevard because of these bike lanes.