(Editor’s note: Dennis Wyatt is on vacation. This column first appeared on Nov. 7, 2010.)
It was moving at a pretty good clip.
And it was heading right toward me in the predawn darkness.
People had warned me over the years about how dangerous it could be jogging on the streets of Manteca before sunrise.
I could get hurt, they said.
It looked as if they were right — well, at least, partially.
I was jogging on the sidewalk on the north side of Yosemite Avenue just past Mylnar Avenue when I almost got hit by the latest mode of street terrorism — a motorized bicycle.
I stepped out into the travel lane when he was about 10 feet from me and I realized he wasn’t going to stop, slow down, or get onto the street where the law said he belongs.
He was riding an incumbent, a three-wheel low riding bicycle originally designed to make it easier on people with back problems to cycle.
As he whizzed by me with his dirty blonde shag of hair whipping slightly in the breeze created by his motorized pedestrian mower he uttered the word “sorry” in the same tone of Sgt. Joe Friday of Dragnet fame.
At the risk of sounding that I’m stereotyping people, these are the uncivilized age-of-majority and then some malcontents who first took skateboarding, then bicycles and then motorized mini-scooters to new lows of anti-social behavior.
And just like how they’ve turned other wheeled modes of recreation and transportation into a device that projects their contempt for society and the law they are doing the same with motorized bicycles.
I’ve seen wanton disregard for the rules of the road with motorized bicycles before my close encounter with the jerk on three wheels.
I’ve seen them fly through stop signs at 20 mph, zip through red lights, cut in front of traffic, and even turn sidewalks into scaled-down autobahns. Granted they represent a minority of those on motorized bicycles but they are the overwhelming face of those who choose to ride a bicycle but not pedal. There is nothing wrong with that at all. What is wrong — unless I’m assuming incorrectly — is that they don’t have to follow traffic laws or stay off sidewalks.
At least they are a tad less annoying than those who get their entertainment by zipping up and down neighborhood streets over and over again on loud and obnoxious gas-powered mini-scooters. They don’t grate on your ear drums the same way.
They do impose a serious risk to the safety of others including regular bicyclists and pedestrians as well as themselves.
One of my favorite moments in navigating Manteca streets came about 10 years ago. I was southbound on Fremont at Yosemite Avenue that has a couple of blind spots. The light had turned green. As I was letting my foot off the brake and moving forward, a mini-scooter went flying down the sidewalk from behind a building and into the street directly in front of me. As I hit the brakes the definitely over-21 guy who could have cleaned up his physical act a bit turned his head toward me and flipped me off.
He should have thanked me for being quick enough to avoid hitting him instead of displaying his IQ on one finger.
I have little doubt that Manteca Police ultimately will clamp down on the renegade motorized bicyclists just as they did on the out-of-control crowd who abuse the use of powered mini-scooters.
And while we’re on the subject of Manteca Police, thank them sometime for their policy of using the law to the fullest to get unsafe drivers off the roads. Not many jurisdictions bother to impound vehicles when the drivers are unlicensed when they are stopped for other traffic violations. They have been even known to impound powered mini-scooters.
Heck, they still notify immigration authorities when they pull over a traffic violator and then discover the person is an illegal.
Gripe all you want about the Manteca Police but it is that mundane stuff that they do between more serious crimes that help make our streets safer.
If someone is driving around unlicensed they also probably don’t have insurance and they certainly don’t have respect for basic traffic laws.
As for Dennis Hopper wannabes on motorized bicycles with a lot less CCs (cubic centimeters of engine capacity) under them, Jack Nicholson was man enough to open up the throttle on the open highway and not through stop signs or on sidewalks.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.