Tag Archive for aggressive drivers

Friday’s ride, in which I dodge cars, help prevent a collision and thank a bus driver

It didn’t take long to realize it was going to be one of those rides.

Within the first three miles, I’d been right hooked, left crossed, and squeezed out of a left turn lane by a driver who inexplicably decided there was enough room for both of us.

So I made a point of riding extra carefully, assuming that every car could be a threat and every driver might do exactly the wrong thing in any given situation.

Most of the time they weren’t, and didn’t. But I ran into enough minor traffic kerfuffles and acts of sheer stupidity that the extra caution more than paid off before I got home.

Including one last one, as I rode back on Ohio about a mile from my home.

Just east of Westwood, the road goes up and down over a couple of short, steep hills. As a result, I make a point of taking the lane through there, since it’s too narrow to share a lane and I can usually get down one hill and up the next long before the cars behind me.

On occasion, though, some rocket scientist will decide to pass me anyway.

Like the one today who evidently decided I wasn’t moving fast enough, even though I was doing 23 mph — uphill — in a 25 mph zone.

I heard an engine rev behind me, and sure enough, I looked back to see a minivan start to zoom around me on the wrong side of the road. And I knew that section of road well enough to know that was an exceptionally bad idea.

Then again, it’s usually not a good idea to drive on the wrong side of the road, anyway — especially not on a hill that completely blocks the driver’s view of oncoming traffic.

So I threw my hand out in what I hoped would be seen as warning to stop, though it could just as easily have been interpreted as a left turn signal. Either way, he seemed to get the message and quickly cut back in behind me, just as two cars came over the hill from the other side.

Cars he would have hit head-on if he’d continued trying to pass me.

Yeah, those bike haters are right.

We’re the problem, alright.

………

Funny how life repeats itself sometimes, but with vastly different outcomes.

Last December, I filed a complaint after I got dangerously buzzed and right hooked by a Santa Monica Big Blue Bus in front of Franklin Elementary School on Montana Ave.

On Friday’s ride, I found myself in exactly the same situation, in exactly the same location.

As I rode up Montana around 2:45 pm, I found myself being followed by another Big Blue Bus. And once again, the driver felt a need to pass me as soon as the roadway widened, even though I was riding nearly as fast as he could legally go.

Then just like the last time, as soon as the bus passed me, the driver spotted someone waiting at the bus stop by the school. But instead of cutting over to the curb — and cutting me off in the process — the driver stopped right where he was in the traffic lane, leaving me a clear pathway to proceed on his right.

And it was only after I’d cleared the bus — number 3810, route 3 — and gave the driver a wave of thanks that he pulled safely to the curb.

So it’s only fair.

Last time I called to complain about the driver who cut me off. So on Monday morning, I’m going to call to compliment the driver who didn’t.

………

Mark Cavendish sprints to victory in Stage 18 of the Tour de France, his fourth of this year’s Tour after overcoming months of hardships. Saturday’s individual time trial will determine whether Schleck or Contador rides into Paris as the winner; the sprinter’s title is still up in the air, too. Cruise and Diaz join Contador on the podium. Backstage notes from the Tour, and the unwritten rules the riders live by.

And in today’s pro doping report, some fans hope the cheaters get caught.

………

The driver in last week’s death of Santa Ana cyclist Michael Nine faces charges of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence and driving without a valid license, and may be subject to deportation.

On the other side of the country, a leading Charleston bike advocate was critically injured in a SWSS; Dave Moulton says the story doesn’t make sense for such an experienced cyclist. Just before I posted this, news broke that the rider, Edwin Gardner, passed away on Friday.

………

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In upcoming events, Walk and Ride for a Safer 4th Street on Saturday. Or you can help plan two new parks in downtown Santa Monica.

The LACBC is hosting the 2nd Regional Meeting for bike activists from around the region on Wednesday, July 28th. And on Thursday, August 12th, join the LACBC for the 1st Annual City of Lights Awards Dinner.

