As I was riding today, I was still a little steamed about last week’s unpleasant interaction with a driver who tried to tell me off after he nearly hit me — even though I had the right of way and was riding safely.
I was also considering his anger, and my unfortunate reaction to it, in the context of the anti-cyclist comments that are all too common online — such as the recent ones on the Times’ website.
You see, to a certain segment of the driving population, we seem to be an almost evil presence on the road — something to be tolerated, at best. Or for some, to be run off the road, if possible. Whether literally or figuratively.
To those people, there are no good cyclists.
As far as they’re concerned, we’re a breed of rude, arrogant, two-wheeled law-flaunting scofflaws who block the road, don’t signal, consistently run stop lights and never, ever observe stop signs. Especially the ones they see as the ultimate, crème de la vile crème of roadway criminality — the spandex-clad racers and recreational riders.
Of course, you don’t have to watch the road very long to notice that many, if not most, riders actually do signal, as well as stop for — and wait out — red lights, and observe stops at least as often and well as most local drivers do.
But it seems that many drivers don’t notice the countless riders they pass who ride safely; just the few who blow through lights or commit some other unforgivable act. Even if it’s something that other drivers do on a near daily basis.
So that’s what I was thinking when I was stopped at 7th on San Vicente, and another rider — also a spandex-wrapped roadie — came up behind me.
We struck up a conversation, and once the light changed, fell in together as we rode side-by-side up the hill and back down the other side.
Turned out he was a pretty a nice guy. We discussed how nice it was to be riding in 80 degree weather when people back east are digging themselves out from the latest storm. About his work in the film industry, and the prospects for yet another crippling strike. And about his avocation a racer — an expert-level mountain biker, and a CAT-4 roadie who competed in last year’s Brentwood Grand Prix.
As we rode, an interesting thing happened. As the outside rider, when something came up that posed a risk for me on the inside, he’d briefly move out into the traffic lane to give me a little more room. And when I noticed something that could force him into traffic, I slowed down just enough to let him pass before moving back up beside him.
Just two riders working together to keep each other safe, without having to exchange a single word.
And despite riding tandem for nearly two miles, up and down hill, we both stayed comfortably within the bike lane virtually the entire time, allowing traffic to pass by uninterrupted. No red lights were run, no drivers inconvenienced.
So if some drivers insist on blaming us all for the actions of a few, I guess I can live it that.
Then a little further on, I encountered another cyclist. This time, it was an older woman riding slowly as she struggled up a short, steep hill and around a sharp corner.
As I approached her, I noticed a car coming up from behind, and realized that the driver’s view of the woman was blocked — and would have no idea she was there when he rounded the corner.
So I swung out around her, taking the corner much wider than I usually would, and blocking the lane to prevent the driver from going by.
I’m not sure the woman even knew what I was doing. But once the driver rounded the corner and saw her, he seemed to understand what I was doing, and why. So I moved back to the right to let him by, and he passed both of us — very safely — with about six feet of clearance.
Just one cyclist looking out for another.
Illuminate LA offers a guide for reducing cycling collisions, with studies to back it up. LA Rides provides a pair of maps for riding safely between Westwood and Mar Vista. No Whip describes a 75-mile ride on and off road through the hills of L.A. Ubrayj envisions a car-free Lincoln Park. Will gets excited about volunteering for the Tour of California. Cynergy Cycles announces their Women’s Week, a week of exclusive events for female riders; too bad their website isn’t as cool as the email, which I can’t link too. The Daily News calls on the MTA to speed up its support of cyclists. And finally, Streetsblog talks about the need to reform the laws governing cycling, while Indiana is in the process of doing something about it, with the support of the local paper.