Friday’s ride, in which I nearly acquire some prime agricultural land

I’ve often dreamed eventually settling down in Southern Colorado.

Maybe somewhere around Spanish Peaks, which is still one of the most beautiful and mysterious places I’ve ever seen. But I’ve always imagined myself living on a ranch.

Not buying the farm like I almost did today.

The funny thing is, I spent about half an hour Thursday evening on the phone with a reporter from the Times discussing whether it’s dangerous to ride on PCH. The point I tried to make was that the problems on PCH aren’t due to cyclists; it’s dangerous, aggressive and inattentive drivers, lax enforcement and a near total lack of infrastructure improvements to make things safer for everyone. Bicyclists included.

Yet what nearly happened to me didn’t happen on busy PCH; it was on Westwood’s relatively placid Ohio Ave, barely a mile from my home.

I was just starting out on my ride when I crossed Westwood Blvd heading west. As I rode, I watched as a driver at the next intersection started to make a left turn off Midvale, then noticed the oncoming traffic on Ohio.

And instead of gunning it to complete his turn and get the hell out of the way, he did exactly the wrong thing.

He froze.

He stopped right where he was, partially blocking the eastbound lane of Ohio. Which meant that the oncoming cars had a choice between stopping safely in front of him or going around him.

Do I really need to tell you which option the first driver took?

So just as I approached the intersection doing about 20 mph, I found myself staring face to face with a Cadillac Escalade driving on the wrong side of the road at over 30 mph, and at a distance of maybe 10 yards.

Which meant that I was less than half a second from becoming a bloody Caddy hood ornament. And at a combined speed of 50 mph, my survivability didn’t look very promising.

It wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference that I was wearing a helmet and riding exactly where I was supposed to be.

And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

I had just enough time for that “Oh f***” moment in which I fully grasp the seeming inevitability of my demise, when he suddenly swerved back to the other side, clearing my handlebars by just a few feet. And leaving me riding rubber legged for the next several blocks.

It’s possible that he just didn’t see me. Although how you miss a 6’ tall, 180 pound man in a bright yellow jersey is beyond me.

Then again, maybe he did see me, which is even scarier. Because the total lack of surprise on the driver’s face would suggest that he knew I was there all along — and chose to risk the life of a total stranger just to avoid the minimal inconvenience of braking to avoid another car.

And let’s be very clear.

The danger I faced had nothing to do with being on a bike. Even if I’d been behind the wheel, that big ass truck would have mounted my little car like a dog in heat, most likely removing my head in the process.

Instead, it resulted from a frightened driver who made a mistake, then froze when he should have stepped on the gas. And an overly aggressive driver who chose to swerve dangerously when he should have stopped.

And that’s what makes riding, driving and walking across or along our roads risky, whether it’s on Ohio or PCH.

………

Joaquin Rodriguez outsprints Alberto Contador for the finish in stage 12 of the tour de France. Andy Schleck rallies to cut his losses to 10 seconds; the question is how much did it take out of him.

Lance Armstrong is slipping further behind the leaders, but maybe it’s on purpose. Bicycling talks with Contador on video. A day after being bounced from the Tour, Mark Renshaw blames the competition. This was supposed to be Tyler Farrar’s year; instead he drops out 10 stages after breaking his wrist. Life as a TdF rider means learning to love pain; more backstage tidbits from le Tour.

And caption this photo of Tour leader Andy Schleck and his wool-bearing friend to win a $20 gift certificate.

………

Click to enlarge

In case you missed yesterday’s list of upcoming events, click here and scroll down to catch up.

………

Hell has officially frozen over — L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is photographed riding a bike; no, seriously. Gary says Santa Monica may host its first ciclovia on 10-10-10; maybe it should start at 10:10 am. It looks like L.A.’s best transportation blog may be sticking around after all. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who nearly got nailed recently. Bell unveils new commuter-friendly helmets. The Wall Street Journal continues make itself over into Bicycling Magazine; this time asking if you would commute to work. Three ways to pedal faster. Why it makes no sense to license cyclists. A Georgia driver faces aggravated assault charges after imitating Dr. Christopher Thompson. It looks like Memphis and Toronto will be getting new bike lanes, while Jakarta cyclists demand theirs. French President Nicolas Sarkozy rides a bike. Secret to cycling with traffic #5: signal sensibly. Bike is a four letter word in Halifax. Vancouver residents are up in arms after efforts to create what sounds like a bike boulevard. Copenhagen requests high tech bids to make biking in the city even better, as the rest of the world falls further behind.

