Archive for July 31, 2008

Only in L.A…. driving while very distracted

As a rule, I try to avoid confrontations when I ride.

No, really, I do. I’ve learned the hard way over the years that cars are bigger than I am. And they hurt. But sometimes, someone will do something so stupid, so dangerous, that I just can’t help myself.

Like the other day, for instance.

I was making my way back up San Vicente at the end of a hard ride, riding in the bike lane, and just focused on getting up that hill a little faster than I have before. So I wasn’t really paying that much attention to traffic passing by.

Then without warning, a car zoomed past me, two wheels inside the bike lane, missing me by less than two feet — passing so close that the wind from his slipstream nearly knocked me over before he straightened out and returned to his lane. I shouted a few choice epithets, steadied my bike and continued up the hill.

And there, waiting at the next intersection for the light to change, was the very same car, with his right window rolled down.

And I just couldn’t help myself.

So I pull up to his door, and yell through the open window that he should never pass a bike that close. His response? All together now…

“Fuck you.”

Right about then the light turns green, and I zip through the intersection, only to realize that now I have a dangerous — and angry — driver behind me. And that’s never good.

So I pull over to the right, and wait patiently for him to drive pass.

Except he doesn’t.

He sees me waiting on the side of the road and pulls over into the gas station next to me. Out steps a guy who looks like he’s doing an impression of a bad Kevin Costner character — faded T-shirt, baggy cargo shorts hanging down past his knees, and baseball cap turned backwards. And looking for a fight.

He asks what I’m so pissed off about, and I explain that he almost hit me. He responded with all the keen debating tactics of a grade school playground.

“Did not!”

Yeah, like out of all the cars that passed me that day, I’m going to single out his and make up a story just to create a confrontation like this. I explain that he had crossed over into the bike lane next to me, passing me by less than a couple feet.

“Did not!”

Meanwhile, I’m thinking that maybe I should try to defuse the situation before things get physical. So I pull out my cell phone and snap his picture, as well as another shot of his license plate. As I do, I happen to glance down — and notice that the zipper on his pants is pulled all the way, exposing everything from waist to mid-thigh.

And trust me, there wasn’t much to see.

Right about then, it dawns on me then just why he was so distracted that he didn’t even see me as he drove.

And I thought drivers with cell phones in their hands were a problem.


Newsweek joins the discussion on the conflict between cyclists and drivers in one of America’s best cycling cities. The article also includes a link to a cyclist hanging on for dear life. Missed this one when it came out; the S. F. Examiner cycling writer — they actually have someone to cover biking! — shares my complaint about riding and cell phones. Looks like the CHP is cracking down on BUIs in Tahoe. And the LACBC urges us all to write the mayor to support dedicated funding for cycling in the new Metro tax proposal.

Stop the presses! And blame the bikers!

Today’s Streetsblog picks up the story of the Seattle Critical Mass incident we discussed yesterday. And zooms right in on the fact that there are two sides to this story — except where the police and local press are concerned.

Now, I should mention right up front that I’m no fan of Critical Mass. I understand, and share, many of the philosophies expressed by CM riders, and there are riders whose opinions I respect who are active participants.

I simply think it’s counterproductive.

At a time when we’re struggling to get the respect and courtesy we deserve, CM reinforces the attitudes that many drivers already have — that cyclists are aggressive, arrogant, rude and inconsiderate, and have no respect for other users of the road. Let alone the law.

However, the blogosphere has been active in the wake of the Seattle incident, so I’ll let other writers address the questions of whether CM is right or wrong, and how — or whether — it can be fixed.

For me, the more interesting topic is the fact that, as the Streetsblog article points out, the local authorities and press immediately went into the standard blame bikers first mode. Instead of listening to the many bikers who said the driver was angry and aggressive and instigated the incident, they immediately assumed that he was the innocent victim. Or at the very least, justified in his actions.

Like the Colorado sheriff who decided the problem was bikers who ride two abreast, rather than careless and impatient drivers who can’t be bothered to pass them safely — even on nearly empty back country roads — the bias of law enforcement is almost always that the rider is at fault.

