Motorists behaving badly — casually cutting off cyclists for no apparent reason

It never ceases to amaze me.

Cyclists are constantly criticized for cutting off drivers. And yes, some of it is justified.

On the other hand, many drivers don’t think twice about cutting off a cyclist, casually pulling out in front of a rider with the right-of-way, as if we don’t have any right to the road.

Or aren’t even there.

A recent ride last week seems to illustrate that perfectly.

In the course of a few short hours, I was cut off by four separate drivers in four separate incidents. And none seemed to think it was any big deal.

None drove aggressively. None seemed in a particular hurry, or even seemed to take much notice of my presence on the road.

No big deal, evidently.

First up was a driver who made a left turn across my path, without ever looking in my direction. And at the base of a hill where I usually reach 25 mph; fortunately, I began feathering my brakes as soon as I saw him, just in case he did something stupid.

Like not even noticing me until he was passing me.

Then exactly one block later, I was about to cross Westwood Blvd when one driver turned left in front of me, with plenty of time to clear the intersection before I entered.

Unlike the driver behind him, who casually followed the first through the intersection, even though I was already crossing it.

And this one definitely saw me.

You can see me point at her in an attempt to get her to wait; what you can’t see is the driver sarcastically pointing back at me.

In other words, she knew I was there. And just didn’t care.

An hour or so later, I was waiting on the light at Washington and Pacific, with cars in the lane behind me, and others lined up in the right turn lane next to me.

Yet when the light changed, the driver attempted to make a left directly in front of me. Or more precisely, through me, since I foolishly assumed I had the right-of-way once the light changed.

I have no idea whether he actually saw me before he turned directly towards me. But he had to have seen the cars behind me, and known it wasn’t his turn.

Or smart, for that matter.

Finally, there was the driver on Montana in Brentwood who passed me, then casually cut in front of me to wait for a parking space.

Never mind that I was riding at the edge of the traffic lane, just outside the door zone.

She clearly knew I was there, having just passed me. And clearly, my presence didn’t seem to make any impression on her.

Frankly, I don’t know which is worse.

The drivers who cut you off because they don’t see you. Or the ones who do, and do it anyway.

………

Then again, the other major complaint against cyclists is how casually we run stop signs.

………

While New York continues to crack down on scofflaw cyclists, a study shows 60% of cyclists and pedestrians killed in the city over a 15 year period resulted from motorists breaking traffic laws — most of which weren’t prosecuted.

………

Pasadena-based bicycle attorney Thomas Forsyth — you’ll find him over there on the right — has developed a new iPhone and Android app to help walk you through the steps to follow if you’re ever in a collision.

It wouldn’t hurt to download it just in case.

I’m not much of an app user myself; I still suffer from that antiquated notion that phones are annoying devices best used for making and receiving calls. But if anyone would like to try it out and write a review, I’ll be happy to post it on here.

………

Metro is sponsoring a free family bike ride on Saturday, September 8th. Don’t miss next week’s meeting to discuss a possible CicLAvia to the Sea. B.I.K.A.S. deconstructs the new US bicycling postage stamps. Flying Pigeon hosts the Spoke(n) Art Ride this Saturday. L.A.’s soon-to-be bike share provider now has a new blog; thanks to LADOT Bike Blog for the link. Better Bike takes a detailed look at Beverly Hills bike collisions. A Santa Monica cyclist is challenged to fight by a group of men who cut him off in a car, then steal his bike when he calls 911; if you know the victim, I know a lawyer who wants to help. KPCC looks at the non-Olympic sport of bike polo, and offers video of Wolfpack Hustle’s recent midnight drag race. Advice on riding in hot weather; my suggestion is to buy insulated water bottles, and put them in the freezer before you ride. Long Beach’s bicycling expats, who seem to have taken up at least semi-permanent residence in Portland, have published The Unauthorized Brompton Touring Guide, available as an ebook. Upcoming Calabasas bike-centric restaurant and coffee roaster Pedalers Fork introduces their new team kit.