Finally, first the NYPD blocks a bike lane, then tickets cyclists for going around them.

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6 Responses to Friday’s ride, in which I nearly acquire some prime agricultural land

  1. danceralamode says:

    The dotted line between my cell phone incident and your incident above is that both drivers basically thought that they were above the law, because for some reason they thought they had above average driving skills.

    My mother and father used to say this to me: Amanda, we know you’re strong and smart and quick, but it’s not you we worry about, it’s other people.

    No matter how good your driving skills are, you can never account for what some other idiot on the road may do. You don’t know what move that other person is going to make. So wouldn’t it be better if we all drive (or ride) defensively and obey the law, not make stupid, dangerous moves, and err on the side of caution (ie, hit the brakes instead of speed through that yellow light, wait for a few seconds instead of passing by moving into oncoming traffic, and actually stopping for a full 2 seconds at a stop sign or red light, looking both ways, then making the right turn)?

    It’s the same thing you encounter when riding in a large group ride on a bike. Some of the riders are rather inexperienced and veer across the pack, coming insanely close to crossing wheels with you. I was almost taken out a number of times this evening by people who didn’t realize they were riding in a large group and can’t just veer right or left without checking that some one’s not just an inch behind them (in their blind spot). But as a cyclist used to riding in groups, my senses were alert, and if I noticed some one veering, I went ahead and braked and tried to avoid them. I can’t predict what they are going to do, but I can control my own bike and how I ride, so I can do what I can do to avoid a collision by being safe. It’s the same with drivers. But they don’t care. They think the metal will protect them, and they don’t respect anyone else’s right to live. I know it’s a generalization, but I’ve met very few people who think otherwise. The only people I know who do think otherwise are either close friends who have started thinking differently about driving since talking to me about cycling (and out of respect for me they regard every cyclist they see as me) or people who cycle themselves. I know I’m making a blanket statement, but I’m on my bike everyday, and I see the same thing from just about everyone. In fact, a truly safe driver is a rarity to come by: some one who you can see who is truly alert and paying attention and concerned with being safe. My boss is like that; she’s one of the few people I don’t feel scared to be in the car with, because she is so safe–if everyone drove like her (she never goes for that yellow light, she always stops fully and looks both ways, yields to peds and cyclists, doesn’t speed or drive with road rage) the world would be a MUCH safer place.

    Glad you made it, Ted. I just wish there had been a cop with some balls around to see that guy, pull him over, and at least rip him a new one for being stupid.

  2. Digital Dame says:

    Damn, that was close. Too close. Glad you’re ok. And why does it always seem to be the drivers in those monster SUVs like the Escalade doing the really egregious stuff? Is there a certain mentality that is drawn to buy those monstrosities to begin with? I’d be willing to bet there is.

    Dancer is right, people simply don’t care. They get inside their metal box and feel invincible, superior. And EVERYONE thinks they have above-average driving skills, just ask them, they’ll tell ya.

    I clicked on your link about the new Bell helmets but didn’t find anything on that site about helmets? Big write-up on Le Tour, did I miss it?

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks Dame, I’ve fixed the link. That’s what happens when I’m trying to put up a bunch of links late at night when I should be sleeping.

  3. I’m glad you’re okay! I think Amanda hit the nail on the head about the Lake Wobegon motorist’s “above average driving skills” swerving around the stopped car like a hot shot in a race car.

  4. bikinginla says:

    Thanks for the kind words, all. I have to admit, I’ve had some close calls in the past, but this was the scariest incident I’ve had in years.

    I do agree that most of us — drivers and cyclists — seem to think we have above average skills. The problem is that people try something dangerous once and get away with, so they think they can do it again. And they’re right; they continue to get away with it until the one time they don’t and someone gets killed. I’m sure the driver I encountered yesterday didn’t learn a thing from the experience, because ultimately, nothing happened other than firmly implanting in my mind an image of exactly what the grill of an Escalade looks like when it’s coming right at you.

    I’m lucky that my father was a safe driver and taught defensive driving classes after he retired, so I got a good education in defensive driving skills before I ever got behind the wheel. And I’ve learned to apply those same skills when I ride, which has saved my hide more than once. Now if we could just make defensive driving classes mandatory for everyone; it would save a lot more lives than the mandatory helmet laws or bike licensing and registration laws some drivers keep calling for.

  5. Joe says:

    Perhaps there’s a reason why we haven’t seen Mr. Mayor on a bike in the past five years. Those things are goddam dangerous!

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/07/mayor-villaraigosa-breaks-elbow-in-bicycle-accident.html

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