The Two Types of Bicyclist

I am a bicycle commuter in Los Angeles, which on the face of it is a pretty tricky proposition. The major boulevards here are designed like freeways, and people use them as such. Pico, Highland, Sepulveda, Olympic- these streets were built for speed and make commuting not a little tricky for your serious bicycle commuter.

2 minute read

June 23, 2009, 5:19 PM PDT

By Tim Halbur


I am a bicycle commuter in Los Angeles, which on the face of it is a pretty tricky proposition. The major boulevards here are designed like freeways, and people use them as such. Pico, Highland, Sepulveda, Olympic- these streets were built for speed and make commuting not a little tricky for your serious bicycle commuter.

But there's the difference- I'm not a serious bicycle commuter. I don't shave my legs, seal myself up in neoprene, and take my fixie out zooming like a Tour de France athlete. My bike of choice is an Electra Townie, a sort of more flexible cruiser with a big cushy seat and a not insignificant weight. I'm lucky that I live only 1.5 miles from work, so I can take it easy, ride slowly, and enjoy the show as I roll past the La Brea Tar Pits. 

So should I, at 10 mph tops, be forced to compete with the cars on streets like La Cienega? At a Los Angeles Transportation Committee meeting last week, the committee began to propose just that (LAist)

Many people don't know that as the law currently stands, bicyclists are A-OK on the sidewalks of Los Angeles County.  As long as you don't show "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of
persons or property." And in my experience, pedestrians are always willing to scoot over for a cyclist, and do not see them as nuisances. I try to be as courteous in return, slowly edging up on people so I don't freak them out, and using my bell quietly when necessary. 

I submit that there are really two classes of cyclists, and they naturally sort themselves out on the roadway. Faster commuters on road bikes use bike lanes and weave through traffic because the sidewalks are too slow for them, while bikers like me use the sidewalks because it's safer and can easily navigate any obstacles at our slower speeds. And each type is suited for their chosen environment. 

Bicycle planners, what do you think? Can we create a two-tiered system? 


Tim Halbur

Tim Halbur is communications director for the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), the leading organization promoting walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions. He was managing editor of Planetizen from 2008 to 2011.

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