Last week, I was riding along Ocean Blvd through Santa Monica, on my way home from a long ride to the South Bay, through that section just above the pier lined with upscale restaurants and boutique hotels.
Shortly ahead, an SUV signaled for a right and turned across the bike lane into a parking lot entrance. Granted, state law says drivers should enter the bike lane before making their turn, rather than cut across the lane, in order to prevent right-hook collisions. Then again, it’s only been on the books for 32 years, so I could understand his confusion.
The truck was far enough ahead that it didn’t pose an issue for me, though.
Until he changed his mind, that is.
First he backed up a little, then pulled to the curb as if he was going to park there. Then without warning, he changed his mind again, and started moving back across the bike lane to re-enter traffic.
Problem was, by then I was right next to him.
So I yelled out a loud warning, and reached out to slap the side of his car. He braked to a stop about three-quarters of the way into the bike lane — a few more inches and he would have pushed me out directly into the path of an oncoming car. I managed to slip past and rode on, taking a few blocks to calm myself down and let my heart rate return to a more sustainable level.
I didn’t bother to look back.
Experience tells me there’s a slight chance I would have gotten a gesture of apology. More likely, I would have gotten the same sort of response I’ve gotten countless times before. The same response Josef got last week when a careless — or maybe uncaring — driver nearly ran him over.
I’ve found that it doesn’t matter if I’m in a designated bike lane, riding exactly where and how I’m supposed to. Or how dangerous or careless a driver — or sometimes, a pedestrian or another cyclist — happens to be.
Eight times out of 10, I’ll get the finger, the horn, the hurled insult. The ninth, I’ll get an invitation to fight, or at least, an aggressive vehicular acceleration punctuated by a sharp turn across my path — especially if I commit the unforgivable crime of touching their precious vehicle in a self-serving attempt to get their attention and avoid getting killed.
So frankly, looking back just wasn’t worth the added aggravation.
Take Josef’s experience for example.
First the driver zoomed around him after he’d taken the lane — even though he was riding at the posted speed of traffic — then cut back in front of him and slammed on her brakes when the light changed. A bit later, he was riding right next to her when she changed lanes despite his shouted warning, hitting the box he was carrying in his bakfiets.
And while his response wasn’t exactly designed to win friends and influence people, as someone who’d just been hit by a car and knocked off his bike, he deserved better than the finger and “F*** you!” he got in response.
Then there was this exchange, in which the generally genial and self-composed Bike Girl was brought to tears by a driver who informed her that the life of another human being wasn’t worth an extra one-second delay — all that it would have taken to wait until Bike Girl had passed to change lanes safely. And this for the crime of riding in the lane, on one of the frequent occasions when that clearly fits the definition of “as far right as practicable.”
Another vigilante driver who was willing to try, and convict, a cyclist for an imagined violation of the law — then carry out the sentence herself, even if that results in the death penalty.
Remind you of anyone?
Before he changed his story and claimed it was all just an accident, the Good Doctor allegedly told police he slammed on his brakes in front of two cyclists “to teach them a lesson.”
Today, in the trial of Dr. Christopher Thompson, Ron Peterson was shown a photo of hole in the broken rear windshield of the Good Doctor’s Lexus.
And said “My face did that.”
Nice lesson, doc.
Thanks to the times for covering the opening arguments in the Mandeville Brake Check trial. Will Campbell visits the Berlin Wall on today’s ride to work. Travelin’ Local takes a look at Bike Stations. Someone is deliberately trying to injure New Mexico cyclists booby trapped bike trails in Albuquerque. Remembering possibly the greatest cyclist of all time, who ruled the two-wheeled world a century before Lance. New turn signal and automatic brake light for bikes. More cyclists on the roads mean more injuries. A bike-friendly New Amsterdam may someday rival the old one as a tourist destination. Slate takes a look at vehicular and facilitator cycling. Honda thinks the best way to teach cycling is on a simulator. Drugs and doping take the life of a former cycling hero. In more news from New Zealand, police seek the hit-and-run killer of a popular doctor, while friends ride in his honor and an elderly repeat offending drunk driver gets her license back just a month after she murdered a cyclist. Finally, next time Beyonce is in town, I’m going out riding; you never know who you’ll meet out there.