I admit it.
I spend a lot of time on here making fun of drivers.
Not all drivers, of course; after all, I’m one myself. Though these days, I find myself spending less and less time behind the wheel, and more on two wheels, two feet or even — gasp! — on a bus, which is how I made it to the last few meetings I attended at City Hall.
Not only did I survive, I actually enjoyed myself. And didn’t have to spend half an hour and the entire contents of my wallet to secure a parking space nearly as far from my destination as I was when I started out.
And not even most drivers. No, I’m talking about that relative handful of intellectual giants who’ll tell you that all cyclists run red lights, despite demonstrable evidence to the contrary at just about any signalized intersection in town.
Sure, stand there long enough, and you’ll see one or more death-defying kamikaze bike pilots blow through the light as if it, and the cars crisscrossing their path, weren’t there. But you’ll also see other riders who’ll wait patiently for the light to change.
Or the ones who complain about dangerous, unpredictable cyclists hogging the traffic lane, as they sit behind the wheel of their Hummers and Escalades applying their makeup and texting.
But they do have a point, up to a point.
I would argue there are more cyclists who safely share the road, observing traffic signals and right-of-way rules, than there are those who don’t. But you don’t have to spend a lot of time on the road to spot a few who seem to push the limits of safety and sanity.
Take the rider I saw this afternoon. Please.
There he was, blithely cruising through heavy traffic on a busy L.A. boulevard, headphones on and riding in the lane with no hands, a shopping bag dangling from one hand. Fortunately, most drivers were going out of their way to give him a wide berth.
Then again, most Angelenos try to avoid crazy people in the street.
Then there was the guy on the mountain bike who was making his way on the wrong side of the same street, like a salmon going upstream to spawn. And just as a salmon dies after spawning, I wouldn’t have wanted to lay odds on his chances of survival.
It’s one thing to take the lane. But seriously, you’re far better off going with the flow of traffic, instead of wondering why all those people are honking and swearing as they swerve around you.
Of course, I’ve seen worse.
Like the guy who took the lane on Santa Monica Boulevard as he rode through Century City awhile back, despite the presence of one of the city’s better bike lanes sitting clear and unobstructed just a few feet to his right — and a long line of unexpectedly patient drivers following behind. That is, until a cab driver tried to slide by him to get to the right turn lane, and had to endure a violent tirade from the rider for trying to pass him in the bike lane. And yes, that’s the same bike lane he had no interest in using himself.
Or there were the two guys I saw blow through a red light last summer, even though that meant worming their way through a crowded crosswalk, as people struggled to jump out of their path.
For anyone out there who may not be clear on the subject, pedestrians in the crosswalk have the right-of-way. Always.
I somehow managed to resist the temptation to chase them down and shove their bikes into the same orifice their heads seemed to occupy.
Yet, if you listen to the comments these drivers make, that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do. They expect us to assume responsibility for every law-breaking jerk on two-wheels.
We’re told that it’s up the bicycling community to make the outlaw cyclists straighten up and ride right. And that’s the only way we’ll earn the respect of drivers, and earn our place on the streets.
Which is absurd, of course.
While I would hope that everyone would learn to ride safely — and use a little common sense while they’re at it — our right to the road is already guaranteed by law. It’s not something that has to be earned, or a consideration given by those who share the road with us.
They’re obligated to share the road, safely, regardless of whether they think it’s safe, or smart. And whether they like it or not.
How someone else rides is no more your responsibility than those who speed, fail to signal or make illegal U-Turns are my responsibility when I’m behind the wheel, or that of any other driver on the road.
And until they get that, I don’t expect their respect.
And people like that shouldn’t expect ours.
One of the few things I’ve never experienced on a bike — two flats at the same time, from the same pothole. Creek Freak notes improvements to the Elysian Valley Bike Path. The issue isn’t why more men support vehicular cycling, but why so few women ride. Riding Miami’s life-risking Rickenbaker Causeway, two weeks after another rider is killed. Are bikes expensive toys or serious transportation? A Kiwi Olympian is injured in crossing collision in bike-unfriendly Christchurch. In Copenhagen, even manhole covers are bike friendly. Finally, a reminder that people can’t be put back together after an accident.