OC bike advocate Frank Peters is interviewed for an online radio show, while Mrs. cdmcyclist walks away — or rather rides — from a tumble. Del Mar residents will vote on whether to make their downtown more livable, or keep it a gridlocked mess. An annual, but unofficial, bike ride gridlocks Santa Barbara when over 1,000 riders show up. A Corona teacher plans to give away 155 bikes to disadvantaged children. Cyclist survives a 40 mph hit-from-behind collision when a driver removed his shirt while driving to wipe sweat from his eyes; no, really, that’s what it says. Riverside County discusses a multi-use trail from Temecula to Idyllwild, featuring a 4,000 foot elevation gain. The Imperial Valley Press profiles the weekly Mexicali ride in Calexico, and a 78-year old cyclist who’s still going strong.

How to transport a small mammal by bike. As others have pointed out, roads were not built for cars; evidently, railroad tracks weren’t, either. Bicycling says coffee can help you bounce back from a hard ride, if you drink enough of it. A publication on governing says cities need to protect cyclists and pedestrians. A tossed beer can reminds the publisher of Tucson Velo just how vulnerable cyclists are. Chicago cyclists will get 34 miles of protected bike lanes before the end of the year; as far as I know, L.A. cyclists still don’t have any. A Minneapolis driver admits to running over a cyclist and fleeing the scene. A Vermont rider is injured in a left cross collision when a driver turns in front of four — yes, four — cyclists, but claims he never saw any of them. A writer for Reuters says the recent ethical case for running red lights is morally indefensible, while the Atlantic Cities looks at why riders do it. A volunteer Brooklyn bike patrol escorts women safely to their homes. New York bike thieves are stripping ghost bikes for parts. If this is all you have to say about ghost bikes, why bother? Chattanooga-based LiteSpeed Bicycles helped build the new Mars rover. A Virginia driver is indicted for felony hit-and-run in the death of cyclist last week; the driver claims he thought he hit a deer, though he has at least a dozen other moving violations over the last 10 years — so why did he still have a license? The Virginia Bicycling Federation looks at proper lane positioning; I like the way the LAPD puts it — ride where it’s right, not to the right. A Florida man is charged with two counts of first degree murder for running down two cyclists while trying to escape from police; his alleged accomplice has also been arrested.

The World Anti-Doping Agency tells the UCI to back off in the Lance Armstrong case; the current cat fight between doping agencies is more interesting than the case itself. It’s all about the bike in the UK right now, as the Royal Mail honors the country’s many, many gold metal winning cyclists. Evidently, cycling really is dangerous, as a superfan dies while watching track cycling at the Olympic velodrome. The UK’s Southampton Cycling Campaign calls for strict liability for drivers who hit cyclists. The Guardian calls for bicycling proficiency to be required to get a drivers license; best idea I’ve heard in a long time. A new book traces a mythical bike race through the streets of London in highly detailed illustrations. South Africa considers banning bike trailers for no apparent reason.

Finally, after a cyclist runs a stop sign, a road raging driver chases him down to yell at him, then uses her car as a weapon to cut him off. And brags about it online. Of course, it’s not the first time the bike-hating writer had taken all cyclists to task for the actions of a few. Or one.

And a London rider watches as a truck driver forces a cyclist off the road, then admits to doing it on purpose.

22 comments

  1. [...] the latest heated debate over whether cyclists should come to a full stop at empty intersections, BikingInLA has put up a series of videos illustrating the mortal dangers constantly posed by law-flouting [...]

  2. Rachel says:

    I’ve noticed this recently, too. Many, many more motorists just not paying attention or not caring. I wonder if it’s the heat?

  3. Tj Knight says:

    Your #2 video happens to me all the time in Pasadena/Altadena/La Canada. I try to look for slight wheel movement. If I see movement, I will begin to slow down as I focus on the driver’s eyes. Old drivers get a free pass. However, if I feel threatened, I will wave and shout, “Come on!”

    I really hate it when I detect wheel movement indicating a car coming right at me as I ride in front of a car.

  4. wes oishi says:

    Size matters.

  5. Louie Garcia says:

    Awesome Ted. You are finally “armed” with a helmet cam.

  6. Eric W says:

    Ted –

    Cam is pretty cool. Now we can sort of see what you are talking about.

    I stll recommend a bright color shirt upgrade to anyone’s wardrobe for cycling. Better chance they will see you in time to avoid you. Don’t ever want to see the cam record you getting hit!

