Door-flinging driver causes near-quadruple collision; election year politics behind horrible House bill

The sheer stupidity of some drivers amazes me.

Or maybe it’s carelessness — in the most literal sense of the word.

I had a business event to attend on the Miracle Mile last night. And rather than go through the hassle of fighting rush hour traffic in my car, I decided to ride the relatively short five mile distance from my home. Dressed in semi-professional casual wear, I might add.

For the most part, it was a mostly pleasant and uneventful ride. Other than the driver who flipped me off when I yelled out a warning after he cut me off, of course.

But that’s almost to be expected in L.A. traffic. There’s always some jerk who has to take out his or her frustration on someone else. And since cyclists are exposed and vulnerable, and stand out from the overwhelming majority of traffic, we seem to make as good a target as any in the eyes of the angry and misguided few.

But it was just past the intersection of Charleville Blvd and South Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills that things really got interesting.

Charleville is a great street to bypass the bumper-to-bumper madness of Santa Monica and Wilshire Blvds. It’s lightly traveled, and most drivers seem willing to make room for bikes; the only downside is the stop signs on virtually every corner.

And the occasional idiot behind the wheel.

I had just waited at the light to cross Beverly along with a number of cars. Once it turned green, I allowed the first few cars to pass, then took my place in the lane as we entered a narrow section with a lot of parked cars.

Suddenly, the lead car screeched to a stop when the driver of a massive SUV flung her door open directly in its path. And the car behind it jammed on its brakes, avoiding the bumper of the car ahead by just inches.

So there I was, riding at traffic speed with two stopped cars directly ahead of me, another coming up from behind and a huge door blocking the path to my right.

There was no time to make a conscious decision.

Yet somehow, my mind worked out the complex mathematics of my few available possibilities, the same way a baseball player calculates exactly when and where to catch a ball without consciously thinking about it. Even when that catch seems impossible.

Given my speed, it wasn’t possible to stop before colliding with the back of the vehicle ahead of me. And even if I did, I would have been rear-ended by the car behind me — and probably sandwiched between the two cars.

So I instinctively cut hard to the right to take my chances with the open door. And came to a panic stop just inches away from it. Meanwhile, the car behind me stopped just short of the one ahead — right where I would have been if I hadn’t swerved.

And that’s when I heard it.

I don’t know what the driver of the lead car said. But the attractive young women who’d caused the whole problem responded by calling him a “crazy person.”

I just couldn’t help myself.

Since I was stopped right next to her, I suggested, as calmly and politely as possible, that the crazy person just might be the one who threw open her door and left it open in heavy traffic, nearly causing a quadruple chain reaction collision.

“What,” she responded, “I’m not allowed to get out of my car?”

“Not if it causes a wreck.”

So I did my best to explain the concept and consequences of dooring, and how drivers are legally required to verify that the road is free of traffic and that it’s safe to open the door before doing so. And then only for as long as necessary to get in and out.

In other words, not leaving it open to adjust her skirt and fix her hair before leaning back in to grab her purse while traffic around her screeches to a halt.

But I might as well have been talking to the SUV she just got out of, which seemed to be at least as comprehending as she was.

“Whatever,” she said, storming off with her panties in a twist.

So at least three drivers and a cyclist were put in jeopardy simply because she couldn’t wait until it was safe to get out of her car. But that, in her mind, wasn’t her problem.

Because she, like, had a right to get out of her car, okay?


Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have declared war on anyone who uses anything but motor vehicles to get just about anywhere. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood calls the new highway-focused House Transportation Bill the worst ever; he’s a Republican, by the way.

While cycling and pedestrian organizations are up in arms — and rightfully so — about this unprovoked attack on average Americans, it’s worth noting that this bill has no chance of becoming law with a Democratic majority in Senate. And the sponsors know it.

Instead, it’s just election year politics, as the L.A. Times notes. A paean to their Tea Party supporters, as well as big donors in the oil industry; a political shot over the bow that was never expected or intended to become law.

And unfortunately, one that leaves a much better bi-partisan Senate bill similarly dead in the water.

But it’s fair warning what could happen if the more radical elements of the party win control of both houses this November.

Let alone the White House.

It’s not about party affiliation.

It’s about electing candidates who understand what they’re voting on and the effect it will have on their own constituents, rather than paying off big donors and political pressure groups.