………

Two cyclists are cuffed and one ticketed for not having a headlight — even though the officer himself had turned it off. More fallout from the campaign to ticket cyclists in Malibu. Courtesy of Streetsblog, Joe Linton and Josef Bray-Ali offer thoughts on the new bike plan and Thursday night’s Webinar. Dancer a la Mode is looking for volunteers for an easy biking experience; all you have to do is ride a little slower on alternate days. Bicycle Fixation suggests turning 4-way stops into 4-way yields. Grist looks at our falling-off-a-bike mayor, and has the exceptional good taste to quote yours truly. Speaking of the mayor, turns out he broke his elbow in eight places, but he’s back to a regular schedule. Cyclelicious has the details on the Colorado Heaven Fest from traffic hell that banned bikes and pedestrians in favor of cars. A Jacksonville writer admits to being a vehicular segregationist. A suspended Portland bus driver explains why he blogged “Kill this bicyclist.” How to get that tight little bike butt. A Kansas writer says can’t we all just get along — or at least not try to kill each other? A bike riding conservative says even righties can ride, regardless of what some people insist. London’s Guardian newspaper offers a look at five new European biking adventures, the best Brit bike trips and a guide to Europe’s best bicycling cities — and advises you to insure, lock and yes, deface your bike to fight theft. The final three Toronto secrets to cycling in traffic; ride with others, avoid the right hook and practice your route. Detailed advise on how to get better at climbing.

Finally, a look at frequent linkee and bike advocate Cecil Yount, author of Zeke’s Great Smokies 2-Wheeled Adventures and co-founder of his local bicycle advisory council.

An epidemic of aggressive roadway entitlement

The other day I was riding along one of my favorite routes through the Westside — a quiet, two lane street wide enough that cars can pass, while keeping me comfortably out of the dooring zone.

I came up behind an SUV that was stopped in the traffic lane, waiting to make a left turn onto a side street. A large pickup was stopped behind it; its wheels angled to go around the SUV on the right.

However, the driver appeared to be waiting for me to clear the area first. So I caught his eye in the mirror, nodded my thanks, and was about to ride through the gap when a car came speeding up on my left, blaring his horn for the other vehicles to get the hell out of his way.

Noticing the space I was about to move into, he cut sharply right to go around the other vehicles, forcing me to jam on my brakes. That meant he had to drive in the parking lane, though, and there was no way to complete his move without hitting the park car ahead of him.

So he was stuck right there, next to the pickup. And so was anyone else, since he’d boxed in the pickup in and was blocking my path, as well.

We all had no choice but to sit there until the SUV driver finally found an opening she was comfortable with, and made her left.

The gesture I made left little doubt what I thought of his driving skills. Yet his response surprised me. He merely pointed towards the other two cars, as if that explained everything — suggesting that they were responsible for what he had done, simply because the other drivers were in his way.

Once my path was clear, I rode off, wondering where that sense of entitlement comes from.

It’s not like he’s the only one. I see the same sort of thing just about any time I hit the streets, whether I’m on foot, on my bike or behind the wheel.

A car slows to make a right turn, and the driver behind will honk simply because he has to slow down. A stop light changes to red, and a trailing car zips around the cars ahead to go through the light anyway.

I’ve even seen a driver honk at a little old lady using a walker to cross the street, because she didn’t move fast enough for his satisfaction.

Then there was the truck driver who came to a sudden stop in the traffic lane ahead of me. And when I gestured to ask what was going on, he held out his cell and yelled, “I’m on the phone, a**hole!”

Oh, well that explains it then.

I used to think this was just an L.A. phenomenon. Or maybe the result of so many New York transplants bringing their famous impatience out west with them.

But as I’ve travelled around the country, I’ve seem similar behavior almost everywhere, even on the relatively bucolic streets of my old home town.

Of course, it’s not just drivers.

