Tag Archive for careless drivers

Today’s ride, in which I chase a BMW and race a Porsche

I should have known it was going to be one of those rides.

Just three blocks from home, I come up to a 4-way stop, then went through the intersection the same time as a car going the opposite way. Only problem was, a car on the cross street began his left turn as soon as the other car passed, while I was still in the intersection — attempting to occupy the same space I was already in.

But I bit my tongue. Hard.

I mean, not one word or gesture. It wasn’t that I had suddenly become a pacifist. I just didn’t want to ruin this beautiful day. Not even when he pulled to the curb a couple blocks later, almost dooring me as he got out of his car.

Then just a few blocks after that, at another 4-way stop, some idiot on the cross street came to a full stop — in the middle of the intersection. Which meant he was blocking the path of every other person on the road, including me. Then he just sat there waiting to see if anyone else was going to go first.

Message received. Just one of those days.

So about a half-dozen minor incidents later, I found myself riding down San Vicente in Brentwood, when I noticed a large BMW preparing to enter the street from the parking lot at Soup Plantation.

Only problem is, there was a large truck parked next to the exit, completely blocking his view of the street. So he had no way of knowing if there was a bike, car, bus or the entire USC Marching Band bearing down on him.

The way this ride had already gone, I assumed the worst, and grabbed my brakes while swinging out wide into the lane. And sure enough, just as I rounded the corner of the truck, he gunned his engine to pull out, then jammed on the brakes when he saw me.

But when he saw I was slowing down, this gold-plated, double-dipped Richard-head gunned it again, clearly thinking he could lurch out in front me — except by then, I was already in front of his car. So he jammed on the brake again, as I rolled by with my hands out to the side in the universal “What the fuck?” gesture.

Once I was past, he gunned it again, then pulled up beside me with his window down, yelling something unintelligible. But it was pretty damn clear it wasn’t an apology. So that caveman portion of my brain kicked, punching out the standard fight or flight response.

And I sure as hell wasn’t going to run away.

So the chase was on.

I kicked it up a couple gears, assumed my best sprint position and picked up the cadence. And much to my surprise, I found I was actually gaining on him.

In fact, I was just about to catch up to him, prepared to give him one of the few pieces of my mind that I have left, when a Porsche pulled out from the curb directly ahead of me without looking.

So I swung hard to the left. And next thing I knew, I was racing down the left lane at about 30 mph, next to the driver’s door of a 911 — the operator of which was preoccupied with talking to his lovely passenger, and had no idea that I was there, since he hadn’t once looked in my direction.

Now, any sane person would have realized the complete idiocy of that situation, grabbed hard on the brakes, and let the Porsche go by.

But that would have meant that the esteemed Mr. Head would get away.

So I kicked it up to my smallest gear and cut in front of the Porsche. And causing the driver to jam on his brakes, with an expression that clearly said “What the holy f…!!!!”

And yes, I confess that there was a small part of my otherwise engaged brain that registered his expression, and truly enjoyed it.

But Mr. Head comma Dick was getting away, so I continued to hammer down the street. And I was only about 20 feet behind him when he pulled a U-turn and raced off in the other direction. Leaving me in the position of chasing him down once again, or getting on with my life.

I chose the latter.

I’d like to say the remainder of my ride was uneventful. Really, I would.

But I would be lying.

Maybe I’ll share it with you another time. Or maybe I’ll just pour a few fingers of good Irish Whiskey and try to forget the whole thing.

One last thing, though. All that adrenalin must have done some good.

Because I finished my usual 2-1/2 hour ride in just a hair under 2:10.

 

Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who had a challenging ride lately. Will documents the Anatomy of an Inattentive Driver, while Gary discusses a recent hit and run that put a Santa Monica cyclist in critical condition. My friend, the proprietor of the Altadena Blog, uncovers a slightly nauseating video of a fat tire ride down Echo Mountain. L.A.C.B.C announces Car-Free Friday; celebrate it by riding with City Council President Eric Garcetti. And Stephen Box marks the second anniversary of storming the L.A. Bicycle Advisory Committee’s figurative Bastille with an open letter to the new head of the Bikeways Engineering Group.

Today’s ride, in which I chase a BMW and race a Porsche

I should have known it was going to be one of those rides.

Just three blocks from home, I come up to a 4-way stop, then went through the intersection the same time as a car going the opposite way. Only problem was, a car on the cross street began his left turn as soon as the other car passed, while I was still in the intersection — attempting to occupy the same space I was already in.

But I bit my tongue. Hard.

