Taken for a ride

One writer reconsiders his animosity toward bikes

“Coming up on your right, please.”


“On your right.”

Begrudgingly, and fully annoyed now, I moved over to sidewalk’s edge to let the offending bicyclist pass.

“You know,” I snapped at the miscreant, “it’s illegal to ride bikes on sidewalks. They’re for pedestrians only.

The young man dismounted just ahead, his pained expression indicating he’d heard this before. “Look,” he replied gently as he locked his bike to a pole, “we’re all just trying to get along here.”

Terrific. Apparently, I’d nearly been biked by a two-wheeling Rodney King.

“Besides,” he continued calmly, “it’s not illegal. You can look it up in city code.”

Man, what’s with people, anyway? First the guy plays dirty by citing facts, then proves a total jerk by being all polite about it.

But—was he right?

Normally, I avoid police contact at all costs. (’Cept when they insist; it’s that guns-drawn part I really hate.) Making exceptions in matters of great sociological import, however, I called Sac PD: What is the city ordinance on this?

Answer: In Sacramento, bike riding on the sidewalk is illegal in a business zone, legal in a residential zone.

It was nice learning our civic leaders had really thought this through. Nonetheless, my offender had been nailed: We’d been in a business district during our little encounter, so he was wrong. Take that, Mr. Kumbaya!

It’s not that his point about living in communal harmony isn’t valid; it completely is. A huge problem in today’s America is rampant divisiveness. Since accord at the top appears fantasy, it behooves all of us to promote synchronicity at the street level.

But here’s the problem: I don’t like bicyclists (in case this was unclear). For one thing, I live and work in downtown Sacramento, so I walk a lot. This means I almost get hit by bicyclists a lot. OK, so not a lot. Often. OK, so not often, either. But, seriously, a couple of times I almost have been flattened by riders flying down the sidewalk, oblivious in their anti-social cyclepathic way that a pedestrian (like me) might audaciously be walking around a corner, unaware of the dual-wheeled death machine bearing down at that moment at breakneck (like mine) speed. (It’s always the ding ding you don’t hear that gets you.)

More bike gripes: Cyclists disregard rules. They blow red lights, ignore stop signs, ride the wrong way, etc. And we all know what happens when rules aren’t followed: That’s right, society breaks down. Let your imagination run wild for a second and envision what the world might look like if, oh, let’s say, financial institutions did whatever they wanted. (I know it’s hard, but try.)

Then there are the wack outfits. I’m sorry, but in those skintight uniforms, bicyclists look like giant banana slugs splashed with tutti-frutti tattoos. And those helmets! Who designed those spiky things anyway, the alien from Alien? At last, the creature gets its revenge.

So, yeah, I’d like us to all get along, too. But given my entrenched bike-ism, how?

Enter my girlfriend. She’s had a bike forever. I want you to know I’ve never held this against her. Then again, she’s never run me over. (Yet.) For years, she’s urged me to come join her.

Hmph. You know what I hate more than bicyclists? Hypocrisy. That’s right—especially mine. Guess who has a bike now? Yes, on a whim, I bought an ancient one-speed recently. A “cruiser,” I think they call it. (Back in my day, we had our own special name for one, too: We called it a “bicycle.”) My moral decay was instant. Already, I’ve biked through stop signs, ridden against traffic and, yes, on sidewalks. In business zones. (I in no way endorse my own actions.)

The worst part? I like my bike. I like the freedom, I like the convenience, I like not using gas, I like seeing the town from a whole new perspective, I like the air in my face, I like feeling like a kid again. I like all of it. So now what do I have to say?

“Coming up on your right, please.” (Hey, can’t we all just get along?)