Tag Archive for careless drivers

Bikes aren’t hard to see if drivers pay attention

When my father had his heart attack, one of the last things he said was that if he didn’t make it, he wanted me to have his car.

He didn’t.

So about a week later, I found myself driving back home from Colorado in a 1983 Olds Delta 88. Not exactly my kind of car; but when your Dad’s dying wish is for you to have something, you take it. And you treasure it.

Whenever I got behind the wheel, I felt a little closer to him, and that awful pain eased up just a bit. Until finally after a few years, I was able to let the sadness, and the car, go.

Maybe my old man knew what he was doing after all.

It was huge car, seemingly the size of a small tuna boat, with a curb weight of over three-and-a-half tons. And with its baby blue paint job and white vinyl top, it was kind of hard to miss.

Yet somehow, the woman who rear-ended it while I was stopped at a red light did just that, saying she just didn’t see my car sitting directly in front of her, despite two working brake lights. Or at least, they were working before she hit me.

So how can we expect drivers to see something nearly 20 times smaller?

Like a cyclist, for instance.

Oddly, though, I never seem to have any trouble spotting riders on the road, whether I’m on my bike or behind the wheel.

Yet drivers are constantly told to watch carefully for bikes and pedestrians, because we’re so hard to see. And frankly, I’m getting pretty fed up with it.

Because the simple fact is, bikes aren’t hard to see. In fact, we’re everywhere. You just have to look.

All drivers have to do is stay sober, put down their phones, stop texting or fixing their makeup. And pay attention to the road in front of them as if their life — or someone else’s — depends on it.

Because it does.

We get that. As bicyclists, we know that we have to pay attention to every person and vehicle on the road, and it’s long past time that we started holding drivers to that same standard.

Drivers must be held accountable for failure to see something or someone directly in front of them. Or failing to use their mirrors or check their blind spots to see riders off to the side or behind them.

A reader recently emailed a story of barely avoiding a collision as he rode in the bike lane on Venice, when the driver of a pickup nearly turned into him without bothering to check his mirrors before suddenly lurching to the right.

The part that really bothers me is, why is the refrain “I didn’t see you” so easily accepted as a legitimate excuse, not only by the drivers involved, but by the cops and other outsiders.  The subtext of this statement is, “I didn’t bother looking, you are just some person on a bike, and I really don’t owe you anything.”  Would these following excuses fly? “I didn’t know the gun was loaded.”  “I didn’t realize the four cocktails made me too drunk to drive.”  All of these indicate a lack of any responsibility on the part of the person making the excuse.   That’s all they are, excuses.  Being a driver and saying “I didn’t see you” means you didn’t do what you should have done, which is to look, to pay attention.  I was driving down the freeway the other day and was about to change lanes into another car because, although I checked my mirrors, I didn’t check my blind spot.  If I had hit the car, would “I didn’t see you” work to absolve me of any fault?  Probably not.

This morning, if this guy driving the truck would have glanced in his big truck mirrors, he would have seen me coming down the bike bath for hundreds of feet behind him, easily.  You will never see a thing when you aren’t looking.  It’s a very simple request, always be looking, with eyes open for all possibilities.

The Brits call it SMIDSY — Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You. We need to start calling it what it is.

An admission of guilt.

And stop telling drivers that bikes are hard to see, because we’re not.

They just have to care enough to look.

………

Flying Pigeon looks forward to next weekend’s Streetsblog fundraising ride. Neon Tommy offers a great look at the Bicycle Kitchen. LAist looks at the new Fountain Ave sharrows, while Damien Newton offers a great summation of the celebration and controversy. KPCC says it’s time for Critical Mass riders to Harden The F*** Up, ‘cause things could have been a lot worse. Streetsblog looks at Saturday’s Bike and Pedestrian Workshop in Culver City. Taking a M*A*S*H ride through the sets at Malibu Creek State Park. A San Diego pedestrian suffers a fractured skull when she’s struck by a hit-and-run bicyclist. Why Modesto should not be part of next year’s Tour of California. The RAAM riders contend with wicked weather through the West. The sky’s the limit for a 14-year old Arizona bike racer. Tucson Bike Lawyer discovers the joys of a separated bike path, while his Chicago counterpart looks at the joys and risks of alleycat racing. Should police crack down on illegal cyclist behavior or focus on the big machines that can kill people? Slow riding on separated bikeways means sucking in less smog. Michigan may follow California’s lead and ban texting while biking. Pondering empathy for everyone on the road. Slovenian rider Janez Brajkovic breaks through to win the Dauphine for Lance’s Team Radioshack. A British rider is killed during a time trail when he’s struck from behind by a car. A Paralympian’s perspective on riding the length of Great Britain. English soccer fans ride 8,000 miles to support the Three Lions in the World Cup; that’s a long way to go to watch a draw, not that I’m rubbing it in or anything. Irish riders may get numbered license plates even though the law doesn’t require it. Ottawa businesses say parking is preferable to bike lanes. A Canadian cyclist says bike paths are for bikes, period; I dare him to say that on the beachfront bike path through Santa Monica. Arabs, Jews and Bedouins bike for peace in the Mid East. Maybe you should be snacking on cherries after your next ride.