    It appears to me that some of the drivers above underestimated your speed greatly. They thought they could make the turn before you got there. In your case, how about considering bright flashing daylight front and tail lights because you are such a speedy cyclist? And one of those super load horns?? That will make the audio track interesting.

    Eric W

    • I agree re: flashing lights in daylight! I’ve been riding around the last month or so with my (very bright) front and rear lights in flash mode during the daytime… it seems to have helped reduce the frequency of SMIDSY incidents with drivers pulling out of side streets.

  7. vinh nguyen says:

    your nuts. i’m scared to ride in the OC. the amount of cars/people in LA is dramatically higher and so is the risk of accident. first video where you are descending down hill and car makes left turn in front of you. car is at intersection with stop sign long before you. he doesn’t see you in his peripheral vision cuz he probably is only looking for cars and upward angle at that. can’t comment if he is distracted/negligent, that’s why they’re called accidents.

    • Evan says:

      “Your nuts” what? This is a family blog.

      • bikinginla says:

        Yes, but it’s a pretty strange family, so we’ll let it pass.

        However, what we won’t let pass is that term “accidents.” There’s no such thing as a motor vehicle accident, which implies that it’s no one’s fault. Had the driver hit me, he would have been at fault for never looking my way before making his turn.

        In order to have a collision, one or more parties have to break the law, or operate their vehicles in a careless or distracted manner, or under the influence. In very rare cases, bad road design may be at least a contributory cause.

        But they are seldom, if ever, just accidents.

        • vinh nguyen says:

          bikinginla: yes, you’re right it would’ve been his fault cuz it wasn’t clear for him to make a left turn safely. my point being; god, doesn’t care who’s at fault when at heaven’s gate or you flipping over the car’s hood seriously hurting yourself. i ride myself, but i drive more than ride. and i look for those situations and make sure i’m not in them. almost darwinism in its simplest form. drivers are not afraid of cyclists. that’s why they are not looking for them, hence don’t expect to see them. like antelope don’t look for zebra/gazelles, they look for lions/cheetahs. do you ever read about left cross/left hook involving semis/buses?

          • I don’t really see the point of this comment. There’s every indication (from the video and Ted’s description of the incident) that Ted was riding defensively, feathering the brakes down the hill and squeezing harder as soon as he realized what was happening. What exactly is he supposed to do to “look for these situations and make sure [he's] not in them”? Not ride through intersections where the cross traffic can make a left turn? Not ride down hills?

            • vinh nguyen says:

              @niall my point is similar to one below. sometimes shit happens. not all drivers are out to get cyclists. something like this happens once a ride. no big deal. no need to post video. the other incidents yes.

          • @vinh: What the heck is wrong with posting a video of the hazards you face on a daily basis as a cyclist? Something like this could be useful in pointing out the need to drive carefully and ride defensively so that the roads are safer for everyone. It sounds to me like you’re excusing poor driving and saying cyclists should just shut up and allow themselves to be bullied.

  8. defensemen@msn.com says:

    BikingInLA, you got your hands full on those roads (especially looking out for the door prize) but also keep this is mind. Although there has been a rash of bike incidents in California, it’s not healthy in nurturing an attitude that all motor vehicle operators are out to get us. In most of those instances I would’ve let the cars go without any confrontations. There is one technique you should know. On those left turn drivers If you ever encounter one try and turn your whole body and bike parallel to the car door — it will minimize your damage (you hit the car with your side body) thus putting a big dent in the car door side. I like to call “MY MARK”..but something to keep in mind. With that in mind we cyclists have got to be ambassadors of the roadway. I like your helmet camera by the way. Nice. I like triathlete Mark Allen’s mantra “Be fearless in the face of your fears.” It gives me strength when I ride. Have fun everybody.

  9. wes oishi says:

    I guess it’s better to hit the side of a car with the side of your body, instead of the head-on t-bone (which usually ends up in a bent frame and fork). However, I’d suggest it much better to anticipate the situation way, way in advance and get ready to make a hard right turn, avoiding the left hand turning driver. Works for me, anyway.

