Let’s talk dog walking.
Or rather, walking the dog as it relates to dangerous drivers. And how that relates to riding a bike in the swirling cesspool of human interaction we call traffic.
Take what happened last week.
I was walking the Corgi a few blocks from our home, after dark, during rush hour traffic. The last building on the block we were on featured that 1960’s style covered parking in which the front of the building overhangs the parking spaces, with the sidewalk passing between the driveway apron and the parking spaces.
As we were strolling in front of the building, a car pulled up on the side street in front of us, barely paused at the stop sign, then suddenly pulled onto the wrong side of the busy street we were walking along and turned left, making a shallow U into a parking space just in front of us.
Fortunately, I was able to pull her back in time and took a quick step back myself, allowing the driver to zoom by without hitting either of us.
I was not, however, able to control my own reaction, calling him a jackass as we walked past and rounded the corner.
Moments later, though, the driver came running up after us on the dark side street we’d turned onto. As he approached, I moved the dog behind me and balled my fists, prepared to defend myself against the jerk who’d just threatened our safety.
Since we rescued the then four-year old Corgi a few years ago, we’ve developed an interesting dynamic. She’s taken it upon herself to protect my wife, and more than once has shown signs that she would fight to the death to defend her — even standing up to a coyote over twice her size that dared to walk through our urban neighborhood.
On the other hand, she’s also made it clear that she trusts me to protect her, lowering her guard when I walk her in a way she never does with my wife alone. And I take that trust very seriously.
Threaten my safety with your car and I’ll be pissed. But God help you if you endanger my dog.
What happened next caught me completely off guard, though.
He said he hadn’t seen us, and was sorry if he had frightened my dog. Never mind that he’d scared the crap out me.
No apologies for the dangerous stunt he had pulled — and probably not for the first time, since he appeared to live in the building. And no explanation how it was that he failed to see a grown man and a light colored dog on a well-lighted sidewalk.
I was still too angry to politely discuss the situation, so I simply accepted his apology, shook his hand and turned away to walk home, shaken by the close call.
The very next night, I was once again walking the Corgi when we ran into another, all-too-common situation.
We were alongside a large apartment building on a busy side street when a driver entering the parking lot paused to let us safely cross the driveway. However, that left the rear of his car extending out into the traffic lane, much to the chagrin of the driver behind him who was forced to briefly pause in his mad dash through the residential neighborhood.
So needless to say, that second driver leaned on his horn, blasting an angry rebuke that anyone might have the audacity to stop in his way, with no idea why it washappening.
In other words, he was more than willing to let someone else run us over if it meant he didn’t have to slow down for even a moment.
Never mind that he could have simply gone around the other car. Which is exactly what he did after treating us to his rage-filled car horn soliloquy.
And never mind that his honking could have startled the driver ahead of him, possibly leading to tragic results.
And there, in a nutshell, is the problem on our streets. Or one of them, anyway.
Too many of today’s drivers have lost any sense of the danger their vehicles pose to others. They feel entitled to their place on roadway, and have little or no fear of the reckless stunts they pull, having gotten away with them too many times in the past.
Even though getting away with it doesn’t mean it’s legal. Or safe, for that matter.
The problem is, you can only get away with something until you don’t. At which point, it’s too late for anything but the too-often tragic consequences.
Then there’s the sense of entitlement, to use that phrase again, that allows some — not all, but far too many — drivers to feel they have a right to move unimpeded along the streets. And that anyone in their way, be it other motorists legally slowing or stopping for a turn or to let a pedestrian pass, or a bicyclist in the lane in front of them, is committing some offense by delaying their progress by even a second or two.
I see it every day on the busy street in front of my building, as some speeding jerk lays on his horn because a car is stopped in the left lane, legally, to make a turn. Or slows down to safely make a right, rather than taking the corner at a dangerously high speed, as too many do.
Even though using a horn for any reason other than a safety warning is against the law.
And don’t get me started on the drivers who see a car stopped ahead of them, then whip around on the right or left without considering that there may be a reason why they stopped. Other than the other driver just felt like it, that is.
Like maybe a pedestrian or bicyclist crossing the street.
Which is why I politely refuse any invitation from a driver to cross an intersection in front of them unless I know for a fact that every other motorist in the shares their courtesy and inclination.
And yes, before you say it, there are countless reckless, self-entitled jerks on two wheels — and two feet — as well.
The difference being that a reckless cyclist or pedestrian poses a danger primarily to him or herself, while reckless drivers pose a danger to everyone around them.
There may be hope, though.
Some drivers get it when they see the potential consequences of their actions. Like the driver who apologized for nearly running down the Corgi and I.
Though whether that will keep him from pulling the same stunt next time remains to be seen.
Then there’s the valet driver I had a brief conversation with in Santa Monica last week.
I was riding past a large hotel on Ocean Ave when a car exited the parking garage right in front of me. And as too often happens, another car followed closely behind him, on a collision course with my bike.
So I yelled out a warning, and the driver came to a sudden stop just a few feet from my right.
He caught up to me at the next light, waiting to make a right as I sat on his left to go straight.
“Dude,” he called out, “I wasn’t going to hit you. I do this all day long, every day.”
“Yeah, but how do I know that?” I responded. “I don’t have any choice but to assume you don’t see me.”
“Oh.” He sat for a moment, letting it sink in.
“So, you’re just doing what you have to do to stay alive. Okay, I get that.”
The light changed and I rode on as he turned away, a little more hopeful than I’d been just a few moments before.
Speaking of Santa Monica, still no response seven days later to the complain I filed about being forced to share a bike lane with a Big Blue Bus.
And that’s frightening.