The simple fact is, if there is an accident, the police will assume that the rider did something to cause it, unless there is clear and compelling evidence to the contrary, as in the Mandeville Canyon brake check. And in most cases, even if the rider was blameless, the press will jump in with stories about riders who run red lights and flaunt traffic laws.

If we report a road rage incident, the police investigate it as a simple traffic altercation, rather than a violent crime — as they did when I was the victim of road rage, and ended up being threatened with arrest myself. If someone runs us off the road, it’s blamed on a momentarily distracted driver who just didn’t see us. If we report a driver or passenger throwing something at us, they call it littering. If they bother to call it anything at all.

Even in the well-publicized New York police v. CM rider case, it was the rider who spend 26 hours in jail, rather than the cop who assaulted him.

So unless and until the police — and the press that keeps them honest — stop automatically blaming the victim whenever cyclists and cars collide, and start treating assaults against cyclists as the violent crimes they are, we will never experience the equal protection we are guaranteed under the constitution.

And we will never be safe on the streets.

And let’s face it. It’s a dangerous world out there.


Today’s reads: The Mountaineerzz take to the hills, where the only traffic they have to worry about should be hikers and mountain lions. LAist has security video from inside a San Dimas bike shop when the Moderate One hit. (Just out of curiosity, was anyone out there riding during the quake? What was that like?) Bicycle Fixation discusses the potholes on the way to turning 4th St. into a bicycle boulevard. And finally, we have an update on the events that followed the good doctor’s brake check — who last I heard, was due for arraignment on Friday.

Blameless victims? Or two-wheeled vigilantes?

Now Seattle is up in arms over a road rage incident involving bicyclists. And once again, it’s the cyclists who are being painted as the bad guys.

According to news initial reports, last Friday’s Critical Mass turned violent when a group of cyclists attacked a driver. As these reports put it, the frightened driver tried to back up, hit a couple of bikes, then got scared and tried to drive away. The bikers chased him down, slashed his tires, smashed his windows and hit him with a bike lock, sending the frightened driver to the hospital with a head injury.

Of course, once the initial hyperventilating news reports aired, a more nuanced picture began to take shape as the real reporters — as opposed to the pretty heads on TV — filed their stories, suggesting that there might actually be two sides to this event. According to these accounts, the driver became angry and/or scared, as the riders may or may not have threatened to tip his car with him and his passenger in it. Then he tried to drive off, dragging injured cyclists with him, until he was chased down by bikers who forced him to stop.

And unfortunately, turned violent in retaliation.

As usually happens these days, though, the full picture only took shape online, as the local bloggers began giving first, or at least second, person reports.

Ryan provides the riders’ perspective, describing how his first CM went painfully wrong, as the driver tried to escape his corkage by accelerating through the riders in front of him, running over one cyclist as another held on for dear life. Even with a cyclist clinging to the hood of his car, the driver gave no sign of stopping, so the riders chased him down and forced him to stop.

Then the police — and reporters — took the standard approach and blamed bikers first. Apparently, both had already decided the driver was the victim, and neither seemed to have any interest in the bikers’ side of the story.

Meanwhile, Jonah talks with the driver himself, painting a very different picture of a frightened — and sympathetic — man, who felt intimidated by all rampaging cyclists who surrounded his car, and by his account, threatened him. He responded by revving his engine in an attempt to get the riders to back off, not realizing his car was in gear. It lurched forward and inadvertently struck a couple of cyclists.

He says the other bikers responded by trying to hit him or clinging to his car, so he began to speed off, then stopped when he heard someone say a rider was hurt. When he got out of his car to apologize, the riders attacked him and his car.

So who’s right — or more to the point in this case, who’s wrong?


Intentionally or not, frightened or not, the driver struck and injured at least two riders in an ill-advised attempt to escape corking.

The police and press — as usual — leapt to the assumption that the cyclists were at fault, and weren’t about to let the facts get in the way.

