For one brief shining moment, détente between cyclist and motorist

Sometimes, it seems like there may actually be hope for these streets.

Just a day after the Mayor called for an end to L.A. car culture at Monday’s Bike Summit, I experienced an unusually positive interaction with a driver. Even if it was next door in Santa Monica.

I’d just crossed over 7th Street, riding in the San Vicente Blvd bike lane on my way to the coast. I was still accelerating, in a section where I usually hit about 25 mph, when an SUV went by on my left and immediately began slowing down.

That often means the driver is about to do something stupid. So I slowed my cadence and feathered my brakes; sure enough, shortly after passing, she cut in front of me and pulled to a stop at the curb.

I braked hard, then rolled to a stop next to her window.

She had a cell phone in her hand, and it quickly became clear that she had done the right thing — although in the wrong way — by pulling to the curb to take her call, rather than break the law against using a handheld phone while driving. Which made me a little more sympathetic than I might have been otherwise.

So when she rolled down her window, I told her as calmly as possible that it was very dangerous to cut in front of me like that, explaining that I could have rear-ended her.

Surprisingly, she wasn’t the least bit defensive. Instead, she listened quietly, then said simply “I’m sorry.”

I continued be saying that what she should have done was to pull in behind me, then move over to the curb only after I was out of the way.

She smiled, and said “Okay, sweetie. I will next time.”

I thanked her and we wished each other well, then she turned her attention back to her call while I continued on my way. And while I can’t speak for her, I left feeling a lot more hopeful about the relationship between cyclists and drivers than I have in a long time.

Although I could have lived without that “sweetie.”


More on L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Bike Summit:

London’s Guardian newspaper observes that the Mayor’s Road to Damascus conversion to bicycle advocacy is proof that God is a cyclist. And they have the good taste to quote yours truly.

LAist says cyclists are excited about 11th District Council Member Bill Rosendahl’s proposal for a three-foot passing law, but not so much about Mayor Villaraigosa’s call for a mandatory helmet law.

Streetsblog notes that helmets are not required for driving and walking, which both result in as much or more risk than bicycling.

Gary predicted this moment over a year ago, but thought he was joking; as usual, his photos are amazing, including a nice B&W shot of the LACBC’s Aurisha Smolarsky and your humble scribe.

The Bike District says the driver’s lack of intent in Villaraigosa’s accident doesn’t absolve him of responsibility.

The Source concludes that cyclists left with a favorable, but wait and see attitude; I’d say that pretty well sums it all up.

Still more Summit links at Streetsblog L.A.


Gardena is offering a $10,000 reward in the hit-and-run death of pregnant cyclist Jennifer Costlow. Anyone with information should call Investigator Sergio Borbon at (310) 217-6135.


Tonight, Good sponsors Moving Beyond Cars in celebration of L.A.’s alternative transportation; the event takes place from 7 to 10 pm Downtown at City National Plaza, 525 S. Flower, in conjunction with railLA, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and de LaB.

Also on tonight, the LACBC Board of Directors meets in the mezzanine at 634 Spring Street from 6:45 to 8:45 pm; as always, the meeting is open to the public.


LADOT Bike Blog’s excellent survey of where it is and isn’t legal to ride on the sidewalk pedals down to the South Bay. LACBC celebrates a successful City of Lights Awards Dinner. Ten reasons for CicLAvia, with ten historic structures you’ll see on the way. The Bus Bench’s Browne Molyneux says one reason more women don’t bike is because they need to be able to pick up the kids. Claremont Cyclist gets results with the trash bins in the bike lane. An Oakland man is under arrest for the hit-and-run death of a bicycling German tourist; the SF Chronicle says it shows the need for better bike lanes.

The NY Times says Google’s bike map service isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad. NYPD is cracking down on Upper East Side cyclists. NYC will test a wireless bike share program. Now that New York is mapping pedestrian deaths, I’d suggest watching out for left turning drivers hopped up on testosterone; thanks to George Wolfberg for the links. A driver is arrested for turning a local park into a throughway in a deliberate attempt to run down cyclists; Boston Biker wonders about drivers who go into a rage over a little damage to their cars, but don’t consider the damage they’ll do when they hit someone. Turns out CNN’s Anderson Cooper is one of us, too. Houston’s Metro removes seats for cyclists; maybe L.A. Metro should give ‘em a call. The bare essentials for bike commuting. Firing back at the Seattle Times over negative coverage of a proposed road diet. A 16-year old Chicago boy is killed while riding to visit his mother; his parents say the collision was the result of a police chase. Villaraigosa isn’t the only mayor injured while cycling recently. Three-hundred bicyclists give a rolling send off to a Michigan cyclist who had ridden despite suffering from cerebral palsy. Ten years after being paralyzed from the chest down in a cycling collision, a Colorado cyclist continues to ride.

