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Please don’t ride your bike on the sidewalk

Posted May 17 2010 8:47am

Gerardo Ramos was a 51 year old Mexican immigrant, who at 6:45 am was riding his bike to work in Glendale, California. A woman failed to stop at a stop sign; Gerardo’s head hit the windshield, and he suffered massive head injuries.

He was not expected to live more than a few hours, but he remained in a coma for 13 months before dying from his injuries. The 48 year old woman driver has now been charged with a misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter.

I came across this story via Biking LA blog , where the writer led with the line, “Kill a bike rider in Glendale, get a slap on the wrist.”

The police have stated the reason this is a “misdemeanor” charge is because although the driver failed to stop, the cyclist was riding on the sidewalk, which is against the law in Glendale. Both parties were breaking the law.

It is quite easy, as cyclists, to get our anti-bacterial padded shorts in a twist over a case like this; after all the man on the bike paid for his mistake with his life. Very tragic indeed, I will agree.

The report on the incident does not say from which direction the cyclist was traveling; I suspect he was traveling in the wrong direction approaching from the right.

The reason I surmise this is because: A.) The driver making an illegal rolling stop, would most likely looking to the left first, as this is the direction she would expect traffic to come from. B.) Had the cyclist been approaching from the left he would have seen the car approach, and had the full width of the road to stop, or steer a course behind the car.

Like I say, I do not know if this was the case, but it is typical of how these incidents happen. I have had it happen to me when I have been driving. Just recently I was leaving a restaurant parking lot; the sidewalk was clear, and I sat with the front of my car across the sidewalk in order to see approaching traffic to my left.

As I waited for a break in traffic, I was startled when a man on a bike rode around the front of my car. Approaching on the sidewalk from the right, he swerved into the road, and then back onto the sidewalk

What if the cyclist passing in front of my car had corresponded with a break in traffic and I had pulled out, I could have knocked him clear across the road and into the path of opposing traffic.

Had the man been killed, would I have then been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, and would cycling bloggers rush to judgment and call it a “Slap on the wrist?”

Where I live there are many low income people who ride bicycles as their sole means of transport. They ride on the sidewalk, or they ride in the road, contra to the traffic flow. Doing so gives them a false sense of security.

Don't do it. Riding on the sidewalk is against the law in most places, and motorists are not looking for you there, especially if you are approaching from the wrong direction. The same goes for riding on the street in the wrong direction.

If you must ride on the sidewalk, do so only where it is legal. At least ride the same direction as traffic, and stop at ever intersection. I’m not sure how to get this message out because none of these low income people are likely to own a computer, much less read this article.

The woman driver from Glendale was wrong, had she stopped Gerado Ramos would have passed by. However, under the circumstances I don’t see a charge of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter as a slap on the wrist.  Many motorists run down and kill cyclists riding on the road lawfully, and are never charged with anything.

People driving cars sometimes drive carelessly and dangerously, but we as people who ride bikes must at least give a car driver a fighting chance at missing us. That means not suddenly appearing from the wrong direction, whether on the road or sidewalk



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