And — ignoring any questions about the propriety and effectiveness of Critical Mass and corking tactics — the cyclists were wrong for retaliating against the driver, however justified they may have felt at the time. Once the driver struck the cyclists, they should have simply taken down his license or taken a picture (I keep my camera phone in reach when I ride for exactly that reason) and reported it to the police. Then it would have been a clear case of hit-and-run, the cyclists, rather than the driver, would be seen as the victims, and both the police and press might have been a little more sympathetic.

Instead, everyone loses. Especially the biking community.

News from back home: Protecting the public from two-abreast cyclists

Evidently, there’s a flap over bicycling back in my hometown. Or rather, just outside it.

According to the League of American Bicyclists, Fort Collins, Colorado is officially a bike friendly city. But if an article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times is any indication, that friendliness doesn’t extend past the city limits.

Back in May of this year —  evidently, news from Colorado still gets here by Pony Express —  a couple of bicyclists from the nearby liberal bastion of Boulder committed the outrageous offense of riding into the county two abreast.

I know, I know, the horror of it all. Especially on a country road, where drivers are just as likely to be impeded by some farmer’s John Deere combine as by spandex-clad cyclists. And even though the state recently passed a law that even the bill’s sponsors say makes the practice legal in most situations.

But that’s not the way the local sheriff sees it. Taking interpretation of the law into his own hands, he’s decided that his reading of the statute overrides the authors’ intent. And as a result, he says it’s a violation to ride two abreast if it could possibly impede traffic — even if no cars are actually being impeded. Or even present, for that matter.

So in an apparent attempt to make his boss the new Bull Connor of the cycling set, a deputy pulled the riders over, and in the words of the cyclists, told them “don’t let the sun set on your behind in my county.” (The deputy denies saying that, of course.)

So what’s next? Meeting riders at the county line with fire hoses and police dogs?

Granted, the riders weren’t ticketed. But the message was clear. Obey the sheriff’s personal interpretation of the law — despite the lack of any court rulings in support of his stand — or stay the hell out of his county.

Now, I probably rode every square inch of that county when I lived there. And yes, I realize that the population has grown since I left, and there are more riders and drivers competing for the same amount of road space.

But if drivers can’t manage to peacefully co-exist on the kind of quiet country road John Denver used to rhapsodize about without the local sheriff taking sides, there is something seriously wrong.

He says that spandex makes people lose their sense of humor. I think maybe his badge is a little too tight.


In case you missed it, a member of the Bike Writers Collective got on his soap box last month to suggest that our local constabulary can get pretty heavy-handed, too. Our old friend Pops — a former Boulderite himself — points out that Seattle’s Critical Mass got badly out of control this past weekendand a local blogger from the eternally overcast city suggests it’s time to do something before the Mass really does go critical. And here’s what can happen to downtown bikes when Big Brown backs up.

Rider on the swarm


I’ve mentioned a few times on here that I’m focused on getting back into shape after a bad riding accident last year. So maybe it’s time I told you what happened.

It was one of those perfect L.A. days. The kind people back east think we have everyday, and we hardly ever get in real life. I was just relaxing with an easy spin along the coast, when something zipped past my face. Then another…and another.

And I realized it was the leading edge of the biggest swarm of bees I’d ever seen — at least 30 feet wide, with thousands, or even tens of thousands, of bees buzzing around in every possible direction. And I was already inside it.

I had no way of knowing if they were angry or docile, and to be honest, I have no idea if I’m allergic to bees or not. But I figured this wasn’t the time to find out. So I just put my head down and pedaled as if my life depended on it. Because for all I knew, it did.

Then just as fast, I came out on the other side, thinking that I’d made out okay, when I looked down and saw that I was literally crawling with bees everywhere I could see. And I could only imagine what there was where I couldn’t see.

And then, nothing.

The next thing I knew, a lifeguard was placing an oxygen mask over my face and asking if I knew where I was.

Fortunately, I’d picked a good place to land, just a few feet from the new county lifeguard headquarters next to Will Rogers State Beach, right where they used to film Baywatch. They’d found me unconscious, off my bike and laying flat on my face, and said I’d been out at least a couple minutes.

Of course, all I wanted to do was thank them for their time, get back on my bike and finish my ride. But by then, the paramedics were there, and I was on my way to the ER at St. Johns.