Finally, three Florida cyclists are injured when a driver swerves into a group of riders, then throws a beer out his window. There are no words that even begin to address the sheer needless stupidity.

Seriously.

Yesterday’s ride, on which topography was my co-pilot

I had a great ride yesterday.

It was one of those rare days when I found myself communicating with the drivers and pedestrians around me — and not that way, for a change — as we waved one another through busy intersections and signaled our thanks for little roadway courtesies.

Then there was the brief, but pleasant conversation about the idiocy of passing drivers with a passing pedestrian, as six cars blew through the crosswalk after I had stopped to let him cross — despite the fact that pedestrians in the crosswalk have the right-of-way in every circumstance here in California.

And yes, that means we have to stop, too.

On the other hand, it was only a couple of hills that made the difference between making it home with a smile on my face, and maybe not making it home at all.

The first came on my way out, just over a mile from my home.

The street I take through the Westwood area, Ohio, goes up and down a brief series a hills before culminating in a short, steep climb on the last block before Westwood Blvd.

I ride with more caution than usual on that block, as drivers tend to pull out suddenly from alleys and curbs, and dart across the road in search of a highly prized parking space near the Coffee Bean. Normally, that would suggest taking the lane, but I’ve learned the hard way that drivers there will just go around me anyway as my speed slows going uphill, jumping over to the wrong side of the road and cutting around me so closely that I’d rather take my chances in the door zone.

This time, I nearly won the door prize, as a driver threw her door open directly in my path without the slightest look in her mirror.

Fortunately, I was on that section where gravity slows me from well over 25 mph at the bottom of the hill to just over 10 mph at the crest. Had it occurred on level ground, where I usually cruise at around 18 to 20 mph, her door would have nailed me, knocking me in front of the oncoming cars rushing to make the light.

But as it was, I’d slowed enough that I was able to react in time, if only barely.

And in biking, barely is usually good enough.

Then on my way back home, I was riding back up San Vicente Blvd in Santa Monica, on that long, gradual climb between 7th and 26th.

I’ve learned to keep a close eye on the cars waiting between the wide median islands in the center of the roadway — what New Orleanians call the neutral ground — because they tend to dart across once vehicular traffic clears. And often without looking for bikes first, despite one of the area’s most heavily travelled bike lanes.

Sure enough, I saw an SUV waiting beside the grassy island at the next crossroad. Once the last car passed, she gunned her engine and cut in front of me without ever looking in my direction.

On level ground, my speed would have carried me directly into her path. But as it was, the long climb had reduced my speed just enough that I was able to make a panic stop a few feet from the face of her highly startled passenger.

And instead of ending my day as a hood ornament, I put it behind me and continued home. Even if I did have to resist the temptation to chase her down and employ a few choice expletives in explaining the necessity of watching for all road users.

So sometimes, it’s skill that gets us through the most difficult situations. Sometimes it’s luck.

And sometimes, it’s just topography.

……..

Cyclists help beautify the streets they ride in Glendale. A handful of voters pick traffic calming as the factor that would most make them more comfortable riding on a major street. Has it really been a year since the infamous Hummer Incident — and almost that long since we were promised a police report? LADOT explains the thought process behind the bike corral project, which will move forward to the full City Council. Stephen Box takes on the problem of bike parking, or the lack thereof. Not to mention the lack of bike planning in Metro’s new Westlake/MacArthur Park development. Benecia approves, then cancels, a competitive pro/am bike event scheduled for June. A new car technology could see you and brake in time even if the driver doesn’t. Riders love LaHood, but truckers don’t; well maybe not all truckers. A Boston biker gets hit by a red light-running…cyclist. A man in America’s most dangerous state for cyclists is seriously injured when his bike hits a parked truck, but he doesn’t. One of my favorite Cycle Chic writers asks if the government will embrace cycling, or do we all just have to be brave? A flawed new bike lane debuts in Baltimore. A pseudo Sarah Palin rides the Tour de Fat back in my hometown. It’s spring, when cyclists fight tourists for space on the Brooklyn Bridge; sounds like summer in Santa Monica. The Brooklyn Borough President — who travels in a chauffeured SUV— say NYDOT Commissioner Janet Sadik-Khan just wants to make life harder for drivers. But despite the recent tripling of New York’s bike lanes, only 5% of the city’s streets have them. A Brooklyn man faces criminally negligent homicide charges for running down a cyclist on Flatbush Avenue, which is in that other 95%. Police threaten to cut bikes from sign posts in Brooklyn. Debunking the biking myths in Spokane. Honestly, we shouldn’t have to envy Tucson this much. Biking the first and last mile. A Brit cyclist is fined £700 plus court costs after running a red light; of course, swearing at the police and trying to ride away didn’t help. Maybe bike training for constables isn’t such a bad idea after all. Maybe the best way to talk a grandmother into biking is tell her she needs a mobility scooter. The Four Season’s says ask your concierge about biking in Budapest.

