What it’s like to bike in Los Angeles, Part III

Biking home from a dinner party at a friend’s place, the car in front of me got fed up with the slow-moving driving in front of him and decided to pass. Without looking, he veered out to the right–straight into the bike lane that I happened to be riding in–cutting me off so closely that I was able to slap the back of his car with my hand. I yelled to let him know I was there. When he realized what he’d done, he ran the red light at the end of the street in order to avoid having to wait next to me at the intersection once I caught up.

What it’s like to ride a bike in Los Angeles, Part II

This morning I ventured out to The Bootleg Theater to check out Creative Mornings with Barbara Bestor, which was totally awesome. Barbara owns an architecture company that tries to introduce weirdness and creativity into people’s everyday lives, which I think is super important, and is one of the reasons LA is home to such wonderfully creative people. I also decided to ride my bike to the event. Fresh air and a little exercise in the morning–what better way is there to start the day than that?

The ride over was awesome. The right back, frankly, sucked. Here’s why.

The Squeal and Peal

Riding in the bike lane, I pulled up to a red light at a T intersection and stopped. The only options here were to turn left or right, and the bike lane was in between the left and right turn lanes. I was waiting to turn left. When the light changed, I proceeded, but the car to my left, also making a left turn, did so with complete negligence to her surroundings, swinging extra wide and nearly knocking me over sideways. When she saw me, she got mad. She rolled down her window and yelled something profane before driving ahead toward the next red light. Now, I’ve committed myself to being as respectful and civil as possible on the road, so despite the bubbling frustration her arrogance was stirring, I decided I would remain calm and simply tell her that being a cyclist in Los Angeles is difficult, and that I’d appreciate it if she would try not to yell at us in the future. When she noticed I was about to catch up to her at the light, however, she rolled up her window and ignored me!

The Spontaneous Decision Maker

Not more than a minute later, I was riding in the bike lane toward an intersection when a truck carrying safety cones (ironic, right?) in the lane to my left decided all of a sudden that he was about to miss his turn. Without so much as a glance, he swerved right, straight into the bike lane. I slammed on my breaks, missing the back of the truck by about 2 feet. I yelled. He didn’t notice, and continued onward.

The Anxious Left Turn

Finally, as I entered the very next intersection–again, in the bike lane–a man driving a big white SUV coming the opposite direction decided not to wait for traffic to finish before making his left turn. Well, at least not bike traffic. As soon as the stream of cars ended, he began to make his turn, getting about halfway through it before realizing he was about to plow directly into me. He and I both slammed on our brakes. To his credit, he did wave apologetically and motion for me to go ahead once we’d regained control of the situation, which was nice.

Three close-calls in a span of no more than 3 minutes. No wonder people are afraid to bike in this city. Fortunately after all that, I made it home unscathed. But not before getting stuck for a whole block behind some guy in a Camry who decided driving in the bike lane was a good way for him to bypass the traffic in the lane he should have been driving in.


What it’s like to ride a bike in Los Angeles, Part I

S Alameda St & 2nd St

Waiting in the left turn lane at an unprotected green, a steady stream of traffic passes in the opposite direction as is the usual state of affairs in this city. When the light cycles yellow and oncoming traffic begins to slow, both the car beside me and I begin to make our left turns. Being a car and all, my left turn companion completes his turn and clears the intersection before I do. Then as I’m nearing the end of my turn, a couple in a small sedan coming straight at me decides they’d like to try their chances at the freshly red light, and accelerates to make it through the intersection before cross traffic begins. Unfortunately, in order to do that, they’d have had to have run me over.

I rang my bell when I noticed they weren’t stopping. Maybe it saved my life, I’m not sure, but the car came screeching to a halt when the driver finally clued in to my presence. I was thankful enough to be alive that I was about to raise my hand to the driver in a forgiving gesture of “thank you for not killing me,” but I’d barely initiated that movement when the couple in the car started screaming at me. Here’s a transcript:

You fucking retard! The fuck are you doing riding in the road?!

Then the wife chimed in:

Yeah dumbass! You almost killed us! Fuck you!

Then they peeled away, engine roaring.

Somehow in the mind of this middle-aged couple, I, the law abiding cyclist, was at fault for this incident. I was at fault for even being in the road in the first place. And not only that, in the event that an accident had occurred between that 1 ton vehicle and my fleshy body, their concern was that they would have been the ones killed.

This is cycling in Los Angeles.