I mean, not one word or gesture. It wasn’t that I had suddenly become a pacifist. I just didn’t want to ruin this beautiful day. Not even when he pulled to the curb a couple blocks later, almost dooring me as he got out of his car.

Then just a few blocks after that, at another 4-way stop, some idiot on the cross street came to a full stop — in the middle of the intersection. Which meant he was blocking the path of every other person on the road, including me. Then he just sat there waiting to see if anyone else was going to go first.

Message received. Just one of those days.

So about a half-dozen minor incidents later, I found myself riding down San Vicente in Brentwood, when I noticed a large BMW preparing to enter the street from the parking lot at Soup Plantation.

Only problem is, there was a large truck parked next to the exit, completely blocking his view of the street. So he had no way of knowing if there was a bike, car, bus or the entire USC Marching Band bearing down on him.

The way this ride had already gone, I assumed the worst, and grabbed my brakes while swinging out wide into the lane. And sure enough, just as I rounded the corner of the truck, he gunned his engine to pull out, then jammed on the brakes when he saw me.

But when he saw I was slowing down, this gold-plated, double-dipped Richard-head gunned it again, clearly thinking he could lurch out in front me — except by then, I was already in front of his car. So he jammed on the brake again, as I rolled by with my hands out to the side in the universal “What the fuck?” gesture.

Once I was past, he gunned it again, then pulled up beside me with his window down, yelling something unintelligible. But it was pretty damn clear it wasn’t an apology. So that caveman portion of my brain kicked, punching out the standard fight or flight response.

And I sure as hell wasn’t going to run away.

So the chase was on.

I kicked it up a couple gears, assumed my best sprint position and picked up the cadence. And much to my surprise, I found I was actually gaining on him.

In fact, I was just about to catch up to him, prepared to give him one of the few pieces of my mind that I have left, when a Porsche pulled out from the curb directly ahead of me without looking.

So I swung hard to the left. And next thing I knew, I was racing down the left lane at about 30 mph, next to the driver’s door of a 911 — the operator of which was preoccupied with talking to his lovely passenger, and had no idea that I was there, since he hadn’t once looked in my direction.

Now, any sane person would have realized the complete idiocy of that situation, grabbed hard on the brakes, and let the Porsche go by.

But that would have meant that the esteemed Mr. Head would get away.

So I kicked it up to my smallest gear and cut in front of the Porsche. And causing the driver to jam on his brakes, with an expression that clearly said “What the holy f…!!!!”

And yes, I confess that there was a small part of my otherwise engaged brain that registered his expression, and truly enjoyed it.

But Mr. Head comma Dick was getting away, so I continued to hammer down the street. And I was only about 20 feet behind him when he pulled a U-turn and raced off in the other direction. Leaving me in the position of chasing him down once again, or getting on with my life.

I chose the latter.

I’d like to say the remainder of my ride was uneventful. Really, I would.

But I would be lying.

Maybe I’ll share it with you another time. Or maybe I’ll just pour a few fingers of good Irish Whiskey and try to forget the whole thing.

One last thing, though. All that adrenalin must have done some good.

Because I finished my usual 2-1/2 hour ride in just a hair under 2:10.

 

Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who had a challenging ride lately. Will documents the Anatomy of an Inattentive Driver, while Gary discusses a recent hit and run that put a Santa Monica cyclist in critical condition. My friend, the proprietor of the Altadena Blog, uncovers a slightly nauseating video of a fat tire ride down Echo Mountain. L.A.C.B.C announces Car-Free Friday; celebrate it by riding with City Council President Eric Garcetti. And Stephen Box marks the second anniversary of storming the L.A. Bicycle Advisory Committee’s figurative Bastille with an open letter to the new head of the Bikeways Engineering Group.

Today’s ride, in which I chase a BMW and race a Porsche

I should have known it was going to be one of those rides.

Just three blocks from home, I come up to a 4-way stop, then went through the intersection the same time as a car going the opposite way. Only problem was, a car on the cross street began his left turn as soon as the other car passed, while I was still in the intersection — attempting to occupy the same space I was already in.

But I bit my tongue. Hard.

I mean, not one word or gesture. It wasn’t that I had suddenly become a pacifist. I just didn’t want to ruin this beautiful day. Not even when he pulled to the curb a couple blocks later, almost dooring me as he got out of his car.

Then just a few blocks after that, at another 4-way stop, some idiot on the cross street came to a full stop — in the middle of the intersection. Which meant he was blocking the path of every other person on the road, including me. Then he just sat there waiting to see if anyone else was going to go first.

Message received. Just one of those days.

So about a half-dozen minor incidents later, I found myself riding down San Vicente in Brentwood, when I noticed a large BMW preparing to enter the street from the parking lot at Soup Plantation.

