Today’s post, in which I nearly kill a wrong-way cyclist

Still haven’t made it back on the bike – that will come this weekend, God willing – but at least I thought I’d hit the gym after work this evening.

So I slogged my way through Westside rush hour traffic – how it can possibly take 45 minutes to drive just over 8 miles will forever be beyond my comprehension. But finally, I was just a block from the gym, making the penultimate right turn before reaching my destination.

Just as I rounded the corner, I founded myself facing a cyclist riding directly towards me on the wrong side of the road, mere feet away from a head-on collision. He’d been completely hidden from view by the parked cars on the side of the street, and was riding down the middle of the right lane, albeit in the wrong direction.

I jerked the wheel hard to the left and swerved around him, missing him by just feet. And of course, he just kept riding, as if a near-death experience was just another everyday occurrence. Which it may be, if he always rides like that. And I was only grateful that there wasn’t a car in the other lane, so I had the room to go around him, without getting hit by another car.

And there’s the problem.

Because there are people who make a habit of making other people responsible for their safety. Like this gentleman, who placed his survival in the hands of a total stranger, in this case, me. And without asking permission first, I might add.

Or the multiple riders I saw later on my way home, riding in traffic on Olympic Boulevard, after dark, with no lights or reflectors. Or helmets, for that matter.

Which meant that their continued existence on this planet depended on people they don’t know, slogging their way home from work and no doubt tired from a long, hard day. And the ability those people to spot them in the darkness, and have both the reaction time and driving skill to avoid them.

Of course, it’s not just cyclists.

You can see the same thing everyday, as skaters dart across traffic on their custom boards and pedestrians jaywalk in the middle of a block – even though there’s often a crosswalk just a few feet away – oblivious to the traffic bearing down on them. Or perhaps trusting that the drivers will stop for them.

It seems to be the same mentality shared by drivers who insist on turning left as soon as the light changes, cutting off the cars coming in the opposite direction who actually have the right-of-way. As well as the ones who weave in and out of traffic on the freeway, forcing other cars to break to avoid them.

In each case, they seem to trust that other people will see them, and take whatever action is required avoid them. Even at the risk of their own safety.

And that’s not something anyone has a right to expect. Or even ask of another human being.

Your safety is your own responsibility. As is mine. And just as it is for everyone else.

I’ll try to avoid you. Really, I will. I’ll do my best to keep you, and everyone else I encounter, safe for the few seconds we share the same few feet of roadway.

But ultimately, it’s up to each of us to take responsibility for our own safety. And not expect other people to do it for us.


  1. timur says:

    Well said. I think you and I have been thinking very similar things about our own positions vis a vis vulnerability and responsibility.

  2. justwilliams says:

    I think (and you have begun to indicate) that this cyclist’s behaviour is part of a much bigger picture. I feel another post coming on!

  3. bikinginla says:

    Timur, I suspect you’re right. I’m often surprised at how similar our thinking is, and how we end up at the much the same place from such different starting points.

  4. bikinginla says:

    Oh that’s just great, Just Williams. Now I have to get all socially responsible, and look at the big picture.

    Actually, I hadn’t planned to go any further with this, until I read your comment just before I went out riding today. And sure enough, before I was done, I realized I did have more to say on the subject. Thanks from the nudge.

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