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.
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.
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.