Beach & Moan

L.A. Observed’s esteemed Malibu correspondent Veronique de Turenne has had it up to her hood ornaments with the legions of Lycra-clad Lance wannabe’s who in teeming masses launch forth rides of epic distances up and down her seaside.

Certainly she qualifies her aggravation by expressing not only a personal readiness to yield for cyclists but also an understanding that accommodating two-wheeled modes of transport on Pacific Coast Highway is something that pretty much every makeup-applying, latte-swilling, cellphone-jabbering, screenplay reading (or writing) and diaper-changing automobile operator can do better.

But apparently to her those “Share The Road” signs are a two-way proposition, applying to cars during the work week, and bikes on the weekend:

But on weekends, when pelotons of cyclists take to our little seaside highway, when, by their sheer numbers they form an entity of their own, swollen and amoeba-like, stretching, bulging, breaking and re-forming, riding three and four abreast, tracking the thick white line that marks the shoulder, shouldering their way into the lane of cars next to them, sure drivers will steer clear, then I think the sign speaks to them.

Share the road, you arrogant cyclists. Sure, it’s narrow, sure it’s scenic, sure that’s the Pacific just a few feet away. But the slow, Sunday-driving days of PCH are long gone. You’re riding on a freeway now. That 45 mile-per-hour speed limit sign? Pure fantasy. I’ll slow down for you, steer clear of you, change lanes for you, but my fellow drivers? Will they yield? Do they even see you? Who knows. You quite literally take your life in your hands each time you think your valuable, vulnerable bicycle status means anything at all to the thousands of cars speeding by you on those 10- or 20- or 50-mile rides. So please, ride to the reality, not the dream. [Ride] to the right. Share the road.

As someone who’s done several rides up and down PCH between Santa Monica and Pt. Mugu and beyond, and someone who knows someone who lost their life on the highway while riding (high school classmate Scott Bleifer was killed September 10, 2005), I can personally attest to how entirely correct she is about how dangerous it can be.

But then she has to go letting “the thousands of cars speeding by” off the hook so easily while demanding that the “arrogant” cyclists get the hell out of their careless ways. Even more aggravating is the fact that she expects large groups of riders to somehow stay as far right as possible. At all times.

“Ride the reality, not the dream,” she says.

Clearly she’s not familiar with the reality of CVC 21200: “Bicyclists have all the rights and responsibilities of vehicle drivers.” Or CVC 21202: “Bicycles traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic must ride as close to the right side of the road as practicable except: when passing, preparing for a left turn, to avoid hazards and dangerous conditions or if the lane is too narrow.”

But I don’t want to wield the California Vehicle Code like it’s some sort of scripture. And I’m not saying that de Turenne is wrong in being affronted. Hell, I’ve encountered my fair share of those selfish and pompous roadies and I know of whom she speaks. All I’m saying is two wheels or four wheels we all have a responsibility, and to kissoff the “slow Sunday driving days” and accept that PCH is a de-facto “freeway” for cars to play on and for bikes to cower from may very well be the reality, but that doesn’t make it right. And definitely it’s not right to expect a crowd of bikes to get as far right, as that fails to take into account that there might not be much right to ride on. Some stretches of PCH have wonderful shoulders that offer a beautiful buffer zone between the through traffic. Others, not so much.

So often times, the peloton that muscles its way into the traffic lane is exercising a safer — and entirely legal — manuever. They’re just taking their fair and rightful share.

UPDATED (11.15.06): Well, evidently de Turenne’s fielded mostly negative reaction from cyclists to her original post and follows-up here under the headline “They Hate Me, They Really Hate Me.” I don’t get the sense from he response that she’s read mine, but hope that if she has that it isn’t one she’s including with the haters. Disagree-er, yes, and an attempt to do so respectfully. No hate here.