The reshuffle of the pro bike teams continues as Carlos Sastre opts for a new team. Twenty-three year old former Liquigas rider Gianni Da Ros sees his doping ban cut from 20 years to 4. Just days after L.A.’s Mayor calls for a mandatory helmet law, Aussie researchers call for its repeal, while a Canadian study shows that helmet laws don’t discourage ridership; Cyclelicious interviews one of the study’s authors. Now that’s what I call utility cycling. Cyclists and drivers trade blame in New Zealand; ignore the location and the story could have easily been written here.

Finally, three-hundred bicyclists give a final rolling send off to a Michigan cyclist who rode despite suffering from cerebral palsy, while a Colorado cyclist continues to ride, ten years after being paralyzed from the chest down in a cycling collision.


  1. A couple of years ago I yelled at a guy who turned left across me. He stopped and rolled down his window and I thought, “Here it comes.” The driver apologized for his move! And he didn’t call me sweetie.

  2. Alistair Williamson says:

    Two weeks ago, similar beginning, car passes fast on my left, I’m in a bike lane. Car slows just 30 ft in front of me, I brake, then car slows more, I slow more. We’re well under 10mph when I realized that he had seen me and was slowing further to let me pass before he pulled in. I was slowing further to avoid him turning into me.

    So I sped up, passed him on the inside, waved thanks and he turned behind me. In my mind the three cars that had been stuck behind him as he slowed to a crawl felt as uplifted as I did by the incident


  3. Eric B says:

    I’ve had the same reaction from the driver after narrowly avoiding a right hook by using my racing instincts. I followed her into the parking lot, rapped on her window and prepared to let ‘er rip when she apologized profusely, making me look like a d***. That incident more than any other changed my default assumption about drivers.

  4. Joe says:

    Good for you, for talking instead of screaming.

  5. Rach Stevo says:

    Wow, you have so much more self-control than I do! Usually I go into adrenaline-fueled fight or flight mode after a close encounter. So good for you.

    Also, if ‘sweetie’ is the worst name you were called that day you’re doing alright!

  6. It bothers me when they say they are sorry because it doesn’t excuse the reckless driving. I accept the apology but always re-affirm to them that they need to do better. Like, “I know you’re sorry but sorry doesn’t cut it. I could be dead. Just do better, be safer. Thanks and have a nice day.”

    I am working on delivering this message in a friendly way though, because I have noticed if you say it with a smile and don’t totally scream at them, they are more receptive to actually hearing you.

  7. Richard says:

    I was not surprised that 80 percent of the pedestrian incidents were caused by Male drivers. With few exceptions this has been the situation when people make mistakes or intentionally violate my space when riding a bicycle. I looked at some of those New York bike lanes. You will never get me to wait at a light sitting to the inside of turning traffic. I caught one of the videos by CBS2 that actually had a news man riding a bicycle with more reasonable reporting. I believe the initial rant about bicyclist in general by CBS2 was in response to the new law in New York being passed Friday.
    I am nice when people are nice. I ignore most other problems. When they make it personal and do not quit. Then I agree with the guy who removed the mirror from the lexus.
    Women do have reason to not ride a bicycle. My wife has been knocked down by male students trying to grab her posterior from a moving vehicle. She was hit while pregnant and this was also intentional. There are other incidents. But I believe it is because she is female that she got more of this unwanted attention. All except one of the attacks were done by men. Two students were dismissed from a major university because of there initial behavior and the threats that followed. My wife will not ride a single anymore because of this. In the animal world carnivores attack the weakest. Predators do this also.

  8. Steve A says:

    Whatever else, you’ve picked up a new nickname!

  9. I was lucky enough to once get an “Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry! I never think to look there.” after a near right-hook incident when I was in the bike lane. It seemed very genuine, and I definitely rode away with a hope that the “I never think to look there” was replaced by a “remember that guy I almost hit that time” when she makes right turns.