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November 29, 2006

Walker Wonders if Area Cyclists Care

In June of 2003 I wrote a story about riding from Seal Beach to Balboa, Ca., a route that heads south mostly on a Class 1 Trail.

This route passes Dog Beach, and heads toward the Huntington Beach Pier, before moving on towards Newport Beach, and its Strand, and Pier, and the Balboa Pier, and Peninsula.


As regular readers know I've had a recent focus on Cycling Safety on the trails of the OC, with attention paid to the Back Bay in Newport Beach.

Last week an article appeared in The Orange Grove Column of the Orange County Register ( May Require Registration. ), written by an aggreived resident of Huntington Beach, concerning the interaction between cyclists, and foot traffic, on the trail as it approaches, and passes by, the Huntington Beach Pier.

The Orange Grove: Compassion vs. playing it smart -- 11/21/06

Collision with bicyclist produces what seems like a deficit of caring

Huntington Beach resident
Naturally I was quite interested, and read the piece.
After doing so I knew I wanted to comment on it, and get some relevant photos.

In moments when courage, grace and compassion are the best and most appropriate responses, will I be there? I feel a bit resentful because these attributes were not apparent in a lady's response to me. At the same time I wonder if I would have acted any differently.

Here I was, enjoying the best of all worlds: retired, 60 and in excellent health, walking along the Huntington Beach boardwalk, enjoying the warm November sun, Gershwin on my iPod.


( This shot is a north view of the area under apparent discussion as it stretches between Duke's Restuarant, on the south side of the Pier, and the outdoor Amphitheatre, and Zack's ( Rent Bikes here, and at nearby Dwight's at the Beach ( 75 years young ! ) ), on the north side, along the Boardwalk by the Pier Plaza.  This area is right at Main Street, but the Trail is actually an 8.5 mile route, stretching from Warner Blvd. in the north, to the Santa Ana River in the south, known as the Huntington Beach Ocean Strand, and includes the Huntington City Beach sandwiched between Bolsa Chica, and Huntington State Beaches. )

I paused to remove my jacket. Seconds later, a bicycle plowed into my rear end, slamming me to the ground. The rider asked: "Are you OK?" to which I could only reply "I don't know." This exchange was repeated several times in the first minute after the collision.

Okay, the 1st thing that must be acknowledged is that many walkers, and joggers, and even a few cyclists, are talking on Cell Phones ( I saw a lady on a beach cruiser! ), listening to Walkmans, or iPods, as they "enjoy" the trail, and the views.

This is of obvious concern, and sometimes leads to accidents that, like the one under discussion, one may never hear about unless told in the way this woman tells hers.

Obviously she was in her own little world, unaware of a cyclist behind her, and apparently stopped in the path itself, instead of stepping to the side 1st.

When she says "Plowed" one has to also wonder at the speed of the cyclist, not to mention whether the apparent Lance Wannabe was watching where she was going. ( Yes, Virginia, Crazy Women Drivers DO ride bicycles too! )

There ARE signs, here, and there, along the whole length of the 8.5 mile route, though several in the city section of the trail are in worse shape than this one for southbound riders, at PCH, and Goldenwest.


Notice the speeds?

I can tell you that my average speed, riding 6+ miles of the route, from Seapoint in the north, to Magnolia in the South, was 11mph, despite my best effort to watch it, and slowing, several times, for passing those ahead of me on the trail, and the 2 wandering dogs on leashes, heading the opposite way with their owners.

Many cyclists, here, don't even have odometers to check, and I saw several cyclists going faster than I was.

Stunned and disoriented, I didn't know if I was injured. I was slightly annoyed that the cyclist wanted me to reassure her that I was OK before I could even assess how I was hurt or whether I could get off the ground. I wasn't very bloody – just a scratch on my face.

My 1st reaction to this part was that she should not have been annoyed at concern shown by a cyclist ( Many of us are really quite responsible, and caring ya know! ).

She said I had veered to the left before she hit me. I wondered how much I could have veered while standing still, removing my jacket.

Actually I would not be surpised if she did, before she stopped, do as the cyclist said, considering where her attention was at ( The iPod, and the sudden decision to remove the jacket. ).

On the trails in the Back Bay I can tell you that I saw several walkers/joggers whose attention was taken up with something glued to their ears as I approached from behind, and this made me more careful as I announced, and passed.

I also wonder if the cyclist was wearing a helmet?

She asked what she could do. Still on the ground, not yet sure that I could get up, unable to formulate a coherent sentence, I managed to ask her to call my husband to come pick me up. When she called, she told him, "Your wife fell down," not that she had struck me with her bike.

Most of us are trained to be "smart, " not compassionate; in case of an auto accident – don't admit fault. Makes sense; at the time of the accident you may not have all your wits about you, and you may concede that something was your fault that wasn't.

Was the cyclist as rattled as the person she hit, or "being smart"?

Was the cyclist saying this because she was "annoyed" at "the old woman who got in her way", and didn't think she was at fault for what happened?

There is no way to know.

