Friday’s ride, on which I concede an angry driver has a point

Funny how life found a way to contribute to this morning’s topic.

And gave quick lesson in shutting up long enough to grasp someone else’s perspective.

I’d taken a quick spin down to the South Bay in the afternoon, and was making my up Abbot Kinney Blvd on my way home.

About a block after crossing Venice Blvd — oddly, almost exactly where the randomly placed arrow ended up on the Google Map — a driver headed in the opposite direction made sudden, very illegal U-turn in the middle of the block and stopped directly in front of me to back into a parking space.

I shot a quick look over my shoulder and saw that I had just enough room to swing around him. And knew it shouldn’t be a problem, since the cars behind me would either have to stop, or make an illegal — and très L.A. — maneuver to cross over the double yellow line and go around the car blocking their way.

Because it’s so not acceptable to, you know, stop or anything.

I stuck out my arm to signal what I was doing, and in the same motion, leaned to the left to carve a perfect curl around the car in my path, only briefly occupying the space between it and the yellow line to my left.

As I did, though, I heard a quick honk from behind. I could tell it wasn’t close enough to present a danger, though, so I leaned back to the right, sailing back to my normal position along the sharrows.

Funny how quickly I’ve gotten used to them.

A minute or two later, a car pulled up on my left and a very angry looking man stared my way, shaking his head. His window was down, so I simply said “I had the right of way,” and pedaled on my way.

But he pulled up on my left once again, and leaned over to yell “you cut me off!”

Again, I said I had the right of way, considering that all the explanation required. After all, I’d been riding in the lane, right where the sharrows indicated, and was the only one positioned to go around the car blocking the lane — and the only one who could have done it legally.

Again, though, he said I’d cut him off. So I repeated myself one last time.

But this time, his response was different. “You just stuck your arm out and cut in front of me!”

Which, I realized, was exactly what I had done.

So I just said, “you’re right.”

There was no need to explain the rest of the story. Like how, as experienced cyclists, we learn to read traffic situations and anticipate what is most likely to happen. And our how well-honed reaction times and more responsive vehicles allow us to react so much faster than the drivers we share to road with.

Or from his perspective, how he barely had time to see what I was doing and tap his brakes before I was in front of him and gone again. And how he could have overreacted, potentially risking a collision with the car behind him.

Even if he was in the middle of a dangerously illegal maneuver by attempting to go around us both on the wrong side of the road.

We understood each other.

So I nodded, and he nodded back.

And we both went on our way, with perhaps a little better understanding of each other’s perspective.


In upcoming events:

The L.A. Bicycle Film Festival continues through Sunday; check the website for schedule and locations.

Bike Talk airs every Saturday at 10 am; listen to it live or download the podcast from KPFK.

Since it happened to pop up in my inbox, I’ll pass along word that PV Bicycle Center in Palos Verdes is having a sale this weekend, and hosting public time trial up the PV Switchbacks on Sunday morning (women start at 9:30 am, men at 10), followed by free barbeque, call 310/377-7441 or toll-free 888/377-7441 for more information. Note to PVBC — if you put events like this on your own website, someone might actually be able to link to it.

Flying Pigeon hosts a book signing with photographer and former D.A. Gil Garcetti (you may also know his son Eric) for his book Paris: Women and Bicycles on Thursday, September 9 at 7:30 pm. I had a chance to look it over at this year’s River Ride; if you love beautiful photographs of beautiful women on beautiful bikes in one of the world’s most beautiful cities — and who doesn’t? — this is a beautiful opportunity to meet the man behind the lens.

Make your plans for Parking Day LA on Sept. 17th.

Celebrate the third anniversary of C.R.A.N.K. MOB at C.R.A.N.K.MAS III, 9 pm on Saturday, September 18th and 7 am Sunday, September 19th; costumes mandatory.

Also on Sunday the 19th, the Los Angeles Wheelmen celebrate their 65th anniversary with century and half-century rides; $5 of the $30 ride fee will go to the LACBC.

Hearings for the proposed bike plan are scheduled for September 25, 29, 30 and October 2, with a noontime  Webinar scheduled for Wednesday the 29th.

Explore the effects of bicycles on art and culture at the Grand Opening of Re:Cycle — Bike Culture in Southern California, October 7th – 9th, at U.C. Riverside’s newly relocated Sweeney Art Gallery at the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts, 3834 Main Street in downtown Riverside. A reception will be held from 6 – 10 pm Thursday, October 7th; the exhibition continues through December 31st.

