Yesterday’s ride, on which I met some strangers and had a good day — and got a nice surprise from the UK

February 1, 2012

It was a good day.

Especially in light of last week, in which I enjoyed a lovely 50 mile ride.

Only problem was, it was a 53 mile route. And the last three miles were ridden in anger after a dispute with a road raging driver.

And while the weekend gave some perspective, allowing me to put the anger and unpleasantness in past where it belongs, I really needed a good ride.

And I got it, though not in the way I expected.

Normally, I might have waited another day for the weather to warm up, but a midday Thursday business call dictated that I ride on Wednesday, or maybe not at all. So I threw on my cool weather gear, and set out for a fast 35 miler.

So much for that plan.

This was one of those days when my legs just weren’t there, for whatever reason. So I slowed down and took in the city surrounding us. And ran into a number of other riders along the way.

Maybe it was the beautiful day. Or perhaps the slower pace that allowed more interaction with the people around me.

It started as I was riding through Brentwood, and struck up a conversation with a lovely woman who recently arrived here from Kansas City.

We discussed our mutual bad knees, and how riding a bike has allowed each of us to put off long promised knee replacements for the foreseeable future. She mentioned that her road bike and bike shoes were still back in KC, and that she bought the beat-up knobby-tired mountain bike she was riding for just $50 after she got here.

So when we reached the base of the long hill on San Vicente, I wished her well, assuming I would quickly drop her since there was no way she could keep up on that bike. Yet when I reached the crest at 26th, she was right behind me — making it quite clear that she could have dropped my ass on a better bike. It was only on the downhill that I finally left her behind, as those knobby tires couldn’t keep up with my roadie.

On the return trip, I swung over to check out the new road diet on Main Street. And for the first time in nearly 20 years of riding that street at least once a week, I felt perfectly comfortable riding north on the stretch between Abbot Kinney and Rose.

Not that I’ve avoided it in the past. But I’ve always wary of speeding drivers and the frequent city buses trying to squeeze past or impatiently running up my backside. This time, I had the luxury of a spacious lane all to myself, with cars — parked or otherwise — comfortably distant to either side.

Yet when I got to Rose, I found myself apologizing to another rider for cutting him off back at Abbot Kinney as we both maneuvered into the bike lane. I had found myself outside the lane as I waited for him to assume his position, with a car coming up fast from behind.

That’s the downside of having a bike lane. Drivers expect you to be in it, and tend to have little patience when you’re not.

So I quickly called out “on your left,” kicked up my cadence and cut a little too close in front of him.

And instantly felt bad about it.

So when he pulled up behind me at the next red light, I explained what happened and said I was sorry. He graciously said not to worry about it, which led to an ongoing conversation over the next several blocks about the lovely day and the lovely new bike lanes, of which we both approved.

When I made it to Ocean in Santa Monica, I found myself swinging out into the traffic lane to pass a couple of men riding in the bike lane on fat tired bikes.

Sure enough, they rolled up behind me at the next light, and we struck up a conversation. One had a perfect London accent, while the other had an Australian accent you could cut with a chain saw.

As we chatted about various and sundry subjects, the Aussie felt the need to mention that they weren’t from around here. As if the accents — and Chelsea FC shorts — weren’t a dead giveaway.

Then again, not all my interactions were with other riders.

One in particular stands out.

I was on my last leg home, not far from where I had the much less pleasant interaction with the angry driver last week.

This time, I found myself riding on the right of a traffic lane wide enough to accommodate my bike and a passing car. Just ahead, the road narrowed, forcing me to move left to pass a parked car; meanwhile, I could sense another car moving up quickly from behind.

So I used one of my favorite gestures — no, not that one — pointing slightly ahead and to the left to indicate where I was going. The car backed off, allowing me to pass the parked car and move back to the right so the trailing driver could pass.

As I pulled back over, I gave a small wave to thank the driver for giving me the space I needed. And was very surprised to see him lean over, reaching far to the right to wave back as he passed by.

I was reminded that it only takes a little courtesy to smooth streets, while realizing I’d made a friend through that simple gesture, though one I’d probably never see again. And I rode the rest of the way home with a smile on my face.

