What Is a Hater to Do?

Crowded bike parking at the Grove, upscale Hancock Park shopping center (Photo by Gina Risemberg)

I ride everywhere in this city. Sometimes with a bit of a lift from Metro Rail, but usually just pushing the pedals, mile after mile. My range in a typical month reaches from Playa del Rey on the Far West Side to, say, Arcadia in the northeast, with occasional forays into the South Bay, South LA, or the nearer reaches of the Valley.

So, I see a lot of road, in vastly different parts of LA: from the densely-packed streets and blocks of Downtown, Pico-Union, Koreatown, and the Miracle Mile; through the dilapidated sprawl of the Avenues in Highland Park, the tidy blankness of the sunblasted eastern suburbs, and the variations on pretentiusness you find in Beverly Hills, Hancock Park, and Brentwood; to the cinderblock backstreets of Hollywood and the structured jollity of the beach towns…I get around. More than most car drivers I know, in fact.

And what I see, every last place I pass through, is, week after week, more people riding bicycles!

Not just the frantic few of the roadie world, which has been around for decades; nor the hip and fickle of the fixie scene; but all the broad range of regular folks, riding all the broad range of bicycles. Folks wearing whatever street clothes, riding fixies, singlespeeds, road bikes old and new, cruisers, roadsters, and even cargo bikes.

Just yesterday I followed along behind two buddies riding Sunset through Silver Lake, twentysomethings, one black and one white, one on a bike-boom tenspeed, the other on a bakfiets. The rider on the lighter bike laid his hand on the other’s back to help him up the hills.

And of course, because of where I live and where I often need to go, I ride Fourth Street between the Miracle Mile and the near side of Downtown just about every day. And nearly every day, almost without fail, I see more people riding bikes along that road than driving cars. Lots of women, too. Most of them sporting panniers or messenger bags or knapsacks, and looking as though they’re headed to work or something else equally utilitarian.

Same in Wilshire in the Miracle Mile, a truly bike-unfriendly street, where men and women of all ages and colors nevertheless ride (though often on the sidewalk) to fill up the numerous bike racks on the sidewalks (and even in some of the more progressive office buildings).

So, what are the haters going to do, now that the bicycle is evidently becoming a normal means of getting around for so many different types of people?

When they could still pretend that we were all smug roadies (though never so smug as drivers) or reckless youth (though never so reckless as drivers), they cherished us—and many still do—as the last socially acceptable target for their ire. These are folks who just gotta hate someone to feel good about themselves, poor things. And, praise be to political correctness!, their longtime favorite targets have been methodically pried from their hot sweaty fingers, one after the other.

Oh, they still hate them, but they can’t get away with saying so in public, without the public itself largely telling them to STFU.

They had cyclists for a while: they could call us names, claim we were destroying civilization, scream that they’d kill us if they could…and actually do it sometimes. Not so much any more.

Yeah, it’s no paradise for cycling yet, but cycling really is looking less and less like the last refuge of “rebels without a clue,” and more and more like the choice of your next-door neighbor—no matter where your door is.

That’s good for all of us. But it’s hard on the haters.

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