Finally, the rookie NYPD cop who pushed a Critical Mass cyclist off his bike — then brought bogus charges against the biker — goes on trial in New York.

Today’s ride, on which I get right-hooked by a bus in Bike Friendly Santa Monica

It’s the holiday season.

When the city takes on a festive glow, and visions of sugar plums dance in countless heads, even if no one seems to know what those are anymore. And stressed out, distracted and/or intoxicated drivers hit the road, with the possible presence of cyclists the furthest thing from their minds.

I have no idea if that had anything to do with the problem I ran into today. I only know I arrived home simultaneously mad as hell and thanking God I was in one piece.

It’s not like I wasn’t prepared.

Experience has taught me that driving gets worse the closer we get to the holidays. In fact, the last Friday before Christmas — tomorrow, in other words, or possibly today by the time you read this — is often just this side of a demolition derby as people stumble out of countless office parties and into their cars.

So I wasn’t too surprised when a driver nearly right-hooked me. Or even when a pedestrian stepped right out in front of me without ever looking up, forcing me into a panic stop that ended with his extremely startled face just inches from mine.

But what I wasn’t prepared for was the bus driver who cut directly in front of me — apparently on purpose — in what seemed from my perspective like a road rage assault. Then again, maybe she was just an incredibly crappy driver.

I first encountered her as I rode through the commercial district on Montana Avenue in the Bicycle Friendly City of Santa Monica, headed east in the bike lane. One of the city’s Big Blue Buses was loading passengers at a bus stop, then pulled out and cut me off as soon as I started to go around it.

It happens.

I wasn’t happy about it, but that’s almost to be expected. I see buses do the same thing to drivers on a daily basis.

Then a few blocks down the road, I moved ahead of the bus while it waited at a red light, since it was clear the driver was going to pull over at a bus stop just past the light. That put me safely out of its path, and I left the bus and its driver far behind me.

Or at least, that’s what I thought.

A few blocks further down the road, I could feel the bus coming up behind me. By that point, though, the bike lane had ended and the road had narrowed down to a single lane in both directions, with parking on each side. I had already taken the lane, since there wasn’t room for a car to pass safely — and certainly not enough for a bus.

I wasn’t too worried about it, though. While I don’t enjoy having a bus on my ass, I was doing over 20 mph in a 25 mph school zone, so it wasn’t like I was holding anyone up.

Evidently, the driver disagreed.

The moment we cleared the center divider, she gunned her engine and cut around me on the left — way too close for my comfort — then immediately cut back in front of me to pull over to the bus stop in front of the elementary school.

At that distance, stopping was not an option; I would have rear-ended the bus, which would not have been pretty at that speed. So I squeezed my brakes and leaned hard to the left, just clearing the rear bumper of the bus and zooming past; if I’d clipped its bumper, I would have been thrown into oncoming traffic, and probably wouldn’t be here to write this.

Again, not exactly a desirable outcome.

About half a block down the road, I thought better of it, though, and turned back to take down the number of the bus — 3830 — and the route number (3). Then I sat back and waited for the bus pass, somehow managing to keep both my words and fingers to myself.

After all, it wasn’t like she hadn’t known I was there. She’d just followed me for about a block, then sped up to go around me — even though it would have been much smarter to simply wait a few seconds and pull over safely behind me.

Somehow, though, I suspect that my safety was the last thing on her mind. Then again, pulling a stunt like that in school zone suggests she wasn’t too concerned about the kids, either.

I’ve already filed a complaint. And been assured by the very pleasant woman who answered the phone that they take things like this very seriously.

We’ll see.

……….

Update to the recent item about Andrew Wooley, the San Diego cyclist wrongly convicted of violating CVC21202 for passing a short line of cars in the right turn lane on the left, even though he was riding faster than the current speed of traffic.

In a surprising turnaround, the San Diego City Attorney’s office issued a formal position clarifying the law and reversing the undeserved conviction. Bike San Diego discusses the lessons learned, and interviews Wooley about the case — including the frightening revelation that the officer involved visited Wooley’s work and filed a complaint with his boss after Wooley had discussed the case with the officer’s supervisor.

……..

In what may be a sign of the apocalypse, L.A.’s mayor endorses cycling, or at least CicLAvia. Bike Girl offers a cautionary tale about choosing your battles. Burbank adopts a new bike plan that actually connects to other cities. A 30 minute car commute now takes 20 minutes by bike. A 9-year old Thousand Oaks boy is injured in a hit-and-run, while 39-year old Camarillo father is killed in a cycling collision; for a change, the driver stuck around. Conejo Valley volunteers give away 160 refurbished bikes, while Temecula’s Rotary Club gives away 39 shiny new ones this holiday season. Ridership in America’s bike paradise goes down for the first time in five years. Cyclists and drivers fight over Santa Rosa’s first bike boulevard; in Austin, it’s cyclists vs. business people. An innocent Chicago cyclist is killed when caught between road raging drivers. If New York’s South Williamsburg Hasidic community though cyclists were scantily clad before, just wait until this weekend. Arizona cyclists win the right to take the lane on appeal. New Bikes Allowed Use Of Full Lane stickers on sale now – which brings up the new Federal standards for bicycle signage. A Toronto man gets roughly one day in jail for each 3.3 of the 3,000 bikes he stole. British Cycling announces the first 50 members of its new Hall of Fame. Finally, the plot thickens as a cyclist hit by a car containing actress Anne Hathaway may have been a paparazzo intent on getting a photo. No wonder he didn’t stick around.