New Belgium Brewery’s Tour de Fat makes its first L.A. stop on Saturday, October 23rd. The following day, Sony sponsors their bikeless Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.


More on the victory of Alessandro Petacchi in stage 7 of the Vuelta; no major changes in the standings as the riders prepare to head into the mountains. The soigneur for Team Sky, Txema Gonzalez, dies of an infection in Seville, Spain. Tour de France champ Alberto Contador will skip the World Championships later this month. And an interesting insight on why the Lance Armstrong investigation is taking place here in L.A., and why now.


In only semi-bike related news, everyone seems to be bailing on Colorado’s tinfoil-hat wearing Republican candidate for governor — the man who claimed Denver’s new bike share program was part of a UN plot for world domination. But he insists on staying in the race, no doubt much to the relief of his bike-friendly opponent.


Public radio program Living on Earth looks at the state of bicycling in Los Angeles, concluding it’s no Copenhagen; thanks to Patrick for the link. Gary offers the good news and bad news from Wednesday’s Agensys meeting. LACBC says there are no more potential bike lanes in L.A.’s new potential bike plan. Crosswalk sting nabs two cyclists for riding with headphones; CHP says use them in one ear only, thank you; a Brit biking fatality could illustrate why. New video promotes bike-friendly Long Beach. The Santa Cruz Sierra Club says bikes are worse than heroin. A Sonoma cyclist says we are to pedestrians what cars are to us. New bike lanes coming to Downtown Tucson. Arizona cyclists can take a class and avoid a fine for a ticket. Turning cars into a bike sandwich. Tampa letter writers say cars are the real problem, no, bikes are. James Cracknell, the British Olympian critically injured by a truck in Arizona earlier this year, finally returns home after an extensive hospitalization. How to deal with common bicycling ailments. Young punks on bikes disturb elderly Scots. Why is it always the driver in the Prius? On a very bad day in New Zealand, a little good news as world track cycling medalist Jesse Sergent signs with Lance Armstrong’s Team Radioshack; thanks to the Trickster for the heads-up. The world’s five most bike-friendly cities.

Finally, yet another reason to always wear a helmet — it protects from magpie attacks.

Update: One more link, sent in by David. A rider is killed after getting right hooked by a bus while riding in Honolulu crosswalk; if you’re going to ride on the sidewalk, take extra care at intersections.

And three day weekends mean more drunks and distracted drivers on the road, so keep your eyes and options open, and  be extra careful riding this weekend.


  1. Aaron says:

    Haha, nice thematic end to a contentious week of debate. I hope you enjoyed the rest of the ride.

  2. bob says:

    Wow … what a cool response to a total jerk.

    One question, though: what was illegal about the U-turn there? I looked at street view on Google, and can’t see anything that would make a U-turn illegal there. The guy who PASSED you and the turner was obviously in violation, but I can’t see a problem with the Uey – can you explain?

    • bikinginla says:

      Two reasons. First, he was in the middle of the block, rather than at an intersection, and second, he made his move in front of oncoming traffic.

  3. bob says:

    Thanks for clarification.

    One note, however … it’s usually legal to make a u-turn in the middle of a block – one needn’t be at an intersection, unless (as apparently in this case) one is in a “business district,” however that’s defined.

    I don’t mean to be picky to the point of being annoying, but I’m doing lots of research on biking in So Cal, and finding that one of the biggest issues is that most people really don’t know (and certainly don’t obey) the law. Your story here about a guy passing over a solid line is typical, plus he’s seen so few hand signals he didn’t recognize yours – even after the fact. Anyway, thanks for your patience.

    • bikinginla says:

      You’re not being annoying at all. As you note, too many people don’t know what the law actually says — even I was mistaken in thinking that a U-turn was always banned other than at intersections in California.

      However, as you suggest, a U-turn in the middle of a block is illegal in a business district (CVC 22102; CVC 235), but legal in a residential area (CVC 22103) as long as no traffic is approaching within 200 feet in either direction. It’s also legal on a highway (CVC 22105) as long as the driver has unobstructed visibility for at least 200 feet in either direction.

      In this case the first driver was in violation of 22102; he also made his turn with traffic far closer than 200 feet in both directions, but that would not seem to apply since this wasn’t a residential district.

  4. Opus the Poet says:

    Just a note on the magpie article, when cyclists aren’t wearing helmets they tend to not be attacked at anywhere near the rate of helmeted cyclists, so it appears the helmets cause attacks more than they prevent them. But since Australia has a mandatory helmet law, outside of this experiment you can’t ride without a helmet.

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