I still thought I was fine. The docs in the ER thought otherwise, though. That led to a couple nights in intensive care, as a result of A) a moderate concussion, B) a bulging disc in my neck, C) a massive hematoma on my right hip, literally the size of a football, and D) major blood loss due to the hematoma. In fact, my blood pressure crashed three times that first night, dropping as low as 56 over 38 before stabilizing at around 90 over 60 — still too low, but just enough to avoid a transfusion.

So if I had gotten back on my bike to ride home, chances are, I might not have survived the night. Even if, by some miracle, I actually managed to get there. And if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

They sent me home with firm instructions not to leave the house for next two weeks, and no exercise — at all — for the remainder of the year.

I remember reading in Bicycling that it takes about two weeks of rehab for every week you’re off the bike due to an injury. By that standard, I should be back where I was by the end of this month. And yes, I’m close, but I’m not there yet. I still find myself struggling at times — though I often look down and see that at least I’m struggling in a higher gear now.

And I still have no idea what really happened, though. My injuries suggest that I must have fallen hard to one side, flipped or rolled over to hit the other side, and somehow ended up doing a face plant on the asphalt. But hey, your guess is as good as mine.

For all I know, Godzilla could have risen up out of the blue Pacific and slammed me down, before slinking off to ravage Tokyo once again. Though you’d think something like that would have made the local news, at least.

I keep trying to figure it out whenever I ride past that spot, but they tell me those memories are probably gone for good. Which, all things considered, could be a good thing.

Oh, and the bees? Not one sting.

Go figure, huh?

A big thank you to the L.A. County Lifeguards, the EMTs from L.A.F.D. Station 69 in Pacific Palisades, and the ER staff at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica — you guys are the best. Streetsblog reviews Dodger Stadium’s new combination bike rack and smoking lounge. The Times’ Joel Stein misses the good old days of bikers on dope. And finally, Councilmember Tom LaBonge is big on bikes, as long as their riders aren’t into holiday lights.

Shocked — shocked! — I am to find bikes on the bike path

I never cease to be amazed at people who are shocked — shocked! — to discover bikes on the bike path.

Like the people who casually stroll along the bike lanes on Santa Monica’s Montana Avenue, the Marvin Braude (nee Santa Monica) bike path along the beach is inexplicably full of people who seem to have no clue that they might actually encounter bicycles as they blithely ignore the Bikes Only and No Pedestrian markings under their feet.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking the entire 22.3 mile length of the path. The upper portion along Will Rogers State Beach is usually okay, as is the lower portion through the South Bay, at least until you get to Hermosa Beach. No, I’m referring to the vastly over-populated portion from the Venice Pier north to the walkway under PCH at West Channel Road.

I’ve had a number of bizarre encounters there over the years, such as the time a toddler darted out from the parking lost directly in front of me. I jammed on my brakes and managed to come to a panic stop just inches from her.

So did the bystanders chastise her parents, for letting a small child run unsupervised like that? Or did they commend me for riding defensively, and putting the safety of a child ahead of my own?

Of course not.

Instead, I got to hear an old guy complaining about “all the damn bicycles on the bike path.” And I rode off, wondering just exactly what he expected to find there.

Then there was the woman so engrossed in her cell phone conversation that she stepped directly onto the bike path — and right in front of me — without ever looking up. So I yelled out a warning and learned hard to my left, then immediately back to the right, carving a perfect C shape right around her.

And then I made my big mistake. I stopped to make sure she was okay.

She started screaming at me — without ending her call, of course — for having the audacity to frighten her. Never mind that if she’d done the same thing on a city street, she’d probably be dead now. Or that a less experience cyclist probably would have crashed right into her, sending both of us to the ER.

No, as far as she was concerned, she was blameless and I was the bad guy, just because I tried to spare us both from serious injury.

In other words, blame bicyclists first.

Or take the large family of very large Texans I encountered near the volleyball courts awhile back. There were about 12 of them, all gathered in a group and completely blocking the entire bike path in both directions.

