It was a good day.
Especially in light of last week, in which I enjoyed a lovely 50 mile ride.
Only problem was, it was a 53 mile route. And the last three miles were ridden in anger after a dispute with a road raging driver.
And while the weekend gave some perspective, allowing me to put the anger and unpleasantness in past where it belongs, I really needed a good ride.
And I got it, though not in the way I expected.
Normally, I might have waited another day for the weather to warm up, but a midday Thursday business call dictated that I ride on Wednesday, or maybe not at all. So I threw on my cool weather gear, and set out for a fast 35 miler.
So much for that plan.
This was one of those days when my legs just weren’t there, for whatever reason. So I slowed down and took in the city surrounding us. And ran into a number of other riders along the way.
Maybe it was the beautiful day. Or perhaps the slower pace that allowed more interaction with the people around me.
It started as I was riding through Brentwood, and struck up a conversation with a lovely woman who recently arrived here from Kansas City.
We discussed our mutual bad knees, and how riding a bike has allowed each of us to put off long promised knee replacements for the foreseeable future. She mentioned that her road bike and bike shoes were still back in KC, and that she bought the beat-up knobby-tired mountain bike she was riding for just $50 after she got here.
So when we reached the base of the long hill on San Vicente, I wished her well, assuming I would quickly drop her since there was no way she could keep up on that bike. Yet when I reached the crest at 26th, she was right behind me — making it quite clear that she could have dropped my ass on a better bike. It was only on the downhill that I finally left her behind, as those knobby tires couldn’t keep up with my roadie.
On the return trip, I swung over to check out the new road diet on Main Street. And for the first time in nearly 20 years of riding that street at least once a week, I felt perfectly comfortable riding north on the stretch between Abbot Kinney and Rose.
Not that I’ve avoided it in the past. But I’ve always wary of speeding drivers and the frequent city buses trying to squeeze past or impatiently running up my backside. This time, I had the luxury of a spacious lane all to myself, with cars — parked or otherwise — comfortably distant to either side.
Yet when I got to Rose, I found myself apologizing to another rider for cutting him off back at Abbot Kinney as we both maneuvered into the bike lane. I had found myself outside the lane as I waited for him to assume his position, with a car coming up fast from behind.
That’s the downside of having a bike lane. Drivers expect you to be in it, and tend to have little patience when you’re not.
So I quickly called out “on your left,” kicked up my cadence and cut a little too close in front of him.
And instantly felt bad about it.
So when he pulled up behind me at the next red light, I explained what happened and said I was sorry. He graciously said not to worry about it, which led to an ongoing conversation over the next several blocks about the lovely day and the lovely new bike lanes, of which we both approved.
When I made it to Ocean in Santa Monica, I found myself swinging out into the traffic lane to pass a couple of men riding in the bike lane on fat tired bikes.
Sure enough, they rolled up behind me at the next light, and we struck up a conversation. One had a perfect London accent, while the other had an Australian accent you could cut with a chain saw.
As we chatted about various and sundry subjects, the Aussie felt the need to mention that they weren’t from around here. As if the accents — and Chelsea FC shorts — weren’t a dead giveaway.
Then again, not all my interactions were with other riders.
One in particular stands out.
I was on my last leg home, not far from where I had the much less pleasant interaction with the angry driver last week.
This time, I found myself riding on the right of a traffic lane wide enough to accommodate my bike and a passing car. Just ahead, the road narrowed, forcing me to move left to pass a parked car; meanwhile, I could sense another car moving up quickly from behind.
So I used one of my favorite gestures — no, not that one — pointing slightly ahead and to the left to indicate where I was going. The car backed off, allowing me to pass the parked car and move back to the right so the trailing driver could pass.
As I pulled back over, I gave a small wave to thank the driver for giving me the space I needed. And was very surprised to see him lean over, reaching far to the right to wave back as he passed by.
I was reminded that it only takes a little courtesy to smooth streets, while realizing I’d made a friend through that simple gesture, though one I’d probably never see again. And I rode the rest of the way home with a smile on my face.
Just the opposite of last week’s ride.
That should have been the end of it.
But when I got home, I opened up my computer and found this.
If there’s ever been a bolder, more public campaign to promote safe cycling and save the lives of riders, I haven’t seen it.
The Times of London has set the bar incredibly high for every other newspaper, city and government organization, whether in the UK, here in the US or anywhere around the world.
They deserve our thanks for caring enough to actually do something. And using their influence to make a real difference for cyclists.
In the end, it was a good ride.
And a very good day.