Tuesday’s ride, in which I discover that not all dangerous jerks ride on four wheels

Recently, Santa Monica’s Parks and Rec Commissioner commented about how dangerous the beachfront bike path can be.

I experienced that for myself yesterday, when I was almost nailed by another cyclist who couldn’t seem to grasp what the problem was.

I’d thought I was going to be stuck at home all day, despite the best weather we’d seen in a few weeks. But as the morning progressed, I found myself with an unexpected opportunity to get out for a quick ride, so I grabbed my bike and took off for the coast.

Apparently, a lot of other people were distracted by the lovely day, too.

I could almost count on getting left crossed and right hooked, cars pulling out in front of me and doors flying open unexpectedly. But a little defensive riding kept me out of harms way.

Still, I was having a very enjoyable ride as I come down the bike path below the Palisades, headed towards the pier. I had just passed the life guard headquarters, and was approaching the end of the parking lot below the life guard station, at the point where the bike path takes a short jog to the left before turning right and down a short hill.

While I usually prefer to stay on the bike path to enjoy the view, a lot of riders take the more direct route through the parking lot there. And sure enough, I saw a rider coming up on my left through the parking lot to merge onto the bike path.

A quick mental calculation indicated we were on a direct collision course; if neither of us changed our pace, I would arrive at the access point just in time for him to t-bone me.

Since I was already in the superior position on the path, prudence would have dictated that he should yield and pull in safely behind me. But sometimes, prudence is nothing more than a woman’s name. And not a fashionable one at that.

As I watched, he accelerated, picking up his cadence in an apparent attempt to beat me. Sure enough, he darted onto the path just feet in front of me, as I feathered my brakes to avoid a collision.

As he darted down the hill, I yelled out “a**hole!”

And instantly regretted it.

Not because his riding didn’t deserve it, but because I’ve learned over the years that the only thing you accomplish by calling someone that is to convince them that you’re one yourself. And it didn’t fail in this case, either.

Clearly, he heard me, as he slowed down to let me catch up to him, anger evident on his face. Yet in typical passive aggressive style, insisted that the only problem was my anger over something so trivial as risking the safety of a total stranger.

It was clear that any discussion would be a waste of breath, so I just rode on, leaving him in my wake.

Yet a few moments later, he was at my side again, demanding to know what he did wrong. So I pointed out that he had sped up to cut me off, and said that what he did was no different than what a bad driver might have done. And that merely avoid a collision wasn’t good enough, any more than it is when a driver thinks he passed safely after buzzing you, just because he didn’t actually make contact.

And that he would be just as angry if someone did to him.

Instead of conceding the point, though, he denied accelerating — despite having started out well behind me, yet somehow miraculously getting there before me.

Again, it was evident that I was wasting my time, so I refocused on my own riding as he once again dropped back behind me.

This time, though, he slipped into my wake, and drafted on me for about half a mile. Then out of the blue, called out from behind, asking me to get out of his way so he could finish his ride — despite a wide open lane on the other side of the center line where he could have easily gone around me.

Once again, exactly like drivers all too often do, honking and yelling behind a cyclist rather than just pulling around to pass.

So I moved to my right and slowed to let him go by, sincerely hoping that I wouldn’t see him again.

I’ve long suspected that people ride the way they drive. So it wouldn’t surprise me if he would have done exactly the same thing if we’d met when he was behind the wheel.

All I know is that’s not the kind of person I want to share a road or path with, on two wheels or four. And proving once again that anyone can learn to ride fast, but it takes experience and effort to learn to ride well.

And for once, I understood what drivers are talking about when they complain about dangerously aggressive cyclists.

Turns out it’s not a myth, after all.

.………

If you’re not busy Wednesday evening, stop by the Palms Neighborhood Council, as Mayor Villaraigosa stops by to discuss making the streets safer for cyclists. Or discuss the Santa Monica Bike Plan with special guest Long Beach Mobility Coordinator Charlie Gandy. Meanwhile, Gary sums up coverage of the recent SaMo Bike Plan Workshop, and takes a consultant to task for the absurd comment that all the easy bike projects have been done already.

.………

Amazingly, the bike lane on eastbound Ohio near the VA Hospital has been restriped and moved out of the badly broken asphalt along the gutter; I’ve long considered this the worst bike lane on the Westside, so the news is more than welcome. Interestingly, I just rode that section on my way home Tuesday afternoon and nothing had been done yet; clearly, they worked fast.

.………

Council candidate Stephen Box releases his first campaign video. Don Ward, aka Rhode Block, responds to his well-deserved honor as Advocate of the Year. The city authorizes a $50,000 reward in the murder of a 14-year old bike rider. Mark your calendar for the next Streetsblog event on Tuesday, January 18th, as they join with KPCC, American Institute of Architects, Pasadena and Foothill Chapter, and Pasadena Magazine to discuss Planning the Future of Our Streets. The L.A. Business Journal looks at the story behind Riding Bikes With the Dutch.