Only problem is, there was a large truck parked next to the exit, completely blocking his view of the street. So he had no way of knowing if there was a bike, car, bus or the entire USC Marching Band bearing down on him.

The way this ride had already gone, I assumed the worst, and grabbed my brakes while swinging out wide into the lane. And sure enough, just as I rounded the corner of the truck, he gunned his engine to pull out, then jammed on the brakes when he saw me.

But when he saw I was slowing down, this gold-plated, double-dipped Richard-head gunned it again, clearly thinking he could lurch out in front me — except by then, I was already in front of his car. So he jammed on the brake again, as I rolled by with my hands out to the side in the universal “What the fuck?” gesture.

Once I was past, he gunned it again, then pulled up beside me with his window down, yelling something unintelligible. But it was pretty damn clear it wasn’t an apology. So that caveman portion of my brain kicked, punching out the standard fight or flight response.

And I sure as hell wasn’t going to run away.

So the chase was on.

I kicked it up a couple gears, assumed my best sprint position and picked up the cadence. And much to my surprise, I found I was actually gaining on him.

In fact, I was just about to catch up to him, prepared to give him one of the few pieces of my mind that I have left, when a Porsche pulled out from the curb directly ahead of me without looking.

So I swung hard to the left. And next thing I knew, I was racing down the left lane at about 30 mph, next to the driver’s door of a 911 — the operator of which was preoccupied with talking to his lovely passenger, and had no idea that I was there, since he hadn’t once looked in my direction.

Now, any sane person would have realized the complete idiocy of that situation, grabbed hard on the brakes, and let the Porsche go by.

But that would have meant that the esteemed Mr. Head would get away.

So I kicked it up to my smallest gear and cut in front of the Porsche. And causing the driver to jam on his brakes, with an expression that clearly said “What the holy f…!!!!”

And yes, I confess that there was a small part of my otherwise engaged brain that registered his expression, and truly enjoyed it.

But Mr. Head comma Dick was getting away, so I continued to hammer down the street. And I was only about 20 feet behind him when he pulled a U-turn and raced off in the other direction. Leaving me in the position of chasing him down once again, or getting on with my life.

I chose the latter.

I’d like to say the remainder of my ride was uneventful. Really, I would.

But I would be lying.

Maybe I’ll share it with you another time. Or maybe I’ll just pour a few fingers of good Irish Whiskey and try to forget the whole thing.

One last thing, though. All that adrenalin must have done some good.

Because I finished my usual 2-1/2 hour ride in just a hair under 2:10.

 

Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who had a challenging ride lately. Will documents the Anatomy of an Inattentive Driver, while Gary discusses a recent hit and run that put a Santa Monica cyclist in critical condition. My friend, the proprietor of the Altadena Blog, uncovers a slightly nauseating video of a fat tire ride down Echo Mountain. L.A.C.B.C announces Car-Free Friday; celebrate it by riding with City Council President Eric Garcetti. And Stephen Box marks the second anniversary of storming the L.A. Bicycle Advisory Committee’s figurative Bastille with an open letter to the new head of the Bikeways Engineering Group.

My latest ride, in which I verify a verse from Proverbs

I admit it. I was already pissed off.

I was riding on as perfect a SoCal day as I have yet seen in nearly two decades as an Angeleno. Sunny, windless, mid-80s, cruising up the Santa Monica section on Main Street on the back end of a 32-mile ride, just a stone’s throw from the beach.

Unlike the blow-out induced hike earlier in the week, this ride had gone of without a hitch, reaffirming at the deepest levels of my being why we live in L.A., and why I ride.

Then just as I was about to pass an SUV parked on the side of the road, I started to get a funny feeling that things were about to go to hell fast. Nothing I could put my finger on, but it caused me to take a good look at the vehicle on my right.

No turn signal. No brake lights. I couldn’t even see if there was a driver behind the wheel.

But sure enough, just as I was about the pass the car, it lurched out from the curb, entering the lane as if I wasn’t there.

I swerved hard to the left, nearly crossing the center line, and yelled out a warning. Then yelled again. And again a third time, before the driver finally responded and let me pass.

As I rode by, I took a good look at the driver, and saw an expression that chilled me to my sweat-soaked chamois. Not the look of remorse that most drivers would bear under such circumstances. Nor the angry expression we’ve all seen too many times. Or even the blank, uncomprehending bovine gaze of a driver who has no idea what’s going on.

No, this time I saw the face of a man who knew exactly what he’d done. And didn’t care.

The moment I passed his vehicle and pulled back to the right, he gunned his engine and lurched around me. Then less than half a block away, he swerved back into the bike lane to pass another car on the right, before running the next red light and disappearing around a corner.

