Today’s ride, on which I find genuine humanity in an unexpected source. And not so much from others.

Around noon today, I had some unexpected down time as I waited for a client to get back to me. So not wanting to waste an opportunity — or a beautiful day — I grabbed my bike and hit the road.

About 20 miles into my ride, I stopped for a quick snack, reaching into my seat bag for the box of raisins and Kashi granola bar I usually carry with me.

While I did, I saw a homeless man shuffle past, his skin and clothes filthy from head to toe. He stopped at a nearby trash can, staring at it for a few moments before lifting the lid and digging through the trash; after several seconds he came back up holding a half-eaten bag of fruit someone had thrown away.

I looked at him, then down at the unopened Kashi bar in my hand.

It wasn’t like I was considering anything all that unusual. I’ve given away a few spare tubes and patch kits to riders in need, and even been known to leave behind a multi-tool, chain tool or spanner along with my phone number — and yes, I’ve always gotten them back.

So I rolled over, held out the granola bar and asked if he’d like it. He looked it over, studying it carefully before softly saying “Yes.”

Then he slowly looked up at me, revealing crystal clear blue eyes. And looking deeply into mine, he said simply “Thank you,” with a gentle sincerity that took me by surprise.

It was all I could do to say “You’re very welcome” as I turned away, my lip quivering and tears in my eyes, humbled that anyone would be so grateful for such a small gesture.

And I rode off, thinking that, as hard as these times may be, I’ll go to bed tonight with my belly full and a roof over my head, and a wife who loves me. And a new appreciation for the many people and kindnesses and blessings in my life.

I was still thinking about that about half an hour later as I was riding in the bike lane on San Vicente Blvd.

I watched warily as a car waited to cross on a side street; just as I decided he was going to let me pass, it pulled out directly in front of me. I hit my brakes and leaned hard to the left to pass behind him, clearing his car by just inches.

As I came around on the other side, I held out my hands in the universal “What the F***?” gesture. He responded that he just didn’t see me; I said, with as much restraint as I could muster under the circumstances, “Well look next time, it’s not like I’m invisible.”

Evidently offended that his use of the universal Get Out of Jail Free excuse hadn’t bought him absolution this time, he yelled back “F*** you!”

And don’t even get me started on the driver who blared his horn when I had to swerve to avoid a right-hook, even though I barely broke the plane of his lane and didn’t obstruct his path or delay his passage one whit.

But it struck me odd that in the course of one ride, in the span of less than an hour, I saw genuine humanity and gratitude in a man who had nothing. And just the opposite from people who clearly had so much more to be grateful for, yet couldn’t spare a few seconds of their day for the life and safety of another human being.

It’s something I’ll be considering for a very long time.

But I can tell you right now which one earned my respect.

And who I can only hope to emulate.

………

The Conejo Valley Cyclists and the city Thousand Oaks will sponsor the annual Ride of Silence next Wednesday, honoring cyclists who’ve been killed on the roads; we need to see one here in L.A. next year.

………

Hemet police offer incorrect advice in response to a rash of bike crashes; instead of telling cyclists to “always ride single file” and ride “as far to the right as possible,” why not offer a little accurate advice to the people in the big dangerous machines?

………

LACBC and the Ridazz ask for your input on the top 10 finalists in their Bike Awareness slogan contest. Next up in Will Campbell’s Bike Every (Satur)Day in May series is the Frank Lloyd Wride. LACBC stops cyclists for a pre-sharrows survey. Round two of public workshops for the upcoming L.A. County bike plan. Here’s your chance to comment on NBC’s plans to blockade a planed bikeway along the L.A. River. A beginner’s guide to professional cycling. San Francisco cyclists and drivers are urged to metaphorically sing Kumbaya on the city’s streets. Bob Mionske looks at what happens when a local ordinance conflicts with state law. Cyclelicious asks why you bike to work; actually, I often bike to get away from it for awhile. Dave Moulton discovers a Fuso Tricycle made by his ex-apprentice. The newly formed Bicyclists Against Distracted Drivers offers stickers to remind cell phone users not to. A week after a pedestrian in my hometown begs bikers not to warn him, another one says please do. Even if the new bike laws pass, police can’t ticket drivers who park in nonexistent bike lanes. A Chattanooga cyclist experiences one of the best reasons to keep riding. Maryland drivers are even worse than Texans at sharing the road. Louisville offers a new bike safety video. An 80-year old truck driving gutter bunny in Florida. Two downed New York cyclists, two videos, only one conviction. Four stages of the Giro, four cyclists in pink; you’d think no one wanted it. A specter of possible sabotage for next Sunday’s 4,500 rider Etape Caledonia charity ride in Scotland. An Edinburgh cyclist says a popular street may be too dangerous for cyclists. London’s mayor offers details on the city’s planned cycling revolution.