Eternal optimist that I am, I assumed that they would move aside to let me pass when I got close. But no, they just stared at me, their bovine expressions unchanging as they gazed at the approaching cyclist.

Polite requests to pass accomplished nothing. So finally I came to a full stop just feet in front of them and, exasperated, yelled at them to get out of the way.

That had the same effect as poking an enraged bull. The women started screaming at me and the men started moving angrily towards me. One woman, apparently the matriarch of the group, sputtered that they were from Texas, and had never encountered such rudeness.

So let’s recap, shall we? They were far from home, blocking a major pathway, preventing anyone else from passing in any direction, and ignoring every reasonable request for passage.

And I was the rude one?

Finally, some other riders approaching on the other side of the group called for them to move, as well, and slowly they gave way to either side, not unlike Moses parting the Red Sea.

And I rode off, wishing them a safe and speedy return to Texas.

Okay, so I may have left out the safe part.

Today’s must reads: Streetsblog reminds readers about tonight’s DWP meeting to discuss the annual Festival of Lights, giving us an opportunity to protest their absurd — and illegal — ban on bicycles (thanks to Alex Thompson for pointing us to section 21 of the state vehicle code). Speaking of Alex, he’s posted a beautiful reverie on racing a magical wave on Ballona Creek. The Time’s Bottleneck Blog provides the details of the proposed sales tax increase, which still lacks any provision for bicycles and pedestrians. And finally, sad news from my home town, where one rider was killed and another severely injured when they were stuck from behind by a drunk driver — at 5:20 in the morning.

What is it with Montana? (And no, I don’t mean Hannah.)

Well, it happened again.

I decided to take Montana back home through Santa Monica at the end of my morning ride. (I know. I know. I usually take San Vicente, but every now and then it’s fun to see celebutants in their native habitat.)

So I’m hammering uphill, an unbroken string of parked cars on my right, and an unbroken line of traffic on my left. And directly in front of me is a young couple, casually sauntering along the bike lane.

Naturally, I assume that they’ve just existed a car — though why both would exit on the left is beyond me — and will soon make their way to the sidewalk. But no, they just continue to stroll along the bike lane, turning it into their own personal walkway and passing up several opportunities to move out of the road.

Finally, there’s nowhere for me to go, so I urge them — as politely as possible under the circumstances — to get out of the way.

Their response?

“Fuck you.”

And there’s the problem.

I mean, I can understand the attitude of outlaw bikers. No, really, I can. Because even when we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be, doing exactly what we’re supposed to do, there’s a sizable segment of the local population that looks at us and says, “fuck you.”



Once again, the Croix de Fer and Alpe d’Huez separate the men from the boys, but Saturday’s time trial is looking big. And why can’t Versus manage to cram in just a little more racing in between the commercials? Evidently, right-wing columnists do more than just out covert CIA agents, but they need a cyclist to tell them what they’ve just done. Last chance to sign a letter urging the Metro Board to do the right thing, and fund projects to help keep cyclists and pedestrians safe and alive. Outdoor Urbanite reports on a fat tire fork perfect for riding the Forest of Endor. And after a hard ride on Thursday, I plan to celebrate the holiday with a nice Chamucos Reposado.

We’re here. We ride. Get used to it.

Let’s go back to those Letters to the Editor we were discussing yesterday, now that the Times finally has them online. (You may have to search for the letters the paper printed on Saturday.)

The first printed letter, signed by Cecelia Grace of Los Angeles, ends with this: Motorists will respect cyclists when cyclists respect the rules of the road.

In other words, drivers don’t need to drive safely around us, because we just don’t deserve it. It’s our fault that, because of our bad behavior, they get mad and run us off the road. Isn’t that the same excuse every spouse batterer used? It’s not my fault, because you made me do it.

Or from the second letter they published on Saturday, from Lillie Reines of L.A., referring to those bad, bad people who ride for recreation: They are the ones who come steaming down the curves and cut off cars pulling out of driveways. They are the ones who encourage road rage.

Yes, she actually wrote that we encourage road rage. And the Times, for reasons that will forever escape me, actually printed it.

