Is this our Howard Beale moment?

Sometimes I think I’m too political. Then there are times when I don’t think I’m political enough.

This is one of those times. Though which one, I’m not quite sure.

You see, I was always one to fight for my right to the road. A driver cuts me off or passes to close and he was going to hear about it, and I was never reluctant to give an unfriendly driver a friendly wave. Except I usually used just one finger. And it usually wasn’t that friendly.

Then one day I gave that one finger wave to the wrong woman, and she tried to shove her car up my ass. And nearly succeeded.

I had a lot of time to think as I recovered from a broken arm, and the 18 months my mangled bike was tied up as evidence in a civil case — which got me a settlement of a whopping $2500, most of which went for attorney fees.

I realized that, justified or not, things like that were counter productive, at best. All my ranting and raving never convinced a single driver that I was right, or they were wrong. Just that I was an obnoxious jerk. So now I try to keep my mouth closed, with hands firmly planted on the handlebars — though sometimes I fail, as this post from last week would suggest.

But now it seems like maybe it’s time to fight. To throw open a metaphorical window, and like the Howard Beale character from the movie Network, scream “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

Seems like every time I check the news online, I find another article like this one from Winston-Salem, describing the hit-and-run accident suffered by a local bicycling doctor. Another cyclist was killed by hit-and-run in Hawaii, but the prime suspect gets released. Michigan riders fighting for a piece of the road. Or this one from Forth Worth, that says cycling in Texas is more dangerous than it need to be — although chances are, you could change the location to anywhere else in the U.S. and it would be just as appropriate.

And that’s just from this weekend.

Even the more positive pieces, like the recent Times editorial, or  this one from Carson City, Nevada, ask drivers to share the road — and stop harassing riders or running us off the road.

Then there are the recent stories that tell us what we already know, that the police — whether here in L.A., Seattle or across the country — don’t seem to take our safety seriously. And too often, the local press doesn’t dig any deeper than the first page of the police report.

To their credit, L.A.’s finest and the local press come through for us in the wake of the good doctor’s Mandeville Canyon brake test. Whether the D.A.’s office and the court system will do the same remains to be determined.

But what happens next time, when it’s you — or me — writhing on the asphalt?

And yes, there was a lot of talk from local politicians about moving forward with the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights following the good doctor’s arrest. But now we can’t even get the Mayor and the rest of the MTA board to devote a lousy 1% each from their proposed sales tax increase to help keep cyclists and pedestrians alive. And after a brief flurry of coverage of cycling issues, the local press has moved on to more important issues, like whether Lindsey is or isn’t gay.

So I find myself getting fed up with it all, and like Howard Beale, feeling mad as hell and ready to do something about it.

And I wonder if it’s just me, or is this, finally, our moment — the time when we join together and scream at the top of our lungs, we’re not going to take it anymore. When we finally take action as a group to demand the respect of drivers, politicians and law enforcement. To insist on our rights as cyclists and as Americans. And ensure the safety of every rider, here in L.A. and around the country.

Or are we just going to get back on our bikes and let this moment — and our anger — pass forever, like all the other such moments before?

 

Streetsblog covers the exceptional police protection at last Friday’s Critical Mass in Santa Monica. The stupidest bike lane in America has been discovered right here in Westwood (though personally, I’d vote for the bike lanes on the new Santa Monica Blvd. that end without warning in Century City, leaving riders to fight for space on an over crowded, high speed thoroughfare). A student at Humbolt State may or may not have been fatally injured in a traffic accident. As if road rage wasn’t enough to worry about, someone is shooting cyclists on Long Island. Riders in New Jersey share our complaints about crowded and inadequate roadways. Finally, a writer for the Concorde Monitor suggests cyclists and drivers can all get along if we just use a little common sense and think more like fishermen.

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