Yesterday’s ride, on which topography was my co-pilot

I had a great ride yesterday.

It was one of those rare days when I found myself communicating with the drivers and pedestrians around me — and not that way, for a change — as we waved one another through busy intersections and signaled our thanks for little roadway courtesies.

Then there was the brief, but pleasant conversation about the idiocy of passing drivers with a passing pedestrian, as six cars blew through the crosswalk after I had stopped to let him cross — despite the fact that pedestrians in the crosswalk have the right-of-way in every circumstance here in California.

And yes, that means we have to stop, too.

On the other hand, it was only a couple of hills that made the difference between making it home with a smile on my face, and maybe not making it home at all.

The first came on my way out, just over a mile from my home.

The street I take through the Westwood area, Ohio, goes up and down a brief series a hills before culminating in a short, steep climb on the last block before Westwood Blvd.

I ride with more caution than usual on that block, as drivers tend to pull out suddenly from alleys and curbs, and dart across the road in search of a highly prized parking space near the Coffee Bean. Normally, that would suggest taking the lane, but I’ve learned the hard way that drivers there will just go around me anyway as my speed slows going uphill, jumping over to the wrong side of the road and cutting around me so closely that I’d rather take my chances in the door zone.

This time, I nearly won the door prize, as a driver threw her door open directly in my path without the slightest look in her mirror.

Fortunately, I was on that section where gravity slows me from well over 25 mph at the bottom of the hill to just over 10 mph at the crest. Had it occurred on level ground, where I usually cruise at around 18 to 20 mph, her door would have nailed me, knocking me in front of the oncoming cars rushing to make the light.

But as it was, I’d slowed enough that I was able to react in time, if only barely.

And in biking, barely is usually good enough.

Then on my way back home, I was riding back up San Vicente Blvd in Santa Monica, on that long, gradual climb between 7th and 26th.

I’ve learned to keep a close eye on the cars waiting between the wide median islands in the center of the roadway — what New Orleanians call the neutral ground — because they tend to dart across once vehicular traffic clears. And often without looking for bikes first, despite one of the area’s most heavily travelled bike lanes.

Sure enough, I saw an SUV waiting beside the grassy island at the next crossroad. Once the last car passed, she gunned her engine and cut in front of me without ever looking in my direction.

On level ground, my speed would have carried me directly into her path. But as it was, the long climb had reduced my speed just enough that I was able to make a panic stop a few feet from the face of her highly startled passenger.

And instead of ending my day as a hood ornament, I put it behind me and continued home. Even if I did have to resist the temptation to chase her down and employ a few choice expletives in explaining the necessity of watching for all road users.

So sometimes, it’s skill that gets us through the most difficult situations. Sometimes it’s luck.

And sometimes, it’s just topography.

……..

Cyclists help beautify the streets they ride in Glendale. A handful of voters pick traffic calming as the factor that would most make them more comfortable riding on a major street. Has it really been a year since the infamous Hummer Incident — and almost that long since we were promised a police report? LADOT explains the thought process behind the bike corral project, which will move forward to the full City Council. Stephen Box takes on the problem of bike parking, or the lack thereof. Not to mention the lack of bike planning in Metro’s new Westlake/MacArthur Park development. Benecia approves, then cancels, a competitive pro/am bike event scheduled for June. A new car technology could see you and brake in time even if the driver doesn’t. Riders love LaHood, but truckers don’t; well maybe not all truckers. A Boston biker gets hit by a red light-running…cyclist. A man in America’s most dangerous state for cyclists is seriously injured when his bike hits a parked truck, but he doesn’t. One of my favorite Cycle Chic writers asks if the government will embrace cycling, or do we all just have to be brave? A flawed new bike lane debuts in Baltimore. A pseudo Sarah Palin rides the Tour de Fat back in my hometown. It’s spring, when cyclists fight tourists for space on the Brooklyn Bridge; sounds like summer in Santa Monica. The Brooklyn Borough President — who travels in a chauffeured SUV— say NYDOT Commissioner Janet Sadik-Khan just wants to make life harder for drivers. But despite the recent tripling of New York’s bike lanes, only 5% of the city’s streets have them. A Brooklyn man faces criminally negligent homicide charges for running down a cyclist on Flatbush Avenue, which is in that other 95%. Police threaten to cut bikes from sign posts in Brooklyn. Debunking the biking myths in Spokane. Honestly, we shouldn’t have to envy Tucson this much. Biking the first and last mile. A Brit cyclist is fined £700 plus court costs after running a red light; of course, swearing at the police and trying to ride away didn’t help. Maybe bike training for constables isn’t such a bad idea after all. Maybe the best way to talk a grandmother into biking is tell her she needs a mobility scooter. The Four Season’s says ask your concierge about biking in Budapest.

Finally, the rookie NYPD cop who pushed a Critical Mass cyclist off his bike — then brought bogus charges against the biker — goes on trial in New York.

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