Here’s the problem with biking in L.A. Okay, one of ’em, anyway.
This is a city where the car is God, and any heretic who gets in its path is taking his life in his hands. Sure, the law gives us a right to the road. But that only extends as far as the bumper of the cars around us.
L.A. is a town full of angry drivers, already upset about slogging their way through heavy traffic and steaming about the last driver(s) who cut them off — let alone the high cost of fueling their Hummers. And when they find there route momentarily slowed by people shrink-wrapped in ridiculous spandex outfits, that rage often boils over.
Latest case in point: the recent 4th of July incident in Mandeville Canyon, in which two local riders were intentionally injured by a driver who sped around them, then slammed on the brakes just feet in front of their wheels. As you might expect, both riders were badly injured, one eating the pavement after clipping the car’s fender, while the other did a face plant in the rear windshield, nearly losing his nose in the process. The driver — a doctor, no less — just stood there screaming at the injured riders and refusing to offer any medical care to the people he injured.
At least this time, the local gendarmes made an arrest.
We’ve all been there. Anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time riding the mean streets of the misnamed City of Angels has their own stories to tell of drivers who’ve intentionally doored, dinged or otherwise dusted them in some fashion. But very few of us can tell a story of the L.A.P.D. actually doing something about it.
Like there was the time some gang bangers knocked me off my bike in Venice and circled around me as I lay on the pavement. Lo and behold, I looked up and just a few feet away stood an L.A. cop. I yelled for help and the gangsters took off running — right past the officer, who stood there watching them run. So I yelled again for the cop to stop them because they had just attacked me, and I swear to God, he looked at me and said “So what do you want me to do about it?”
His job would have been nice. But I suppose what was too much to expect.
Then there was the time a driver got pissed off that I was impeding her progress on an otherwise empty street, and couldn’t be bothered to go a few feet out of her way to pass me. Instead, she followed me for about a block, honking and screaming the whole way. When I got to the stop sign at the next corner, I turned around for a moment to look at her, then signaled for my right turn (granted, I only extended one finger, but still…).
Next thing I knew, her bumper was in my back wheel and I was on the pavement. Once I gathered my wits, I blocked her path so she couldn’t leave, whipped out my cell and dialed 911. A crowd gathered. Helicopters circled. The police, finally, arrived.
Yet when the dust cleared, the local constabulary did absolutely…nothing. They accepted her contention that I had simply fallen over — from a dead stop, no less — injuring myself and causing the damage to my bike.
And instead of taking her into custody — or even writing a ticket, for chrissake — I was threatened with arrest for A) making a false 911 call and B) threatening her life; somehow, my comments of “You tried to kill me,” got twisted into “I’m going to kill you.”
Why I would want to kill a total stranger if I had simply fallen over on my own was never explained to me.
So, I may not be a rocket scientist, but I’ve learned my lesson. No more fingers. When confronted with an angry driver, just stop and let him or her pass.
And never, ever count on the L.A.P.D.