So let’s just make this as clear as humanly possible:

No one encourages a road rage incident, any more than they encourage a drive-by shooting.

Yes, there are rude cyclists, as well as riders who seem to feel the law does not apply to them, just as there are drivers — and pedestrians, for that matter — who demonstrate the same dangerous traits.

But no one deserves to be the victim of violence. Not drivers. Not pedestrians. And certainly not cyclists, no matter how egregiously rude or law-flaunting they may or may not be.

The simple fact is, a motor vehicle is not a weapon, nor is it an instrument of justice. It is not a tool of divine retribution or an outlet for even the most righteous anger. It is, simply, a car. A means of transportation. A way of getting from here to there.

And we are not your victims.

Cyclists may or may not deserve your respect, but you are required to give it, nonetheless. That is the agreement you make when you accept a drivers license. We are legally entitled to use the roadway, and you are legally required to let us do so, no more or less than you would any other vehicle.

And there is nothing we can do on or from the seat of a bicycle that would justify anyone using a vehicle as a weapon against any one of us, or any other human being. Nothing we may do gives you the right to kill, maim, injure or threaten us in any way.


So if a cyclist impedes your progress or breaks the law, call the police. It’s their job, let them deal with it.

If a rider is rude or insulting in any way, feel free to be rude in return. Give him the finger. Yell something. Or better yet, be the better man — or woman — and turn the other cheek. Just grit your teeth, go around him and get on with your life. You can tell your friends all about it later, as they nod in agreement and chime in with their own stories about all those rude and aggressive cyclists.

And we can go home to our wives, husbands, children, dogs, cats and/or goldfish.

Because, like it or not, we have a right to ride.

We have a right to the road.

We have a right to live.

And we’re not going anywhere.


According to yesterday’s article in the Times, anecdotal evidence suggests that more people are taking up cycling (sorry, drivers), and we need to find a way to live together. If you don’t like sharing the streets with us, it could be worse — according to the Bottleneck Blog’s Steve Hymon, we could be passing you the next time you’re stuck in gridlock on the 405. And LAist points out that those on two feet can be just as annoying as those of us on two wheels.


Socially conscious commuters? Or law-flaunting demons from hell?

There’s an intersection in front of my building with a 4-way stop. You don’t have to stand there very long to note that most cars passing through fail to come to anything near a complete stop; many go right through without even slowing down, as if the stop sign wasn’t there. Or as if standard traffic laws don’t apply to them.

And don’t get me started on turn signals. The drivers who actually signal their intentions, at this or any other Los Angeles intersection, sometimes seem rare enough to be the exception, rather than the rule.

Based on those observations, I could assume that everyone behind the wheel in Los Angeles is a bad driver.

I know that’s not true, though. I’m a driver myself — one who actually takes the time to observe stop signs and use his turn signals. And everyday, I see other people driving courteously and carefully; they’re just not the ones who stand out.

Or any time I’m out on Santa Monica Blvd, it’s almost a given that I’ll see someone in an expensive sports car — or driving like he wishes he had one — weaving dangerously in and out of traffic at speeds far above the posted limit. That could lead me to assume that all drivers of high-performance vehicles speed and drive recklessly; yet, again, I often see Porsches, Ferraris, Vantages and other high-powered vehicles driven as placidly as a soccer mom’s minivan.

So why do so many people in this town think that all bicyclists are alike?

You see it all the time in the comments that follow virtually any online post about bicycling, such as the comments on the Times website concerning the good  doctor’s Mandeville Canyon brake test, or on bulletin boards such as  Craigslist, like this comment.  Or you could have seen it again in the Times’ Letters to the Editor on Saturday, in response to the paper’s editorial urging drivers to stop harassing cyclists. (Inexplicably, the Times has posted letters from everyday except Saturday on their site; I’m including the link on the off chance that they might rectify their oversight.)

Bicyclists are aggressive. They flaunt the law. They (gasp!) ride two or more abreast.

