Bikes on sidewalks

First, a disclaimer that this blog will not contain any scientific evidence about the health hazards of walking to and from the bus, or the cardiovascular hazards of taking a spin class as an over-50 pear shaped woman without benefit of the one glass of red wine a day…. Nope,  this is about the far more immediate hazards of walking on the sidewalks in Los Angeles.

This morning, I stepped outside at 7:05 onto 9th St. in downtown LA. I waved at Nico, who was dutifully power washing the sidewalk in front of our building. I dodged between the large planter at the corner pole of the canopy  and the newly trimmed natal palm hedge of our front planting garden, walking briskly to my spin class,  which is right around the corner. I approached the corner, where the light was just about to turn green for the traffic parallel to me on 9th, walking in a diagonal to the left to wait for the light to change.


“Holy Mother of God!” I exclaimed as the biker passed me so closely that I could feel the woosh of air on my forearm hairs . Was he smiling as he went by? Where did he come from?

And on my right, another man on a bike zipped past me. The light changed and I crossed the street, glad to be alive.

I was transported to NYC to the corner of 72nd and Broadway, back in the mid 80s when the maniacal bike messengers tore down the streets frequently against traffic. Suddenly I was standing with Jimmie, about to cross the street to catch the subway there. A messenger had come out of the ether going about 40 mph, and slammed into Jimmie as he stepped off the curb, taking him down to the ground.

“What the F..k do you think you are doing? You could have killed him!”

People looked at me as though I was a bit unhinged, while Jimmie sat on the curb recovering from the shock of the impact. He was fine, but I was crazed.  The messenger shrugged me off like an extremely insignificant crumb, remounted his bike and continued going south against traffic.

Back in my neighborhood in LA, there is a sidewalk which goes from Figueroa to Flower on the south side of 9th St. It curves gently around to the right, bordered on the south side by a semi-permanent wooden construction fence separating the parking lot from sight. In the middle of the sidewalk at the point where the sidewalk arcs to the right, there is a sign (probably right turn only), supported not by one pole, but two, which narrows passage at this nexus to about 2 ft on the south side and about 10 inches on the north.

I take the bus to work every day that I can, because it’s healthful, right? When I arrive home at 6pm or so and get off the Dash commuter bus, it is a short walk to my condo up Figueroa and around to the right to Flower. I have found myself increasingly anxious of late about the steady traffic of men on bikes returning from work, who use this sidewalk as their bike path.  They are the home bound commuters,  the reverse of  the guy who almost hit me this morning.

Last night, in the span of that one very dangerous block, I counted seven bicycles that passed me. As I neared the Right turn only sign, I felt my heart rate accelerating to an unhealthy place, and visions of being taken out by these bikes caused me to break out in a sweat. I am not the only person walking on that sidewalk, either. Last night I followed a young man with his very elderly dog and held my breath as the dog moseyed around the corner safely. Last week, a woman with a baby stroller accompanied me on the sidewalk as we rounded the bend.

Just a matter of time, folks. Just a matter of time. See, there’s proof that exercise can kill you.

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