A couple of seconds.
Two, maybe three tops.
That’s all it took, as a large truck stopped at the intersection across from me, waiting to make his left, and completely obscuring the vision of the driver behind him.
She could have waited for the few seconds it would have taken for the truck to move out of her way, giving her a clear view of the traffic in front of her. Instead, she blindly stomped on the gas and cut sharply to her right into the parking lane, in an attempt to blow through the intersection before the light changed.
Which just happened to be the intersection I was occupying at that exact moment, as I used the opportunity to make my own left.
Which made me a sitting duck.
At the speed she was going, there was nothing I could do to get out of her way; even so, I instinctively jammed on my brakes, knowing it would do little good and bracing for impact.
I remember an idle thought floating through my mind as I wondered just how far her car was going to throw me through the air. Or if the car behind me would be able to stop in time to avoid making me a bike sandwich.
Fortunately, she saw me directly ahead of her and hit her brakes hard, coming to a panic stop about four feet in front of me.
Thanks God for anti-lock brakes.
Without them, she likely would have left skid marks extending far beyond where I was stopped.
So only seconds after it all began, we found ourselves facing one another, her face completely impassive. Maybe that was because she blamed me for what almost happened. Maybe she didn’t care.
Or maybe she was still trying to process the prospect of nearly killing another human being because she was too damned impatient to wait until she could see where she was going.
You see it every day.
Drivers who blare on the horn if someone ahead of them has the audacity to slow down to make a turn or pull into a parking space. Who swerve to the right or left to zoom around cars stopped for a pedestrian — or a cyclist — in a crosswalk, with no idea why they’re stopped. And too often with tragic results.
Or the second or third driver in a left turn lane, who blindly follow the cars ahead even though their vision is obscured and they have no idea what’s in the road directly ahead of them.
And don’t get me started on the ones who seem unable to follow behind a cyclist for even a few seconds.
Like the woman who passed me on the wrong side of the road earlier in my ride, even though she was going up a hill that completely hid the car approaching from the other side. And ignored my shouted warnings until she had to cut back sharply to avoid a head-on collision. Or the driver who oddly insisted on zooming past and cutting in front of me even though we were only feet from a red light.
Even though there is absolutely nothing in the vehicle code that says you have the right to drive unimpeded by any other people or vehicles on the road.
It’s not just an L.A. problem, either.
I’ve always thought that distracted, drunk or overly aggressive motorists were the most dangerous drivers on the road.
But more and more, I’m starting to believe that it’s the ones who are simply impatient and unwilling to wait the few seconds it takes to drive safely who pose the greatest risk to everyone else on the road.
Today, an impatient driver nearly killed me.
Tomorrow, she may succeed with someone else.
A couple other quick notes.
David Proffer forwards news of a Los Olivos woman facing charges for plowing into a group of cyclists last March, leaving one with broken bones and putting another rider in a coma that’s lasted nearly two months.
Alicia Gilbert is charged with driving under the influence of a drug, causing bodily injury, failing to provide accurate information at the scene of a collision, providing a false identity and driving with a suspended license.
Oh, and child endangerment for driving with her 8-month old child while she was high. Not that they wanted to throw the book at her or anything.
She’s being held on $200,000 bail, which seems obscenely low given the circumstances.
Meanwhile, a fund has been set up for Gary Holmes, the cyclist suffering from a traumatic brain injury caused by his frontal lobe shifting back and forth within his skull, as well as two broken arms, both knees shattered and a collapsed lung.
And the milk of human kindness seems to have run dry with one subhuman jerk, who left the following comment:
Give this woman a medal! It irks the hell out of me when I come around a blind turn to discover 20 bicyclists riding in the middle of the road.
Donald Blunt sends news of a Sacramento cyclist injured by a hit-and-run driver who fled the scene despite being flagged down by a witness. Fortunately, the victim’s injuries aren’t life threatening — though that doesn’t preclude any number of life-altering injuries.
Finally, Erik Griswold passes along a letter from a Valley Assemblymember suggesting that changing state law to allow more triple bike racks on buses just isn’t politically viable at this time.