Needless to say, I was shaken. And shaking.

And I was pissed.

So I was in no mood to turn the other cheek a mile or so down the road, when I saw a pickup truck put on its turn signal and pull into the right lane to make a turn — without ever checking his mirrors to see that I was already there.

Fortunately, I was prepared this time. I grabbed my brakes, let him pull in front of me, then swung around to his left and pulled up next to him at the light.

His window was open, and he was looking the other way, preparing for his turn. So doing my best to keep my voice level and my anger under control, I leaned in and said, “Next time, check your mirrors first.”

And then the most amazing thing happened.

He turned around, revealing a young African-American man, and gave me one of the biggest, friendliest smiles I’ve ever had directed my way. And apologized profusely — and sincerely.

Taken aback, I mumbled something about how it was okay since I’d seen his turn signal, and just try to be more careful next time. He gave me that same smile again, nodded, and made his turn.

And I rode home, my mood restored, and thinking what a nice guy I’d just met. And I realized it’s true.

A soft answer really does turneth away wrath.

Something I might want to remember next time that I piss someone else off.

 

Hardrockgirl experiences a perfect Sunday riding through the Westside, while Gary celebrates his victory over a clueless cop an unfair ticket. LABikeRides and Streetsblog LA alert us to the upcoming Tour de Ballona II. A councilperson in Mad City, where it’s against the law to get doored, tries to put the responsibility back where it belongs. An Alaskan cyclist writes about the joys of riding at –15F (remember that next time we bitch about our 60 degree cold spells). Finally, the esteemed, and newly minted, Dr. Alex returns to blogdom with a meditation on cycling, activism and eternal summers. Welcome back, Alex — and when you’re ready to run for office, I’ll gladly manage your campaign.

The big BikinginLA January blowout

As others have noted, this week has been ideal for riding. Temperatures in the low 80s, low humidity and — at least here on the Westside — no wind to speak of.

So even though this was scheduled as a rest day, following yesterday’s hard ride, I couldn’t resist grabbing my bike a for quick spin along the coast. After all, if I didn’t work too hard, it still qualifies as rest, right?

And for most of the day, today’s ride was just this side of perfect.

The views were spectacular and the weather conditions, and lack of tourists, meant I could keep up a good speed, even through Santa Monica and Venice. And what pedestrians and slower cyclists there were just served as slalom gates, giving me something to swerve around.

Of course, idyllic rides seldom last. And today was no exception.

It started on my way back home, when I decided to take Montana Avenue, rather than my usual route up San Vicente.

Like when a pedestrian suddenly changed direction and stepped out directly in front of me, without ever looking in my way, her long blonde hair blocking her peripheral vision, as well. The result was a fishtailing panic stop, screeching to a halt just inches away from her.

Two blocks later, I hit the brakes again when a car darted out of an alley and made a right turn right in front of me. But this time I was prepared, since I couldn’t make eye contact with the driver — usually a dead giveaway that they have no idea I’m there.

Then just up the road, a woman started to make a left turn after I’d already entered the intersection, on a direct collision course with yours truly. Fortunately, she heard me yell a warning and jammed on the brakes — avoiding me by just a few feet. And scaring the crap out of both us.

So after surviving the Montana gauntlet, though, you might think it would be smooth sailing the rest of the way home.

But you’d be wrong.

Maybe it was the stress of the repeated panic stops, or something in the road. Or it could have just been normal wear and tear. But about four miles from home, I heard a loud bang like a large balloon exploding. And suddenly found myself struggling to maintain control of bike, as heavy traffic whipped by just inches away.

Somehow, I managed to stay upright long enough to get to the curb, and found a gaping hole in the side of my rear tire — which meant that there wasn’t patch big enough to get me home. And that meant walking to the nearest bike shop for a repair.

And since I still hadn’t replaced the cleat covers I’d lost a few months back, when I forgot to zip up my seat bag after I stopped to fix a flat, I had to walk every inch of it on my bare cleats.

(Later — much later — it occurred to me that I could have taken a cab, or even caught a bus home. But did I think of that then? Of course not.)

So I set off rolling my bike down the mean sidewalks of Brentwood, watching enviously as the DB9s and carbon-fiber Conalgos continued to roll by without me.

I’d only gone a few blocks when a woman walking in the opposite direction paused in her cell phone conversation, leaned in towards me, and said “nice legs.” Then she calmly resumed her conversation, and kept walking.

Brentwood is very strange.