9-Year old cyclist killed in Anaheim

In yet another heartbreaking incident in a very bad week for SoCal cyclists, a 9-year old boy was killed while riding his bike in Anaheim Thursday afternoon.

In what Anaheim police Sgt. Rick Martinez called “just an ugly, ugly accident,” the child — who has not been publicly identified — was riding home from school on the sidewalk when he was struck.

According to the Orange County Register, he stopped his bike at the intersection of W. Orangewood Avenue and Loara Street and waited to cross; when the driver of a raised Ford pickup truck stopped at the intersection, he rode his bike out into the crosswalk. At the same time, the driver pulled forward, striking the boy.

According to the driver, he never saw the boy, and he was not cited by police. Evidently, California drivers are no longer required to be cautious, alert and aware of their surroundings when behind the wheel.

I’m sure the driver is devastated. Lord knows I would be.

But somehow, I don’t think “Oops” should be a universal Get Out Of Jail Free card for someone who kills another human being. Especially not an innocent child who, by all accounts, was riding in a safe and legal manner.

My heart and prayers go out to his family.

UPDATE: KCBS Channel 2 quotes Sgt. Martinez as saying “We’ve been talking to the driver and there’s no indication that he did anything wrong or illegal.”

The report says the driver was not able to see the cyclist directly in front of him due to the height of the truck. So, a driver can operate an unsafe vehicle — which may or may not be legal, yet which by its very design prevents him from seeing something directly in front of him — and the police are just fine with that.

Am I the only one who’s stomach is turning right now?

And it’s not just cyclists. This has been a very bad week for anyone on the streets not protected by steel and glass.

UPDATE 2: The OC Register has identified the cyclist as Nicholas Vela, a 4th grade student at Alexander J. Stoddard Elementary School.

They drive among us: What are these people thinking?

Last week, I was riding along Ocean Blvd through Santa Monica, on my way home from a long ride to the South Bay, through that section just above the pier lined with upscale restaurants and boutique hotels.

Shortly ahead, an SUV signaled for a right and turned across the bike lane into a parking lot entrance. Granted, state law says drivers should enter the bike lane before making their turn, rather than cut across the lane, in order to prevent right-hook collisions. Then again, it’s only been on the books for 32 years, so I could understand his confusion.

The truck was far enough ahead that it didn’t pose an issue for me, though.

Until he changed his mind, that is.

First he backed up a little, then pulled to the curb as if he was going to park there. Then without warning, he changed his mind again, and started moving back across the bike lane to re-enter traffic.

Problem was, by then I was right next to him.

So I yelled out a loud warning, and reached out to slap the side of his car. He braked to a stop about three-quarters of the way into the bike lane — a few more inches and he would have pushed me out directly into the path of an oncoming car. I managed to slip past and rode on, taking a few blocks to calm myself down and let my heart rate return to a more sustainable level.

I didn’t bother to look back.

Experience tells me there’s a slight chance I would have gotten a gesture of apology. More likely, I would have gotten the same sort of response I’ve gotten countless times before. The same response Josef got last week when a careless — or maybe uncaring — driver nearly ran him over.

I’ve found that it doesn’t matter if I’m in a designated bike lane, riding exactly where and how I’m supposed to. Or how dangerous or careless a driver — or sometimes, a pedestrian or another cyclist — happens to be.

Eight times out of 10, I’ll get the finger, the horn, the hurled insult. The ninth, I’ll get an invitation to fight, or at least, an aggressive vehicular acceleration punctuated by a sharp turn across my path — especially if I commit the unforgivable crime of touching their precious vehicle in a self-serving attempt to get their attention and avoid getting killed.

So frankly, looking back just wasn’t worth the added aggravation.

Take Josef’s experience for example.

First the driver zoomed around him after he’d taken the lane — even though he was riding at the posted speed of traffic — then cut back in front of him and slammed on her brakes when the light changed. A bit later, he was riding right next to her when she changed lanes despite his shouted warning, hitting the box he was carrying in his bakfiets.

And while his response wasn’t exactly designed to win friends and influence people, as someone who’d just been hit by a car and knocked off his bike, he deserved better than the finger and “F*** you!” he got in response.

Then there was this exchange, in which the generally genial and self-composed Bike Girl was brought to tears by a driver who informed her that the life of another human being wasn’t worth an extra one-second delay — all that it would have taken to wait until Bike Girl had passed to change lanes safely. And this for the crime of riding in the lane, on one of the frequent occasions when that clearly fits the definition of “as far right as practicable.”

Another vigilante driver who was willing to try, and convict, a cyclist for an imagined violation of the law — then carry out the sentence herself, even if that results in the death penalty.

Remind you of anyone?

Before he changed his story and claimed it was all just an accident, the Good Doctor allegedly told police he slammed on his brakes in front of two cyclists “to teach them a lesson.”

Today, in the trial of Dr. Christopher Thompson, Ron Peterson was shown a photo of hole in the broken rear windshield of the Good Doctor’s Lexus.

And said “My face did that.”

Nice lesson, doc.

……….

Thanks to the times for covering the opening arguments in the Mandeville Brake Check trial. Will Campbell visits the Berlin Wall on today’s ride to work. Travelin’ Local takes a look at Bike Stations. Someone is deliberately trying to injure New Mexico cyclists booby trapped bike trails in Albuquerque. Remembering possibly the greatest cyclist of all time, who ruled the two-wheeled world a century before Lance. New turn signal and automatic brake light for bikes. More cyclists on the roads mean more injuries. A bike-friendly New Amsterdam may someday rival the old one as a tourist destination. Slate takes a look at vehicular and facilitator cycling. Honda thinks the best way to teach cycling is on a simulator. Drugs and doping take the life of a former cycling hero. In more news from New Zealand, police seek the hit-and-run killer of a popular doctor, while friends ride in his honor and an elderly repeat offending drunk driver gets her license back just a month after she murdered a cyclist. Finally, next time Beyonce is in town, I’m going out riding; you never know who you’ll meet out there.

A meditation on bicycling and driving in the City of Angels

One quick note: I emailed Paul Koretz and Ron Galperin again yesterday to offer the use of this site to address the cycling community. If they still don’t respond, I can only conclude that they’re just not that into us.


I don’t drive much anymore.

You see, our apartment is walking distance from just about everything I need. And these days, most of my clients accept that I can work just as well, if not better, from home. So my car spends far more time in the garage, covered in dust, than it does on the road these days.

But every now and then, I need something that isn’t within easy reach, and isn’t practical to do by bike.

Like today, for instance.

So I was reminded once again why I’d much rather be on my bike than slog through weekday traffic in L.A. — especially now that our rapidly crumbling infrastructure is making traffic slower and heavier than ever. But the drive helped me solidify a few thoughts that have slowly been taking shape within my overcrowded head.

For instance, I’ve long thought that L.A. drivers don’t respect the rights of cyclists. Behind the wheel, though, it becomes obvious that’s just not true.

Because it’s not just us.

They don’t respect pedestrians, buses, small animals or other drivers, either.

Not all of drivers, of course. Probably not even most drivers. But you don’t have to observe traffic very long to realize that too many people drive too aggressively and too carelessly.

They drive too fast. They pass too close. They cut off other vehicles. They turn without signaling. And they seldom, if ever, willingly yield the right of way.

In other words, exactly the same things we cyclists complain about.

But when you’re safely cocooned within a couple tons of steel, it may tick you off, but it’s usually not life-threatening. It’s just that the same actions that could cause a minor fender bender between two cars can result in serious injuries when a cyclist is involved.

Because we don’t have fenders. Or any other protection other than a helmet and a thin layer of chamois between our legs.

So it’s nothing personal. They don’t actually hate us.

They just really suck as drivers.

 

The Times continues their series exploring the issues with the candidates for CD5 with an examination of development on the Westside. Now the Google lets you check local traffic conditions before your ride. Under the heading of WTF: S.F.’s mayor calls for $20,000 bicycles for the planned Baghdad by the Bay bike sharing program. Meanwhile, my hometown takes a more populist approach. San Diego can’t figure out who’s responsible for a botched road resurfacing that’s injured four cyclists and counting (second item). Ubrayj asks what happened to the money budgeted for the city’s recently suspended bike licensing program, and offers some good insights into funding bike programs in a recent comment. Stephen Box questions why the city insists on restaurant parking, but won’t provide a promised bike rack.

And finally, don’t forget to register for the Los Angeles Bike Summit on Saturday, March 7 at L.A. Trade Tech College — looks like yours truly will be a late addition. But be kind, I bruise easily.

Today’s ride, in which I chase a BMW and race a Porsche

I should have known it was going to be one of those rides.

Just three blocks from home, I come up to a 4-way stop, then went through the intersection the same time as a car going the opposite way. Only problem was, a car on the cross street began his left turn as soon as the other car passed, while I was still in the intersection — attempting to occupy the same space I was already in.

But I bit my tongue. Hard.

I mean, not one word or gesture. It wasn’t that I had suddenly become a pacifist. I just didn’t want to ruin this beautiful day. Not even when he pulled to the curb a couple blocks later, almost dooring me as he got out of his car.

Then just a few blocks after that, at another 4-way stop, some idiot on the cross street came to a full stop — in the middle of the intersection. Which meant he was blocking the path of every other person on the road, including me. Then he just sat there waiting to see if anyone else was going to go first.

Message received. Just one of those days.

So about a half-dozen minor incidents later, I found myself riding down San Vicente in Brentwood, when I noticed a large BMW preparing to enter the street from the parking lot at Soup Plantation.

Only problem is, there was a large truck parked next to the exit, completely blocking his view of the street. So he had no way of knowing if there was a bike, car, bus or the entire USC Marching Band bearing down on him.

The way this ride had already gone, I assumed the worst, and grabbed my brakes while swinging out wide into the lane. And sure enough, just as I rounded the corner of the truck, he gunned his engine to pull out, then jammed on the brakes when he saw me.

But when he saw I was slowing down, this gold-plated, double-dipped Richard-head gunned it again, clearly thinking he could lurch out in front me — except by then, I was already in front of his car. So he jammed on the brake again, as I rolled by with my hands out to the side in the universal “What the fuck?” gesture.

Once I was past, he gunned it again, then pulled up beside me with his window down, yelling something unintelligible. But it was pretty damn clear it wasn’t an apology. So that caveman portion of my brain kicked, punching out the standard fight or flight response.

And I sure as hell wasn’t going to run away.

So the chase was on.

I kicked it up a couple gears, assumed my best sprint position and picked up the cadence. And much to my surprise, I found I was actually gaining on him.

In fact, I was just about to catch up to him, prepared to give him one of the few pieces of my mind that I have left, when a Porsche pulled out from the curb directly ahead of me without looking.

So I swung hard to the left. And next thing I knew, I was racing down the left lane at about 30 mph, next to the driver’s door of a 911 — the operator of which was preoccupied with talking to his lovely passenger, and had no idea that I was there, since he hadn’t once looked in my direction.

Now, any sane person would have realized the complete idiocy of that situation, grabbed hard on the brakes, and let the Porsche go by.

But that would have meant that the esteemed Mr. Head would get away.

So I kicked it up to my smallest gear and cut in front of the Porsche. And causing the driver to jam on his brakes, with an expression that clearly said “What the holy f…!!!!”

And yes, I confess that there was a small part of my otherwise engaged brain that registered his expression, and truly enjoyed it.

But Mr. Head comma Dick was getting away, so I continued to hammer down the street. And I was only about 20 feet behind him when he pulled a U-turn and raced off in the other direction. Leaving me in the position of chasing him down once again, or getting on with my life.

I chose the latter.

I’d like to say the remainder of my ride was uneventful. Really, I would.

But I would be lying.

Maybe I’ll share it with you another time. Or maybe I’ll just pour a few fingers of good Irish Whiskey and try to forget the whole thing.

One last thing, though. All that adrenalin must have done some good.

Because I finished my usual 2-1/2 hour ride in just a hair under 2:10.

 

Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who had a challenging ride lately. Will documents the Anatomy of an Inattentive Driver, while Gary discusses a recent hit and run that put a Santa Monica cyclist in critical condition. My friend, the proprietor of the Altadena Blog, uncovers a slightly nauseating video of a fat tire ride down Echo Mountain. L.A.C.B.C announces Car-Free Friday; celebrate it by riding with City Council President Eric Garcetti. And Stephen Box marks the second anniversary of storming the L.A. Bicycle Advisory Committee’s figurative Bastille with an open letter to the new head of the Bikeways Engineering Group.

Today’s ride, in which I chase a BMW and race a Porsche

I should have known it was going to be one of those rides.

Just three blocks from home, I come up to a 4-way stop, then went through the intersection the same time as a car going the opposite way. Only problem was, a car on the cross street began his left turn as soon as the other car passed, while I was still in the intersection — attempting to occupy the same space I was already in.

But I bit my tongue. Hard.

I mean, not one word or gesture. It wasn’t that I had suddenly become a pacifist. I just didn’t want to ruin this beautiful day. Not even when he pulled to the curb a couple blocks later, almost dooring me as he got out of his car.

Then just a few blocks after that, at another 4-way stop, some idiot on the cross street came to a full stop — in the middle of the intersection. Which meant he was blocking the path of every other person on the road, including me. Then he just sat there waiting to see if anyone else was going to go first.

Message received. Just one of those days.

So about a half-dozen minor incidents later, I found myself riding down San Vicente in Brentwood, when I noticed a large BMW preparing to enter the street from the parking lot at Soup Plantation.

Only problem is, there was a large truck parked next to the exit, completely blocking his view of the street. So he had no way of knowing if there was a bike, car, bus or the entire USC Marching Band bearing down on him.

The way this ride had already gone, I assumed the worst, and grabbed my brakes while swinging out wide into the lane. And sure enough, just as I rounded the corner of the truck, he gunned his engine to pull out, then jammed on the brakes when he saw me.

But when he saw I was slowing down, this gold-plated, double-dipped Richard-head gunned it again, clearly thinking he could lurch out in front me — except by then, I was already in front of his car. So he jammed on the brake again, as I rolled by with my hands out to the side in the universal “What the fuck?” gesture.

Once I was past, he gunned it again, then pulled up beside me with his window down, yelling something unintelligible. But it was pretty damn clear it wasn’t an apology. So that caveman portion of my brain kicked, punching out the standard fight or flight response.

And I sure as hell wasn’t going to run away.

So the chase was on.

I kicked it up a couple gears, assumed my best sprint position and picked up the cadence. And much to my surprise, I found I was actually gaining on him.

In fact, I was just about to catch up to him, prepared to give him one of the few pieces of my mind that I have left, when a Porsche pulled out from the curb directly ahead of me without looking.

So I swung hard to the left. And next thing I knew, I was racing down the left lane at about 30 mph, next to the driver’s door of a 911 — the operator of which was preoccupied with talking to his lovely passenger, and had no idea that I was there, since he hadn’t once looked in my direction.

Now, any sane person would have realized the complete idiocy of that situation, grabbed hard on the brakes, and let the Porsche go by.

But that would have meant that the esteemed Mr. Head would get away.

So I kicked it up to my smallest gear and cut in front of the Porsche. And causing the driver to jam on his brakes, with an expression that clearly said “What the holy f…!!!!”

And yes, I confess that there was a small part of my otherwise engaged brain that registered his expression, and truly enjoyed it.

But Mr. Head comma Dick was getting away, so I continued to hammer down the street. And I was only about 20 feet behind him when he pulled a U-turn and raced off in the other direction. Leaving me in the position of chasing him down once again, or getting on with my life.

I chose the latter.

I’d like to say the remainder of my ride was uneventful. Really, I would.

But I would be lying.

Maybe I’ll share it with you another time. Or maybe I’ll just pour a few fingers of good Irish Whiskey and try to forget the whole thing.

One last thing, though. All that adrenalin must have done some good.

Because I finished my usual 2-1/2 hour ride in just a hair under 2:10.

 

Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who had a challenging ride lately. Will documents the Anatomy of an Inattentive Driver, while Gary discusses a recent hit and run that put a Santa Monica cyclist in critical condition. My friend, the proprietor of the Altadena Blog, uncovers a slightly nauseating video of a fat tire ride down Echo Mountain. L.A.C.B.C announces Car-Free Friday; celebrate it by riding with City Council President Eric Garcetti. And Stephen Box marks the second anniversary of storming the L.A. Bicycle Advisory Committee’s figurative Bastille with an open letter to the new head of the Bikeways Engineering Group.

Today’s ride, in which I chase a BMW and race a Porsche

I should have known it was going to be one of those rides.

Just three blocks from home, I come up to a 4-way stop, then went through the intersection the same time as a car going the opposite way. Only problem was, a car on the cross street began his left turn as soon as the other car passed, while I was still in the intersection — attempting to occupy the same space I was already in.

But I bit my tongue. Hard.

I mean, not one word or gesture. It wasn’t that I had suddenly become a pacifist. I just didn’t want to ruin this beautiful day. Not even when he pulled to the curb a couple blocks later, almost dooring me as he got out of his car.

Then just a few blocks after that, at another 4-way stop, some idiot on the cross street came to a full stop — in the middle of the intersection. Which meant he was blocking the path of every other person on the road, including me. Then he just sat there waiting to see if anyone else was going to go first.

Message received. Just one of those days.

So about a half-dozen minor incidents later, I found myself riding down San Vicente in Brentwood, when I noticed a large BMW preparing to enter the street from the parking lot at Soup Plantation.

Only problem is, there was a large truck parked next to the exit, completely blocking his view of the street. So he had no way of knowing if there was a bike, car, bus or the entire USC Marching Band bearing down on him.

The way this ride had already gone, I assumed the worst, and grabbed my brakes while swinging out wide into the lane. And sure enough, just as I rounded the corner of the truck, he gunned his engine to pull out, then jammed on the brakes when he saw me.

But when he saw I was slowing down, this gold-plated, double-dipped Richard-head gunned it again, clearly thinking he could lurch out in front me — except by then, I was already in front of his car. So he jammed on the brake again, as I rolled by with my hands out to the side in the universal “What the fuck?” gesture.

Once I was past, he gunned it again, then pulled up beside me with his window down, yelling something unintelligible. But it was pretty damn clear it wasn’t an apology. So that caveman portion of my brain kicked, punching out the standard fight or flight response.

And I sure as hell wasn’t going to run away.

So the chase was on.

I kicked it up a couple gears, assumed my best sprint position and picked up the cadence. And much to my surprise, I found I was actually gaining on him.

In fact, I was just about to catch up to him, prepared to give him one of the few pieces of my mind that I have left, when a Porsche pulled out from the curb directly ahead of me without looking.

So I swung hard to the left. And next thing I knew, I was racing down the left lane at about 30 mph, next to the driver’s door of a 911 — the operator of which was preoccupied with talking to his lovely passenger, and had no idea that I was there, since he hadn’t once looked in my direction.