Take this excerpt from one of Saturday’s letters: Cyclists are insistent about their right to equal use of the road (ed: actually, the California vehicle code is insistent on that), but they couldn’t care less about following the rules of the road. Only the privileges apply to them, not the responsibilities.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The biking community includes everyone from casual beach cruisers to off roaders to fixies to road racers, with a multitude of attitudes and riding styles in between. Some flaunt the law, others — I dare say, most — observe it to varying degrees.

Others carve out an exemption of one sort or another from the greater mass of evil riders, such as the next writer, who distinguishes from those “going green” and riding for transportation purposes, and other riders simply out for recreation. Of course, in her eyes, the “green” riders are the ones who observe riding etiquette, while the “pleasure riders” are the ones who “encourage road rage.” (Ed: more on that tomorrow.)

Isn’t it just possible, however, that some cyclists ride for both pleasure and transportation? Couldn’t someone commute on two wheels during the week, then don spandex before hitting the road for pleasure on the weekends?

As I’ve noted before, I try to ride safely and courteously, stopping for stop signs and red lights, and giving drivers room to pass whenever possible. And from what I’ve seen on the road, I’m not the only one. I often find myself striking up a conversation with other riders waiting patiently for the light to change — including, on occasion, members of professional racing teams in town for one reason or another.

Sure, there are rude and dangerous riders out there, just as there are rude and dangerous drivers. And they aren’t all high-speed roadies; I’ve seen as many — if not more — casual riders blow through red lights as I have those on high-end racing bikes. But my own personal experience tells me they are the exceptions, rather than the rule.

Judging from comments like these, though, there seem to be a number of people here in the City of Fallen Angels who assume we all have 666 birthmarks hidden somewhere under our spandex.


The Times discusses rage-less road sharing today, Westside Bikeside! recounts the comments of a clueless councilman in neighboring Santa Monica, and Streetsblog talks with an expert on remorseless, horn-blaring sociopaths.

What goes around…

There’s an intersection near my home, with a short, steep hill leading down on one side, and an equally short, steep hill leading back up the other.

And a stop sign in between.

If there’s no cross traffic, you can gain enough speed on the way down to blow through the stop sign and roll up the next hill without having to pedal — which comes in pretty handy at the end of a long, hard ride.

That’s what I always did, anyway. Until one time there was a little boy waiting on the corner with his father. And as I blew through the intersection, he pointed at me and said, “I want to be just like him.”

And I realized that I’d just taught a little kid to run stop signs.

So that was the last time I ever did that. Sure, I may roll through an intersection after braking almost to a stop — the same way most drivers do in this town. But blast through a stop sign like it isn’t even there?

No mas.

Then again, I also stop for red lights. As a driver, as well as a cyclist, I know how annoying it is to see a cyclist blow through a light while I’m stuck there waiting for it to change. And I’ve seen too many close calls when cross traffic suddenly appears out of nowhere.

I wave cars through the intersection if there’s any question over who has the right of way — or if it looks like they won’t let me have it — and wave them around me if they’re reluctant to pass when I can see it’s safe to do so.

I try to stay out of the way of traffic as much as possible, whether by riding in a bike lane or sticking as close to the right as I think is safe under the circumstances. And if I need to take a lane, I’ll signal my intention and cut over once someone makes room for me, then try to match the speed of traffic and move back over as soon as possible — and give the driver behind me a wave to thank him for following safely.

Do I ride this way because I’m some goody-two-shoes who doesn’t have the, uh…guts to ride more aggressively?

Yeah, right. I have X-rays that would argue otherwise.

No, I do it because I’ve learned that discretion really is the better part of valor, and that riding is more fun when you get back home in the same condition you were in when you left. Or reasonably close to it, anyway.

And because I hope that by showing a little courtesy and respect to the drivers around me, they may show the same consideration to the next rider they meet.

And that might just be you.

A couple quick links: The L.A. Times encourages drivers to share the road (thanks to Mike Wally for posting the link; I missed somehow it the first time around). Our cycling troubles make news across the pond. Hizzoner blows off Damien Newton and Joe Linton, along with our lousy 1% — we need to remind him that cyclists vote, too. And according to LAist, skateboarders do the crime, cyclists do the time.

%d bloggers like this: