A threatening Beverly Hills driver offers a reminder that we still have a long way to go

I got a good reminder yesterday that we still have a long way to go to secure our place on the streets.

I was riding through Beverly Hills, scouting a route for the LACBC’s I ♥ the Westside Ride next Sunday, when I pulled up to a four way stop to make a left.

Yes, I did stop. And even signaled.

I waited for the first car coming the other way started his left, then pulled out to make mine. And while I was still in the middle of the intersection, the car that had been behind that one aggressively pulled out to make a left as well, putting him on a direct collision course with me.

So I jammed on the brakes, and yelled out “What the f***!” as he blew by.

Next thing I knew, the driver screeched to a stop on the far side of the intersection, then whipped around 180 degrees to put himself the same direction I was going.

I’ve learned the hard way that there’s nothing more dangerous than having an angry driver behind me. And it was pretty clear that I was probably going to have to defend myself.

So I quickly pulled over to the side of the road, positioning myself between two parked cars that offered protection from his car, and got off my bike.

He screeched up to a stop next to me, and stared at me in a threatening manner. So I pulled out my cell phone and held it out so he could see me dialing.

“911,” I said. “Do you want to stick around to see what happens next?”

With that, he screeched off down the road, still clutching the illegally hand-held cell phone he’d had plastered to his face the whole time.

I jumped back on my bike and chased after him, holding out my cell phone to take a photo of his license plate, but lost him in traffic before I could get a clear shot. Then rode home angrily replaying the situation in my head, with images of going all De Niro on his ass.

In the end, I think I handled about as well as I could, responding to the threat without escalating the situation — or crossing the line myself.

Just another angry interaction on the streets, serving as a reminder that things may be improving for cyclists in a lot of ways. But there are still angry, dangerous drivers out there.

And we’re still at risk from them.

It also shows once again why L.A.’s proposed bike anti-harassment ordinance is so vital for our protection. This was a textbook example of exactly the sort of incident it’s intended to address.

Even if it wouldn’t apply on the mean streets of Beverly Hills.

.………

I got an email earlier this week from a reader who recommended the CitySourced app for the Windows, Droid, iPhone or Blackberry smartphones, or Garcetti 311 for iPhones.

These applications allow reporting of all sorts of biking problems in Los Angeles. For example, I was biking up the bike lane on Westwood Avenue a day ago and saw 2 cars parked in the bike lane within a matter of 2 minutes. I often see this illegal parking in the bike lane on Gayley Avenue going past In-and-Out as well. You can now report this with a quick picture of their car/license plate/bike lane (in same photo). You can also report abandoned bicycles, potholes, sidewalk cracks (e.g., Westwood park abandoned bike path), etc. Your reports are saved so you can review them in the future.

On another subject, he also wanted to note that he recently emailed the Westfield Century City mall to ask about bike parking, and was happy to get a response indicating that they have bike racks near the valet station. And he was even more please that they agreed with his suggestion to add that information to their website.

It always makes me a little happier when people become more aware that people use bicycles to shop just like anyone else. And then they respect bike lanes more when they are aware that we’re important customers too.

From what I’ve seen, the bike parking at Westfield Century City could use a lot of improvement.

But he’s right. When businesses understand that cyclists spend money just like drivers do — or as some studies have shown, even more — they’ll make sure we have the facilities we need.

And that our rights are respected in their business, and on the streets around them.

6 comments

  1. cycler says:

    Whoa, that sounds scary!

    Two things you did that I think I’m going to add to my data bank in case I’m ever in such a position- put myself between parked cars, and dial 911. I wonder sometimes if I should carry my phone in a more accessible location..

    I suppose if he had totally gone bezerk he could have smashed into the cars and pinned you, but he’d have to accept damaging his own car.

  2. paddyanne says:

    I always ride with my camera, and I keep it within easy reach just for these kinds of incidents. You don’t have to say anything, and you can just flip from photo to video, or back to photo, very quickly. I have the date and time showing as well, so that it appears on the photo. I have to look in the LA bike ordinance that you mentioned – it sounds really interesting!

  3. Scary ride!

    Is parking in the bike lane in Los Angeles illegal? I was under the impression that it was legal (!) in California.

    • bikinginla says:

      Parking in a bike lane is legal under California law, except where banned by local ordinance — which is almost everywhere. In L.A., a bike lane is considered a travel lane, and blocking it no more legal than blocking any other travel lane.

  4. Digital Dame says:

    Unfortunately, as long as there are people in cars, we will have these kinds of situations crop up. If he’s enough of a douchebag to be on his cell while driving in the first place (was it a BMW, by any chance? not that it couldn’t have been any other make, I just had a picture in my mind of it being a BMW) we already know he thinks he’s above the law. Glad it ended well, though, with no injuries.

  5. Lexica says:

    My husband actually had a driver get out of the car and come at him swinging a chain last week when my husband yelled at the driver after the driver almost sideswiped him.

    Any time something like this happens and I’m able to get a photo of the license plate or the driver’s face, I post the photo as a bicyclist beware! post on my LiveJournal.

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