  10. Heatherfeather says:

    As a motorist, may I ask a question? Today I patiently waited for a cyclist to take the same right turn as me, then the same quick left turn as me. Then, on the straightaway, I passed the cyclist, and “beat” him to the next intersection (another right turn for both of us). He started screaming at me I guess because I got in his way. I do ride bikes too and realize we are not all mind readers, but did my actions necessitate his aggressive response?
    I’d be grateful to hear your thoughts.

    • bikinginla says:

      It’s hard to say why he was upset without hearing his side of the incident.

      However, you should ask yourself if you gave him enough space when passing. You should never pass a cyclist with less than three feet between you; anything less than that can startle a rider and interfere with his of her ability to ride safely.

      I’d also question whether you may have cut him off when you pulled back in front him. You should always give riders the same consideration you would anyone else on the road, and wait until you’re well past his bike before moving back to the right.

      Or it could have been that when you prepared for your final right turn, he felt you moved far enough to the right that you needlessly or intentionally blocked his path.

      Then again, it’s always possible that he was just a jerk.

      There is never an excuse for anyone losing their temper and going off on someone like that. I’ve done it myself, though, even though I try not to, as anger and fear overwhelm a more rational response.

      The simple fact is, we’re all just trying to get where we’re going and get back to our loved ones in one piece. If there’s a lesson in this, it’s to always drive like you’re passing someone you love, and bite your tongue in half if that’s what it takes to hold your temper on the road. And that goes for drivers, bike riders and pedestrians alike.

    • I’m going to offer a bit more strongly worded response than Ted did. From your description, it sounds like you didn’t “beat” him to the final turn by as much as you thought, and cut him off as you moved toward the curb to make your turn.

      This maneuver — overtaking a bicyclist immediately before making a right turn, dangerously cutting across his/her path in the process — is known as a “right hook,” and it’s frequently cited as one of the most common causes of car-on-bike collisions.The conflict occurs when the motorist a) underestimates the bicyclist’s speed and b) fails to account for their own speed loss as they slow to make the turn. The result is that the motorist fails to complete the overtake with sufficient clearance before cutting over to the right.

      Like Ted, I’m willing to consider other explanations. Indeed, the guy may have just been a jerk, or overly sensitive, or whatever. But there’s a red flag in your comment that makes me think the above scenario is the most likely one: the fact that you mentioned “beat[ing]” him to the intersection. If you felt like you had to race him to that corner, you probably didn’t have enough room to complete your pass safely, in which case the maneuver would have been ill-advised. Next time, consider taking an extra few seconds and following behind the bicyclist until you reach a longer straightaway or wider street where it’s easier to pass. It’s always worth taking a few seconds to be safe.

      • Eric W says:

        Well said Niall! I too question the wording of “Beat him to the intersection”. In addition to your well stated comment, I’d say the concept that: “the faster vehicle wins” is an issue here also. Not that we were there, cyclists can be jerks too, but we’ve all been in similar situations.

        So think how this might have been different had the cyclist above had been a car or a motorcycle. Would you have passes him?

        Maybe you would have just followed the vehicle in front of you. Generally, the one that is there first has the presumed right of way. Passing the bicyclist in the short span, just to get there first, sounds like it was a pretty aggressive maneuver of a large car against a small bike. That why he (and I in similar situations) might have been pissed off. You sound like you cut him off by passing too close and/or fast. Odd as it sounds, he was letting you know he would like you to drive more politely.

  11. Bad Drivers Should Be Jailed says:

    I’ve watched the videos. If THESE drivers scare you, NEVER ride your bicycle in miami. The drivers there cut you off with inches to spare (if that) as they make turns right in front of you, even when you’re riding your bicycle on the sidewalk! Then, there’s the a-holes who run red lights and try to run you over in the cross walk even though you have a walk signal and they have a red light. It’s only a matter of time before bicyclists start using EMP devices to shut down attempted murderers’ engines, or arming themselves with guns to shoot them with. But, there’s probably a law against self-defense when someone tries to kill a bicyclist with a car, based upon how casually they treat human life . . . Seriously, though, if they cannot even see an adult bicyclist who is over six feet tall, how many little kids have they ran over and killed? If I was on the jury though, the bicyclist who shot a driver who tried to run him/her over would go free, even if (s)he used willy pete rounds!

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