I never get honked at when I ride.
I honestly can’t remember the last time it happened. I go out of my way to ride safely and courteously. Yet the other day, two separate drivers honked at me as I was riding.
Maybe it was the stress of driving crowded L.A. streets. Maybe they were still ticked off about some other cyclist who cut them off or ran a red light. Or maybe Rush Limbaugh or some other bike-hating jerk went on another anti-bike rant and got their listeners riled up once again.
Maybe it was just a coincidence.
But two drivers honked at me yesterday. And not in a friendly way.
The first came about 30 miles after my encounter with the undead dog. I was riding east on Washington, after the bike lane from the beach ends a few blocks before Abbot Kinney.
Even without the bike lane, the roadway is wide enough that I was out of the traffic lane, and riding only a few miles below the speed of traffic. And yet, as a driver came up on my left, he suddenly blared his horn.
Not the friendly tap some drivers employ in a misguided attempt to tell us they’re there. As if we don’t already know. No, this was a loud, long leaning on the horn that could only be heard as “get the f… out of my way, ‘cause I’m coming through.”
No really. I’m quite proficient in horn as a second language. And there was no mistaking his message.
Nor was there any mistaking mine as he went by.
Of course, he was shocked and appalled that I would respond in such a manner. In fact, he wanted to continue the conversation at the next red light. But I’ve had that discussion before, and didn’t see any reason to get into it again.
So I gave my signal, and made a left onto Abbot Kinney as he continued to shout after me.
The next one was more troubling, though.
The road is narrower there, although traffic is lighter, so I’d taken the lane since turning off from Abbot Kinney. As I passed the Gehry Building, a huge garbage truck came up from behind.
I moved slightly to the right to give him a little more room. But just as his front bumper came up beside me, he suddenly laid on his horn — a loud, long basso profundo blast that was completely unnecessary, since he was already in my field of view.
Then he buzzed me, passing not more than a foot away, so close that I couldn’t extend my elbow — let alone my arm — without hitting him.
Fortunately, even though I was startled, I stayed in control. Because swerving in either direction could have been fatal.
Had I reacted by swerving left, I would have hit him and probably ended up under his wheels. Swerving to the right would have sent me into the parked cars, and most likely caused me to ricochet back into him with the same result.
Of course, what he did is perfectly legal in California. While other states are rapidly adopting the three-foot passing law, the law here only requires that motorists pass at a safe distance — which is usually interpreted as anything that doesn’t actually come in contact with the rider. And there is no law here against harassing a cyclist, even if that harassment causes an accident.
Sure, other charges can be filed. But they usually aren’t. And calling the police is often a waste of time.
In retrospect, I wish I’d chased the driver down, and gotten enough information to get him fired. Anyone who drives like that doesn’t belong on the street. Let alone behind the wheel of a multi-ton vehicle the size of a small house.
But I was too shaken to even catch the name of the company. And frankly, even though I knew I could catch him, I was angry enough that I didn’t trust what I’d do once I did.
So I rode home, shaken and angry.
And he gets to keep his job, and will likely do it again to someone else — who may not be as lucky.
And he’ll probably get away with that, as well.
The Mid City West Neighborhood Council — covering what the rest of us would call the Fairfax District — took matters into their own hands, and designed their own bike plan. Write your Congress person to support HR 2521, which would create a development bank to fund infrastructure projects, railways and — dare we hope? — bikeways. Stephen Box explains how Melbourne has it backwards, or maybe upside down, compared to L.A. Mark your calendar for the upcoming Bike MS 2009 charity ride, and movie night at the Encino Velodrome (be honest, did you even know there was an Encino Velodrome?). Here’s your chance to tour Pasadena by foot or bike, and discover upcoming bike routes. The Christian Science Monitor asks if bikes and cars can really share the road, while N.Y. Times finds that more bikes lanes fail to bring peace to the city. A paper in Quebec goes on an anti-bike rant — citing a tragic pedestrian-bike collision that occurred nearly 20 years ago — and suggests that all bike lanes in the city center be removed. Paramedics in London — where everyone has medical coverage — have taken to their bikes. Finally, goodbye Teddy. You’ll be missed.