Road report from the dark side

Forgive me father, for I have sinned.

It’s been a full week since I’ve been on my bike. Worse, I’ve been driving my car to and from work almost every day. Seven out of the last eight working days, in fact.

Yes, it’s true. I’ve gone over to the dark side.

Not that it was my idea, of course. I’d much rather still be working at home, so I can take off for a long lunch and knock off a quick 30 or so miles on the bike. Or maybe 40. Or 50. Especially when the weather is absolutely perfect, like it was last week.

And to make matters worse, the office I’m working in is just south of Ballona Creek, so I can see all the riders headed to and from the beach on the Ballona Creek Bike Path. Assuming they don’t get mugged along the way.

But in this economy, I’m just happy to have work after a very slow summer. Besides, it could be worse; I could have been a high-paid investment banker on Wall Street.

All this time in my car has given me an opportunity to observe cycling from the perspective of a driver. And surprisingly, it hasn’t been all that bad.

Sure, there was the cyclist who hadn’t learned how to ride in a straight line yet, and was swerving right and left with every corresponding pedal stroke. As a result, he’d suddenly jerk into traffic, then back out again, back and forth. And yet, every driver somehow managed to avoid him, at least as long as he was within my site.

Or there was the woman riding a single speed cruiser with a big basket on the handlebars, who made a very, very slow speed right turn off a very busy street — and still, somehow, she managed to swerve all the way to the middle of the left lane before completing her turn (that would be the lane nearest the middle of the road, for any Brits reading this).

In the time it took to finish her turn, two cars were also able to make the same right turn behind her. One went into the right lane, safely passing to her right; the other followed her into the left lane, none too pleased from the sound of it. But as near as I could tell before my light changed, she was able to safely, and by all appearances, happily, continue down the road, as far as she could ride from where she was supposed to be without crossing over into oncoming traffic.

But most of the cyclists I’ve seen on my commute have just been people dressed for work or class, riding safely and politely. And most of the drivers I’ve seen have been equally courteous, taking the time to pass each rider safely.

Now, I have no doubt that if I would have talked to one of them, they could have told me about some driver I didn’t see who came too close, or turned right in front of them with no warning; just as I could no doubt find drivers who would complain about some crazy cyclist they encountered.

By and large, though, I’ve been pleased to see just how well cars and bikes have been able to share the road. So maybe this crazy town isn’t as dysfunctional as I thought.

As for me, I’m pleased to report that, even though I’m now a driver myself, I haven’t felt any urge to run a cyclist off the road, or toss a large drink at a rider I pass — or raw vegetables, as seems to be the fashion overseas.

So evidently, it’s not contagious. Or maybe I just haven’t been exposed long enough yet.


Tamerlane picks up a thread that began in New York, and transforms it into a meditation on vulnerability, and discusses the ethics of biking. Will Campbell amusingly confronts another cigarette smoking asshat. The S.F. Cycling Examiner describes flipping over the handlebars, without spilling his coffee. CNN discovers Santa Barbara’s former naked cyclist, now baring it all in Oregon. Town Mouse’s novel is soon to be available in paperback, although with the current exchange rate, still out of reach for most of us Yanks. Bike Girl continues going car free, while I go reluctantly bike free.

One comment

  1. disgruntled says:

    Or you can hear the first episode on radio here (click on ‘Monday’) if you’re desperate… It should be on for a week after the broadcast.

    Sorry to hear you’re car-bound…

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