It’s the same attitude shown by pedestrians who step out in front of oncoming traffic in the middle of a block, expecting drivers to stop for them — even though they’re only a few feet from the next corner or crosswalk.

And the one shown by cyclists who blow through one red light after another, despite the presence of traffic, or who weave through traffic regardless of right-of-way. Even though the law, safety, common courtesy and common sense would seem to dictate otherwise.

I’ve tried to understand. Honestly, I have.

But I just can’t grasp the concept that one person’s convenience outweighs their own safety, as well as that of everyone around them. And it seems to be counterproductive, because it slows the overall flow of traffic as other road users are forced to respond.

So the net effect is that everyone deals with more congestion, more frustration. And more anger.

Maybe you can explain it.

Because I just don’t get it.

………..

The LACBC urges cyclists to urge the governor to sign the bicycle crosswalk and CA bike route bills. A writer for the Washington Post survives a week of biking in L.A. If you’re looking for somewhere to ride, Travelin’ Local offers a list of free days at L.A. museums. An Arizona newspaper applauds a police crackdown on cyclists who ignore traffic rules; evidently, drivers there never break the law. Why do so many drivers assume we think we’re invulnerable, when most cyclists have a keen sense of our vulnerability? The D.C. ghost bikes are gone once again. Yehuda Moon nails news coverage of cycling accidents. Biker Chicks crack down on two-abreast group riders. Town Mouse suggests that more bike lanes could keep us from having to become ninja cyclists. Finally, not bike related, but one the greatest Americans passed away in L.A. last week.

A jerk by any other name

Let’s talk about jerks.

I mean, it’s not like there’s any shortage of them around here. Like the one I ran into — almost literally — on the bike path in Venice last week.

Thanks to the winter-time lack of crowds, it was easy to maintain a good head of speed. So I made a point of letting slower riders know I was there before I passed them, and gave them as much clearance as possible when I did. No point in ruining someone else’s day just so I could enjoy mine.

Unfortunately, not everyone felt the same.

Just as I was rounding a sharp bend in the path and about to swing around couple slower riders — in other words, at the worst possible moment — a cyclist suddenly appeared on my left. No warning, and passing so close that he actually brushed against me as he went by.

Needless to say, I was pissed. But the massive over-the-ear headphones he wore suggested that he wasn’t likely to hear a word of it, so I saved my breath.

Instead, I warned the other riders ahead that I was about to pass. And about the jerk who was also passing them right in front of me.

As it turned out, he wasn’t that much faster than me. So I watched as he passed other riders in the same fashion; at one point, nearly knocking over a young mother riding with a small child on the back of her bike.

And that, in my book, pretty much defines the word “jerk.” Along with several others I’d rather not use right now.

Problem is, to much of the non-riding public — and even some members of the cycling world — such riders are the rule rather than the exception. They see us as a rude, arrogant and lawless band hellbent on obstructing their God-given right to the road, and flaunting every law and courtesy in the process.

And people like him — the ones Bob Mionske calls scofflaw cyclists — offer all the proof they need.

I have another theory.

As far as I’m concerned, a jerk is a jerk. And it doesn’t matter if that jerk is on two wheels or four. Or pushing a shopping cart through a crowded market, for that matter.

Because really, what’s the difference between an aggressive driver who weaves in and out of traffic at high speed, and a cyclist who blows through red lights even in the presence of oncoming traffic?

They both operate as if the law doesn’t apply to them, with total disregard for the havoc they leave in their wake. To people like that, it doesn’t seem to matter if they cause an accident, as long as it doesn’t involve them.

It appears to be exactly the same mentality at work when a driver intentionally cuts off a cyclist, as when a cyclist blows through an intersection and forces everyone else to swerve or brake to avoid him. Or her.

A jerk is a jerk is a jerk.

And while it is in everyone’s best interest to encourage everyone to ride safely, as cyclists, we bear no more collective responsibility for the two-wheeled jerks, than other drivers do for the four-wheeled ones who are undoubtedly speeding down the 101 or 405 at this very moment.