Bike San Diego says 2011 will be the year of the bike in our neighbor to the south. A Davis cyclist is left crossed by a 78-year old driver, while a Modesto cyclist is killed in a right hook while riding in a crosswalk without a light. CHP investigators are “getting pretty close” to an arrest in a fatal Redding-area hit-and-run last November. California’s new higher threshold for grand theft will be “bad for bikes, and bad for bike business.” Life as a diabetic cyclist. Courtesy of Just Another Cyclist comes word of DIY bike snow tires.

Ending the mythical war on the car, or how to talk to conservatives and drivers; a writer for London’s Guardian newspaper astutely asks where the victims of this so-called war are, maybe the real war is the one on bikes. The focus for government should be on comprehensive policy measures to make cycling safer, not helmet laws. The old saw that roads pay for themselves turns out to be a myth, and cyclists probably overpay for our share of the road; dig deep into the details with the full report. Virtually ride through virtually any neighborhood with Google Bike. Safe passing bills are introduced in Virginia and Washington state, but not everyone thinks the Washington law is a good idea. Taking a stand against a dangerous project in Montana. A DC cyclist spots his stolen bike and politely leaves a note on it. The new year claims its second victim in Florida.

The best way to protect cyclists and pedestrians could be to make driving more dangerous. Researchers call for a ban on large trucks in cities after finding they’re involved in 43% of fatal bike collisions — despite making up just 4% of traffic. An Edinburgh city councilor gets criticism for claiming mileage when travelling by bike. A Dutch formula for calculating the benefits of cycling, including cupcakes consumed. Bike helmets may offer protection for children, but can be dangerous when not riding. Say it ain’t so, Jeannie — the ageless Jeannie Long-Ciprelli, one of the greatest cyclists of all time, hints at retirement at age 52.

Finally, the former king of Bhutan takes up cycling to support the county’s GNH — Gross National Happiness. Imagine what could happen in this country if our leaders actually focused on what would make us happy.

And seriously, don’t build jumps on multi-use trails; that won’t make anyone happy.

7 comments

  1. Digital Dame says:

    Oh they’re definitely out there. Sometimes they actually dare someone to hit them. You know I ride, and I know how to make a left turn at an intersection, so I was dumbfounded when, in my car one day in a left-turn lane, a cyclist in the left-turn lane across the road start riding directly AT me, glaring at me as I tried to cut the wheel hard enough to avoid hitting him so we could both make a left turn. I don’t understand what kind of technique he thought he was using by riding into the oncoming lane to make a left turn. But geezuz you should have seen the look he gave me. I nearly had to turn my car into the oncoming lane to my left to avoid him. It should have been a simple turn, both of us turning into opposite directions, but I guess he felt like it was the right time to make some kind of statement.

  2. [...] V.A.’s office has been restriped and moved out of the gutter.  Before this welcome change, Biking In L.A. referred to this bike lane as “the worst bike lane on the [...]

  3. sahra says:

    is it really the first time you’ve met an aggressive jerk on a bike? count yourself lucky. i’ve been riding/bike commuting for 16 years and have lost count of how many i’ve encountered or observed, sadly. recently, i watched a guy on a brakeless fixie actually SPIT into a driver’s open window because he thought–wrongly–the guy hadn’t given him enough space when changing lanes in front of him to make a right turn. the same dude had blown by me on the right a few seconds earlier without letting me know he was there and startling the crap out of me. he didn’t need to do that–there was a lane and a half open alongside me. i don’t know if he was just showing off or purposely trying to startle me. but he’s not the first guy to do that to me on the road.

    there are definitely a sizeable number of jerks out there who think traffic laws are for sissies and seem not to care too much for promoting coexistence and harmony on the roads. i don’t get it. don’t we all want to enjoy the ride and get wherever we are going safely? i wish they realized they give the rest of us a bad name. if we want respect, we have to give it–to drivers and to each other.

    i’m glad you’ve thrown this question out there into the ether…i think that we, as a community, need to be less defensive when drivers complain about the jerks among us and, if possible, try to find ways to root that out. it will make everything easier–like convincing drivers and the LAPD that we are not at fault when run over or that there should be stiffer penalties for drivers that hit-and-run. or even that we deserve space on the road in the first place.

    • bikinginla says:

      Unfortunately, it’s far from the first time I’ve run into someone like that; just the latest.

      You make a good point, though. While each of us is no more responsible for the actions of other cyclists than drivers are for the actions of other motorists, there is a sizable minority of cyclists who ride as if the law doesn’t apply to them.

  4. DC says:

    You are lucky the a-hole didn’t have a loaded gun tucked in his waistband. He could have put a few rounds in you and ruined your whole week. Be careful out there.

  5. Opus the Poet says:

    I noticed in the FL bike fatality story the cyclist’s direction of travel has been changed 90 degrees so that instead of being hit from behind he’s now a SWSS/SWCC victim. Funny but the bike in the picture sure looked like it was hit from behind… Rear wheel is a tangled mess at the back of the bike while the frame is still lined up with the head tube. I wouldn’t call that bike one that was hit while crossing the street.

    • bikinginla says:

      As I learned after my collision — and as you know as well as anyone — most police officers don’t have the training or experience to read the physical evidence in a bike collision. I think that’s the next big fight we’ll have to take on, to get more traffic investigators trained in the physics of bike crashes.

      But damn, you’d think something like that would be an easy one, wouldn’t you?

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