Now, any sane person would have realized the complete idiocy of that situation, grabbed hard on the brakes, and let the Porsche go by.

But that would have meant that the esteemed Mr. Head would get away.

So I kicked it up to my smallest gear and cut in front of the Porsche. And causing the driver to jam on his brakes, with an expression that clearly said “What the holy f…!!!!”

And yes, I confess that there was a small part of my otherwise engaged brain that registered his expression, and truly enjoyed it.

But Mr. Head comma Dick was getting away, so I continued to hammer down the street. And I was only about 20 feet behind him when he pulled a U-turn and raced off in the other direction. Leaving me in the position of chasing him down once again, or getting on with my life.

I chose the latter.

I’d like to say the remainder of my ride was uneventful. Really, I would.

But I would be lying.

Maybe I’ll share it with you another time. Or maybe I’ll just pour a few fingers of good Irish Whiskey and try to forget the whole thing.

One last thing, though. All that adrenalin must have done some good.

Because I finished my usual 2-1/2 hour ride in just a hair under 2:10.

 

Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who had a challenging ride lately. Will documents the Anatomy of an Inattentive Driver, while Gary discusses a recent hit and run that put a Santa Monica cyclist in critical condition. My friend, the proprietor of the Altadena Blog, uncovers a slightly nauseating video of a fat tire ride down Echo Mountain. L.A.C.B.C announces Car-Free Friday; celebrate it by riding with City Council President Eric Garcetti. And Stephen Box marks the second anniversary of storming the L.A. Bicycle Advisory Committee’s figurative Bastille with an open letter to the new head of the Bikeways Engineering Group.

My latest ride, in which I verify a verse from Proverbs

I admit it. I was already pissed off.

I was riding on as perfect a SoCal day as I have yet seen in nearly two decades as an Angeleno. Sunny, windless, mid-80s, cruising up the Santa Monica section on Main Street on the back end of a 32-mile ride, just a stone’s throw from the beach.

Unlike the blow-out induced hike earlier in the week, this ride had gone of without a hitch, reaffirming at the deepest levels of my being why we live in L.A., and why I ride.

Then just as I was about to pass an SUV parked on the side of the road, I started to get a funny feeling that things were about to go to hell fast. Nothing I could put my finger on, but it caused me to take a good look at the vehicle on my right.

No turn signal. No brake lights. I couldn’t even see if there was a driver behind the wheel.

But sure enough, just as I was about the pass the car, it lurched out from the curb, entering the lane as if I wasn’t there.

I swerved hard to the left, nearly crossing the center line, and yelled out a warning. Then yelled again. And again a third time, before the driver finally responded and let me pass.

As I rode by, I took a good look at the driver, and saw an expression that chilled me to my sweat-soaked chamois. Not the look of remorse that most drivers would bear under such circumstances. Nor the angry expression we’ve all seen too many times. Or even the blank, uncomprehending bovine gaze of a driver who has no idea what’s going on.

No, this time I saw the face of a man who knew exactly what he’d done. And didn’t care.

The moment I passed his vehicle and pulled back to the right, he gunned his engine and lurched around me. Then less than half a block away, he swerved back into the bike lane to pass another car on the right, before running the next red light and disappearing around a corner.

Needless to say, I was shaken. And shaking.

And I was pissed.

So I was in no mood to turn the other cheek a mile or so down the road, when I saw a pickup truck put on its turn signal and pull into the right lane to make a turn — without ever checking his mirrors to see that I was already there.

Fortunately, I was prepared this time. I grabbed my brakes, let him pull in front of me, then swung around to his left and pulled up next to him at the light.

His window was open, and he was looking the other way, preparing for his turn. So doing my best to keep my voice level and my anger under control, I leaned in and said, “Next time, check your mirrors first.”

And then the most amazing thing happened.

He turned around, revealing a young African-American man, and gave me one of the biggest, friendliest smiles I’ve ever had directed my way. And apologized profusely — and sincerely.

Taken aback, I mumbled something about how it was okay since I’d seen his turn signal, and just try to be more careful next time. He gave me that same smile again, nodded, and made his turn.

And I rode home, my mood restored, and thinking what a nice guy I’d just met. And I realized it’s true.

A soft answer really does turneth away wrath.

Something I might want to remember next time that I piss someone else off.

 

Hardrockgirl experiences a perfect Sunday riding through the Westside, while Gary celebrates his victory over a clueless cop an unfair ticket. LABikeRides and Streetsblog LA alert us to the upcoming Tour de Ballona II. A councilperson in Mad City, where it’s against the law to get doored, tries to put the responsibility back where it belongs. An Alaskan cyclist writes about the joys of riding at –15F (remember that next time we bitch about our 60 degree cold spells). Finally, the esteemed, and newly minted, Dr. Alex returns to blogdom with a meditation on cycling, activism and eternal summers. Welcome back, Alex — and when you’re ready to run for office, I’ll gladly manage your campaign.

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