After hoofing it for a couple miles — okay, 2.09 miles to be exact, not that I was counting or anything — I arrived at the shop. Only to discover fellow L.A. biking blogger Anonymous Cyclist behind the counter.

Turns out he’s a great guy.

And surprisingly enough, we’d actually met before. He was the guy who helped my wife get my bike fixed when he worked at another shop, while I was laid up following the infamous beachfront bee encounter — and managed to get a near-custom, one-of-a-kind paint job for my bike.

So a few minutes later, I left the shop with a new tire, tube and a couple of these. Along with a new pair of cleats to replace the ones I ground down walking to the shop. (Note to self: cab rides are cheaper than cleats, and a lot less painful than walking in them.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go soak my aching feet.

 

Looks like L.A.’s Downtown may become more pedestrian — and bike — friendly. Streetsblog demonstrates how easy it would be to improve intersection sightlines. C.I.C.L.E. asks riders to complete a quick survey about their Urban Expeditions program. Now that we’re getting a roadie president — replacing our outgoing fat-tire pres — Republican leaders are opposed to spending for biking infrastructure. Finally, it turns out cyclists may actually have a friend in Congress.

The nail that stands out

I used to work with this one guy, a third-generation Japanese American.

Nice guy. And one day when we were talking, he mentioned a traditional Japanese expression that says it’s the nail that stands out that gets pounded down.

I’ve often thought about that saying, because it so often seems to be true, even in a this country like this that supposedly prizes individuality. It’s the exceptions, the ones who stand out from all the rest, who often draw the harshest response, whether you’re talking about the campus geek in junior high, the neighborhood eccentric or leaders like Dr. King or Bobby Kennedy.

You can even see it now, when a politician can be criticized, not for his policies, but for his eloquence and ability to inspire others.

And then there’s the other side of that same coin, where someone tries to demonize some group, in order to justify their own negatives attitudes.

Like cyclists, for instance.

Because some people look at those exceptions — such as cyclists who regularly ignore the law and flaunt both safety and common sense — and somehow assume that all riders are like that. And decide that since that one nail is loose, we all need to be pounded down.

It’s not true, of course. Any more than it’s true that all (insert racist, sexist, ethnic and/or religious slur of your choice here) are alike.

It’s also demonstrably false. Just stand next to a busy street intersection along any popular bike route. You won’t have to watch very long to see that many, if not most of us, stop for red lights and try to stay out of the way of the way of traffic as much as possible.

But these people only seem to see the ones who don’t stop, or take a lane for reasons they can’t, or perhaps don’t want to, comprehend. So they automatically reach for their hammers to pound down every nail, rather than the few that stand out.

Take this recent letter from Graham A. Rowe in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, for instance, in response to their earlier article about the cycling the mean streets of L.A. (I also notice they didn’t print Will Campbell’s response to the article.):

“Bicycle riders believe that they should enjoy all the benefits of both car drivers and pedestrians. They choose to ride both with and against traffic. They obey no traffic signs, never stop at red lights or stop signs. At a red light they decide to become a pedestrian and simply ride across the crossing. They ride on the sidewalk at danger to pedestrians. Bicycles should be required to have a fee-paid license plate and be ticketed for infractions. Maybe then they would be more careful and get more respect.”

Yes, that’s exactly what we all believe, posts like this from Gary Rides Bikes and yours truly notwithstanding. Never mind that most cyclists don’t do those things, or that riding on the sidewalk is legal in Los Angeles.

You’ll note that he ends by saying that we’ll get more respect when we’re more careful. Despite the fact that drivers are required by law to grant us that respect, just as they would any other vehicle. And despite the fact that the consequences of failing to grant that respect are far greater for us than they are for the driver.

In other words, he’s saying that we’re responsible for the fact that some people refuse to drive safely, and legally, around us. Of course, not everyone who fails to share the road does so out of spite. Some are just unaware of the law, or refuse to believe it when they’re told. And some are just jerks, not unlike some cyclists.

I’ve written about it before, notably here and here, in response to some letters that were recently published in the L.A. Times. And I’m going to keep writing about it.

Because frankly, I’m tired of people trying to pound me down for something I didn’t do.

Great article from the U.K. about whether helmets are fashionable for Parisians and Prime Ministers. It also discusses a Dutch idea that assumes the driver is automatically responsible in any collision between a car and a bike. One lesson experienced cyclists learn is to make eye contact with opposing drivers. Cyclists protest unfair tickets in Santa Monica by crossing the street — repeatedly. The Times’ Bottleneck Blog considers what L.A. could be like with a little more foresight from out elected leaders. And finally, both Seattle and supposedly bike-unfriendly New York test the radical concept of turning a few streets over to cyclists and pedestrians.

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