Tag Archive for right hook

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.

Yesterday’s ride, after which I attend a meeting

Hi, I’m BikingIn…

Sorry, we only use first names here.

Oh. Okay. I’m, uh…Biking, and I’m a middle-finger-holic.

Hi Biking.

I promised myself I was going to quit. Really, I was. And I was doing okay. I hadn’t made a single obscene gesture or swore at anyone for over a month, no matter how much they deserved it.

Until today, that is. (blushing in shame)

Go on.

Well, there I was, riding up San Vicente on the way home from today’s ride, when two cars right-hooked me within just a couple blocks.

See, that surprised me, because most drivers there seem to be used to cyclists. And just look at me. Six feet tall and 180 pounds, bright yellow, black and white jersey. I mean, I’m pretty hard to miss.

But sure enough, some woman in a black Mercedes zipped by on my left, then cut across right my path to make a right turn. So I jammed on my brakes to avoid a collision, and next thing I know, I’m sending a one-fingered solute her way.

(Murmuring)

Then couple blocks later, bam! It happens again. This time an older guy in a ‘70s era rolling junkyard. He zooms by, cuts right in front of me to make his turn, then casually glances my way as I panic stop to avoid him. And yeah, the bird flew once again.

Five weeks of middle-finger sobriety down the drain.

Why’d they do it? Who knows.

Maybe they don’t know how dangerous it is, or maybe they didn’t know I had the right of way — same way a car in the left lane can’t cut off a car in the right lane. Could be they wanted to send a message, like the good doctor did last year, or didn’t think my life was worth the few seconds of inconvenience it would have taken to let me pass safely.

Or maybe they just didn’t care.

Worst part is, it’s not like those gestures did any good. Even if they saw it, it’s not going to convince the drivers that they did anything wrong. It just confirms that cyclists are rude a**holes, so they feel justified driving like that again next time.

Which is why I’m really, really trying to quit.

On the other hand, I could’ve flipped off the driver in Brentwood shortly after that. But I didn’t. No matter how much he deserved.

See, he was cruising along looking for a parking space. And not only was he clogging the whole right lane, he was also driving with two wheels in the parking lane, blocking my path, as well.

I checked to make sure there were no other cars coming, and swung around to pass him on the left. Then he sped up again, with no idea that I was riding right next to his driver’s side window.

The cars ahead of us were stopped at a traffic light, and there wasn’t anyone behind us. And I was going at least as fast as he was, so that meant I was moving at the speed of traffic.

And I could ride anywhere I wanted.

You see, section 21202 of the California Vehicle Code clearly states:

Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway…

But since I was moving at the speed of traffic — in fact, I’d picked up my pace a little, making me, at that moment at least, the fastest vehicle on the roadway — I took the lane.

The left lane.

Then once I was safely ahead of him, I signaled my lane change, and crossed back over to my usual position on the side of the road. Leaving one very surprised driver in my wake.

But I didn’t say one word, or make a single gesture. I mean, that’s got to be worth something, right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to call my sponsor. And get back on the road to middle-finger sobriety.

……….

Metro finally considers lifting their ban on bikes at rush hour – hey, a radical idea like that could actually encourage people to leave their cars at home! Metblogs comments on all the non-cyclists clogging the beach bike path. A tourist in San Diego is killed after falling from a pedicab. In a truly heartbreaking report, a 90-year old Visalia cyclist is in critical condition after being struck while turning by a driver “who could not avoid the bicyclist.” Right. The NY Times asks if bicycling is bad for your bones; based on personal experience, I’d say it is if you fall. Popular Mechanics note that le Tour is a proving ground for innovations that could filter down to your level, including the new electronic shifters. A writer in the Hamptons argues for shared roadways. Finally, if you can’t find Will this morning, he’s at the Jackopalooza saying his farewells to Michael.

Bike law change #2: Prohibit turning into the path of an oncoming cyclist

One of the most dangerous situations any rider faces is when a driver passes on the left, then makes an immediate right turn. Or when a driver tries to make a left turn directly in front of an oncoming rider.

Most of the time they get away with it. And sometimes they don’t, resulting in a serious, often fatal, accident in which the rider smashes into the side of the turning vehicle.

The problem is that drivers often underestimate the speed of the bike, and think they’ve got time to complete the turn. Or they just drive too aggressively, and assume they have the skill to pull off an exceptionally risky move — or want to send a message by forcing the cyclist to panic stop in order to avoid them.

The only way to stop it, and protect the safety of cyclists, is to ban it entirely — and require that drivers wait until any oncoming rider passes before making their turn, whether right or left.

 

Bicycle Fixation observes we’re getting closer to genuine critical mass (lower case). The Utne Reader discovers conservative cyclists aren’t a myth after all, while conservative #1 plans to open the way for mountain bikes in the national parks. Now if he’d just restore their funding before he makes his ungraceful exit in January.

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