John Kennedy wrote Profiles in Courage nearly 60 years ago.

Something tells me today’s Washington would make him weep.


Don’t miss Wednesday’s BikeUP! LA benefit for the California Bicycle Coalition next Wednesday at the Living Room in Silver Lake. CicLAvia is hosting a fundraising Valentines Party at Atwater Crossing next Friday. Better Bike recounts the uphill battle to get bikeways on Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills. Downtown’s Spring Street green bike lane will soon get a partner one block over on Main Street; hopefully, this one will last a little longer. Leading Eastside bike advocate Carlos Morales asks where the outreach was for the 1st Street bike lanes. Hit a celeb, lose your license — Reese Witherspoon now wears bangs, courtesy of the driver who ran her down; thanks to Todd Munson for the heads-up. A Monrovia gang member is convicted in the 2008 attempted murder of a cyclist. Glendale’s Honolulu Avenue is about to go on a diet. Claremont Cyclist encounters the Trickster; and no, not our frequent correspondent from New Zealand. A writer urges us to stop saying good things about vehicular cycling. Better bike security through technology.

AB 819, the proposed law to modernize bikeway standards — and which was gutted at the urging of CABO — has passed the state Assembly; maybe the Senate will have more sense. Just Another Cyclist, one of my favorite bike bloggers, is moving to a new online address. Santa Ana residents seem to have missed the memo that bike paths increase property values. Temecula elementary students take the bike train to class. A La Jolla cyclist is injured after blowing through a flashing red light; for anyone unclear on the concept, a flashing red should be treated like a stop sign — and no, that does not mean you should run it. A plea has been reached in the case of the San Francisco cyclist who ran a red and killed a pedestrian; however, the ruling has been delayed so the rider and the victim’s husband can face one another in court. An SF rider is seriously injured when she’s hit by a mail truck. If you’re an ex-con carrying a concealed weapon, maybe you shouldn’t ride against the flow of traffic; I’m just saying.

A Las Vegas BMX rider is killed in a SWSS; further details reveal he was riding salmon and in a crosswalk, which is prohibited there. Guess what happens when Helena MT uses crushed glass to improve traction on icy streets. A Missoula man is charged in a drunken hit and run, first claiming he hit a rock before blaming his victim for riding without lights. An Iowa court rules a police search of a bicyclist violated his rights. A Houston driver may have intentionally attacked a bike rider. Cyclists in Texas — and everywhere else — want cleaner bike lanes. Three riders are hit in two days in one Louisiana parish. Grid Chicago offers a detailed record charting the many failed promises for the city’s long-promised bike plan — something every city could use to hold our elected leaders to account; thanks to Cyclelicious for the link. An anonymous landlord in New York’s Crown Heights neighborhood urges his peers not to rent to immodestly clad bike riding goyim, or maybe even hipster Hasids. The NYPD evidently falsified reports to protect a killer driver. A rider in the most dangerous state for cyclists and pedestrians in killed when he’s hit and run over by three cars.

London’s Guardian joins the Times of London in calling for safer streets for cyclists, saying the city’s biking mayor BoJo is wrong — and has the stats to back it up — while yet another fatality demonstrates the need for better safety. A writer for the Manchester Evening News makes his bid as Great Britain’s anti-bike village idiot with a bizarre rant, while a Telegraph scribe evidently believes we deserve to die because we’re already smug enough; if he’s looking for unbearable people, I’d suggest starting with the mirror. The Guardian asks who is the American heir to Lance? A former pop star turned vicar evangelizes for biking. A New Zealand writer calls for the equivalent of a six-foot passing law for drivers — and for cyclists passing parked cars. Cycling seems to be an uphill battle in Singapore.

Finally, the schmuck hot-tempered driver/former cyclist who attacked Long Beach expat and The Path Less Peddled’ Russ Roca pleads guilty to the assault; sentencing will take place next Month. We’re rapidly approaching the 150th anniversary of the first header. And PETA opposes a bid to make Dorothy’s bike basket-riding Cairn Terrier the state dog.

If California needs a state dog, I nominate Snoop.

One comment

  1. Todd says:

    I used Charleville this morning and Beverly Drive is Beverly Drive is always a cluster. I agree that it’s a great route though. Glad you’re OK.

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