It's been interesting in Long Beach for cyclists lately. Long Beach touts itself as the most bicycle-friendly large urban city in the U.S., but last week, dozens of cyclists were cited, and some of their bikes were impounded, because they allegedly broke minor traffic laws. They were taking part in a "critical mass" ride, and when police showed up, the cyclists at first thought they were their to escort and/or help with traffic flow; but instead, they began pulling cyclists over and ticketing them.
The cyclists contend that they were following all laws. I wasn't there, so I don't know. I do know that it is common for cyclists to break laws by not stopping at stop signs or riding on the wrong (left) side of the road. Many cyclists are either ignorant of such laws or choose to disobey them. I have also observed many times cyclists riding on the sidewalk and darting out into streets. Riding on sidewalks is permitted in many areas of Long Beach, but it is extremely dangerous to go from sidewalk to street without even slowing down.
By the way, I write this as a cyclist. I ride my bike most places I need to go, including to work every day. I ride to hospitals when visiting church members. On days off from work, I ride for fun and exercise.
There are, of course, multiple sides to the issue. Even cyclists who obey all traffic regulations are put at risk by motorists who ignore cyclists' rights or are unaware of those rights. And clearly, for a city that touts itself as being bicycle-friendly, the incident with the critical mass riders last week could have been handled better. It has now become a black eye for the supposedly bicycle-friendly city.
Hey, cyclists: Let's respect those with whom we share the road. Let's follow the law. Let's be safe, not weaving in and out of traffic. Let's ride single-file. And, for our own sake, let's please remember to wear our helmets.
Hey, motorists: Please respect the rights of cyclists. Do not pass us on the road unless you are able to leave at least three feet between us and your vehicle. If we slow you down, keep in mind that by riding a bike, we are keeping cars off the road, and more cars on the road would, in the long run, slow you down even more. So just take a deep breath (you won't get any toxic exhaust fumes by following us) and relax.
Hey, parents: Please educate your children on the safe and legal way to ride a bike. If you don't know what the rules are, find out. Although I've seen cyclists of all ages breaking the law, most of the riskiest behavior, such as darting in and out of streets, is by children and teenagers. And please make sure that your kids wear their helmets!
Hey, city: Yes, it's important to make sure that ALL who use our roads respect the law. However, you still need to work on your bicycle-friendly image. Citing cyclists en masse and impounding bikes (some of which are their owners' only mode of transportation) is not the way to do this.