I knew that I was shook up, but I also realized that she was in a defensive mode, more concerned with establishing that she wasn't at fault than helping me. I knew that it would be a good idea to exchange names and numbers as one does in an auto accident, but I was too flustered to mention it, and after all, I had health insurance and wasn't going to sue her. If you asked me today to identify her, I could tell you only that she was blond and probably in her thirties. I wouldn't be able to pick her out of a lineup. I remember her bike had a dark pink fender.

Was she being defensive, or showing concern, through her helpfullness, for this person who got in her way?

I finally was able to stand. It seemed like a long time, but it was probably less than five minutes. A nice man walking with his family volunteered to accompany me up to PCH and Main Street, and the bicycle rider quickly disappeared. Having arrived on the scene after the collision, the man was surprised that the other woman rode away on the bike because he had assumed it was my bike, and I had fallen off it.

Is it possible that the cyclist also didn't think to exchange info, and once she saw that the walker was able to continue on her way, with the help of another person, that she saw no need to remain?

There is no way to know without asking the obviouslly helpful, and concerned, cyclist.

I also think, from the description of events, that the time lapse was a bit more than "Less than 5 min."

The writer is judging the cyclist based on her own feelings, and reactions, relived long after the incident, and gathered for this article.

As we walked I felt tender and vulnerable, but reassured by the Good Samaritan and stable enough stay on my feet while waiting for my husband.

Without know the thinking of the cyclist, I find it interesting that her perception of the incident causes her to assume there was only 1 "Good Samaritan" here, and not 2.

The cyclist could have just left her on the ground, and rode off immediately, and there would have been no-one quick enough to stop her, but she didn't.

Once home, the damage to my neck, shoulder, and collarbone became more apparent. After several hours of intermittent ice compresses, the pain was still acute. We went to the urgent-care center, where I was treated and received a clavicle strap to immobilize the area while healing. A week later, the pain was significantly less but still there, and full recovery may take six to eight weeks. I can walk, but lifting with my left arm and my yoga classes may be on hold for quite a while. In the meantime, the lady who hit me has likely forgotten all about it.

I am sorry for the pain, and injury, this woman has suffered, but it is obvious to me that SHE hasn't forgotten the cyclist, and is allowing HER perceptions, through her pain, and anger, to cloud her thinking about the incident ( She obviously has dismissed the notion that she might have caused the accident. )....

Hours after my accident, as I lay in bed trying to sleep, I recalled a similar incident that I witnessed several months earlier on the bike path by the pier. I was walking along the portion of the path where it goes down a slight incline. Some skaters came down the path and knocked over a young man. At first I thought that the young man on the ground was part of the group that hit him (they looked the same age) and that they were goofing around. But the group continued on, ignoring him.


He looked bewildered and angry. I began to walk back toward him to see if I could be of assistance, but another middle-age lady got there before me and seemed to be doing the job. In retrospect, I should have volunteered to help anyway. Next time I'll know better.

.... and about cyclists, and skaters, in general.

A few days later there appeared a Letter to the Editor by another HB resident, Gerald Hennings:

Linda Leventhal's column about being hit by a bicyclist points out the need for the police to be more concerned about the danger of bicyclists who exceed the 5mph speed limit when pedestrians are present.

Like on the Back Bay the local cops don't have the resources to commit the needed manpower, and time, to camp out on the trails all hours of the day, and stopping every cyclist in sight.

My wife nearly was killed by a speeding rider several years ago. She was hospitalized and out of work for many months, and the police did not even give the offender a citation.

Every day I see bikers speeding up, and down, the beach path and not once I have seen one get a citation.

See my comment above.

I didn't see cops, either, on my ride today, and except for Pier related events, and maybe on weekends when things admittedly get a little crazy, crowd-wise, don't expect to.


When I contact the City Council and the Police about this ongoing danger, they express no interest.

What is the sense of the many speed-limit signs along the path from Seal Beach to the Santa Ana River if there's no enforcement ?

Apparently no-one is going to care until someone dies.


As the last 2 pictures show the trail south of the Pier is different, with different signage.

The truth of the matter is that there are 2 different jurisdictions along the whole route, city, and state, and until those agencies see proof that things are way out of hand they are not going to commit an over abundance of manpower on the trail.

Obviously more can be done to edumicate users of the trail,  both on the beach, and in the Back Bay, especially cyclists as the fastest folks around, about how to use the trail safely, however....

The signs are there to be read by those using the trail, and it is expected that responsible cyclists will do all they can to follow the law, and use the trail in a safe manner, especially when it is crowded.

At the same time we cyclists expect the skaters, walkers, and joggers, with fido(s), children, and/or BUV's ( Baby Utility Vehicles ) and w/o, to act in a predictable manner on this multi-use trail, including staying on the side of the trail their direction dictates, reigning in the pooch(s) ( and the kid(s) ) when it tries to wander where it shouldn't, and otherwise being aware of their surroundings, and the fact that there could be vehicles present in front of, and behind, them, at any given moment.

RESPONSIBILITY works both ways, and it does not serve either side using this environment any useful purpose to let their prejudices lead them to vilify the other as a group, based on the actions of the few fools they encounter.

November 29, 2006 in Share the Road, and Trail: Safety Matters! | Permalink


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