Finally, a driver’s perspective on sharing the road with cyclists that actually makes sense. Can we clone him? Thanks to the always excellent Baltimore Spokes for posting the link.

10 comments

  1. Ty says:

    Thank you for another nice post.

    PS – that Fuso trike is cool.

  2. I often carry a bag of candy bars to hand out to the street folk.

    You need to come up to San Francisco. Up here, the homeless sneer at you if you offer a snack. A few of them will politely decline your offer before asking for cash. A couple of weeks ago a woman who told me she was really hungry asked for $6.95 to buy a sandwich at the Starbucks across the street. I should take video of that sometime.

    • bikinginla says:

      Yeah, I’ve run into that here, too. That’s one reason I hesitated to approach him – and why I was so surprised by his response.

    • Dave says:

      In Portland it seems that mostly people asking for things on the street are happy to just be engaged honestly as human beings even if you say no. Which makes sense, since most people try as hard as possible to pretend they don’t exist.

      I find it’s often the people who have the most who feel the most entitled to it. Those who don’t have as much have a much easier time understanding that no one person has any innate right to anything more than any other person. I have to remind myself of that.

  3. Ben C. says:

    I had a similar encounter just this week but unlike yours, the order of my events left me feeling optimistic for the future of riders in this city:

    It started on a quiet residential street in Larchmont Village with an impatient right-turner who decided that I was too slow off the line. She laid on the horn and revved the engine behind me, missing my back wheels by inches as she peeled out into the intersection. For the next 20 minutes I rode angry, hoping I’d catch up with her down the road to have a nice, cathartic, yelling match but it didn’t happen.

    As I crested the hill of the biggest climb of my ride I noticed an SUV trailing me, giving me a full lane all to myself. I tossed a thumbs-up, lowered into the drops, and pedaled full-tilt down the other side. When I reached the bottom I noticed that the SUV was still hanging back and had refused a chance to switch lanes and pass me. I figured an all-out sprint was the least I could do in exchange for the kindness. ;-) The SUV continued to run interference for a few more blocks before I signaled right and sped off with a wave of “thanks”. The car followed moments later, and as it sped by I caught a glimpse of a mom and her son waving to me in encouragement.

    This 30 second delay in her drive time served the dual purpose of making me feel protected during one of the dodgier stretches of my commute and giving me the incredible boost of having an audience cheering me on.

  4. ubrayj02 says:

    Ted, it’s like this: the bum was probably the only guy in this story that was cash positive.

  5. John says:

    Great post today. It’s another reminder of the way bicycling connects us with our communities and our fellow human beings in a way driving does not. In fact, when we drive in our cars, we isolate ourselves to such an extent that it has a tendency to make us more “me-centered.”

    Just my two cents.

  6. [...] over at bikinginla, finds humanity and gratitude in one man, and just the opposite in the other. It might surprise you [...]

  7. columbusite says:

    I know that while biking I’ve stopped more than once to buy a newspaper from one of the homeless here (it’s a local program), which I otherwise would not do if I were in a car.

    I hope this doesn’t get taken the wrong way, but you *are* invisible to motorists when in a bike lane: they’re not lying when they say they don’t see you. Even a concientious motorist is not going to be paying as much attention to what’s happening in the bike lane as opposed to what’s happening in their lane. You’re putting yourself in an area of reduced visibility when yo ride in the bike lane. I make sure that motorists see me by placing myself in front of them. The situations you encountered are just a couple of the dangers that a bike lane adds that are totally avoidable by driving your bike (you’d think in LA that would be the most popular way to bike).

    Look at what a joke the San Vicente Blvd bike lane is: door zone city (door zone bike lanes have resulted in deaths which are totally preventable by staying out of the door zone at all times). I would hope that one is not required by law to use the bike lane where present, but regardless I would be taking the right-hand lane since I value my safety over forcing motorists to take a couple of seconds to pass me in the left-hand lane.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=san%20vicente%20blvd%20LA&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wl

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