Which is to say, none at all.


Evidently, cycling isn’t the only sport with a doping problem. Even Arkansas considers sharrows, so what’s taking L.A. so long? Following Bob Mionske’s final column for Velo News, comes word he’s moving to Bicycling Magazine. A New York writer says bike lanes aren’t the whole solution; you have to learn to ride safely in traffic, tooA Santa Monica columnist, who gave up cycling because it was too dangerous, insists that creating livable streets and making the roads safer for bikes is wrong if it means slowing down traffic, and rails against the “small cadre” of “snarky” “gonzo cyclists” who dare to disagree with him. And finally, a current Santa Monica cyclist sells his Burley bike trailer, only to see it in the pages of People. Welcome to the bike blogosphere, J.

We’re here. We ride. Get used to it.

Let’s go back to those Letters to the Editor we were discussing yesterday, now that the Times finally has them online. (You may have to search for the letters the paper printed on Saturday.)

The first printed letter, signed by Cecelia Grace of Los Angeles, ends with this: Motorists will respect cyclists when cyclists respect the rules of the road.

In other words, drivers don’t need to drive safely around us, because we just don’t deserve it. It’s our fault that, because of our bad behavior, they get mad and run us off the road. Isn’t that the same excuse every spouse batterer used? It’s not my fault, because you made me do it.

Or from the second letter they published on Saturday, from Lillie Reines of L.A., referring to those bad, bad people who ride for recreation: They are the ones who come steaming down the curves and cut off cars pulling out of driveways. They are the ones who encourage road rage.

Yes, she actually wrote that we encourage road rage. And the Times, for reasons that will forever escape me, actually printed it.

So let’s just make this as clear as humanly possible:

No one encourages a road rage incident, any more than they encourage a drive-by shooting.

Yes, there are rude cyclists, as well as riders who seem to feel the law does not apply to them, just as there are drivers — and pedestrians, for that matter — who demonstrate the same dangerous traits.

But no one deserves to be the victim of violence. Not drivers. Not pedestrians. And certainly not cyclists, no matter how egregiously rude or law-flaunting they may or may not be.

The simple fact is, a motor vehicle is not a weapon, nor is it an instrument of justice. It is not a tool of divine retribution or an outlet for even the most righteous anger. It is, simply, a car. A means of transportation. A way of getting from here to there.

And we are not your victims.

Cyclists may or may not deserve your respect, but you are required to give it, nonetheless. That is the agreement you make when you accept a drivers license. We are legally entitled to use the roadway, and you are legally required to let us do so, no more or less than you would any other vehicle.

And there is nothing we can do on or from the seat of a bicycle that would justify anyone using a vehicle as a weapon against any one of us, or any other human being. Nothing we may do gives you the right to kill, maim, injure or threaten us in any way.

Nothing.

So if a cyclist impedes your progress or breaks the law, call the police. It’s their job, let them deal with it.

If a rider is rude or insulting in any way, feel free to be rude in return. Give him the finger. Yell something. Or better yet, be the better man — or woman — and turn the other cheek. Just grit your teeth, go around him and get on with your life. You can tell your friends all about it later, as they nod in agreement and chime in with their own stories about all those rude and aggressive cyclists.

And we can go home to our wives, husbands, children, dogs, cats and/or goldfish.

Because, like it or not, we have a right to ride.

We have a right to the road.

We have a right to live.

And we’re not going anywhere.

 

According to yesterday’s article in the Times, anecdotal evidence suggests that more people are taking up cycling (sorry, drivers), and we need to find a way to live together. If you don’t like sharing the streets with us, it could be worse — according to the Bottleneck Blog’s Steve Hymon, we could be passing you the next time you’re stuck in gridlock on the 405. And LAist points out that those on two feet can be just as annoying as those of us on two wheels.

 

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