Just the opposite of last week’s ride.

That should have been the end of it.

But when I got home, I opened up my computer and found this.

If there’s ever been a bolder, more public campaign to promote safe cycling and save the lives of riders, I haven’t seen it.

The Times of London has set the bar incredibly high for every other newspaper, city and government organization, whether in the UK, here in the US or anywhere around the world.

They deserve our thanks for caring enough to actually do something. And using their influence to make a real difference for cyclists.

In the end, it was a good ride.

And a very good day.

Yesterday’s ride, on which I stop traffic

June 18, 2009

Maybe it was the uptick in my mood after yesterday’s surprisingly pleasant encounter with the LAPD. Or maybe everyone was just in a good mood brought on by the Lakers parade.

But everywhere I went, people just seemed a little happier to share the road. Pedestrians — other than the hothead who touched off yesterday’s incident — thanked me for warning them when I was about to pass. Bus drivers waited patiently for me to ride out of their way, and even waved in thanks when I moved out of the way so they could turn.

But the highlight had to be the young mother waiting patiently to cross the street with her small daughter.

They were standing next to a crosswalk with no traffic signal. The kind where drivers are legally required to stop so people can cross.

But as I rode up, I watched several cars drive past without even pausing, leaving both mother and child stranded on the curb. So when I got there, I made a point of stopping, and nodded to indicate they could cross.

Just as they stepped off the curb, though, I noticed a car approaching on my left, clearly intending to pull around me and drive through the crosswalk. So I stuck my arm out, signaling him to stop — though it did occur to me later that he could have just as easily read that as a left turn signal.

Either way, it did the job. He stopped, and mother and child crossed safely.

About halfway across, though, she turned back to me and said “Thank You.” Then as she continued on her way, she added “You rock!”

Over 24 hours later, that still feels pretty damn good.


Flying Pigeon adds Dutch bikes to their lineup of proletarian cycles. Damien Newton observes that yesterday’s Downtown street closures prove the city could host a ciclovia. Streetsblog also notes that cycling and pedestrian projects depend on federal funding, and examines the failure of the Chicago parking privatization plan our mayor wants to emulate. Curbed offers a suggestion to replace the 10 freeway with a bikeway, among other green improvements. A Hoboken cyclist addresses common concerns about adding new bike lanes — maybe LADOT should read it. The Fox News staffer who dragged a cyclist through Central Park has been arrested. And finally, the Beeb examines Britain’s ghost bikes.

Mama said there’d be days like this, too.

October 8, 2008

I’d planned on writing a follow-up to Tuesday’s post, in which I’d suggest changes to the current biking laws.

Maybe next time.

Because that’s what I was thinking about as I was riding today, when I suddenly realized I was missing a hell of a great ride. So I mentally hit command – option – escape (control – alt – delete for you ‘softies out there) and shut off that part of my brain for the remainder of the day.

It was one of those idyllic late summer days, when it might be unbearably hot inland, but absolutely ideal closer to the coast. Warm and dry, clear blue sky, little or no wind, and big, blue waves forming perfect curls crashing on the beach. The only flaw was a wall of haze – a local euphemism for smog, for the uninitiated – along the coast above Malibu; but since I wasn’t going that way, the only thing it marred the view north across the bay.

Better yet, this was the week it finally all came together for me – that magical moment when cycling becomes almost effortless, and you can just ride, without having to think about it or work at it. Usually I reach that point by mid-July; this year, as I struggled to come back from the infamous bee encounter, I was starting to think I wasn’t going to get there at all.

Then as I was riding on Monday, I suddenly found myself just…riding. For once, I wasn’t trying to get in shape or thinking about what I was doing. I carved effortless curves through the corners, and zoomed along a couple of gears higher, and a couple miles an hour faster, than I had just the week before.

And just enjoyed the ride.

I enjoyed that same effortless feeling today as I rode, enough that I was able to hold my tongue when I found myself passing the helmet-less, mountain bike-riding jerk I’d encountered a few moments earlier. The one I’d just seen blow through a red light, forcing the oncoming traffic to brake to avoid him, then speeding up to cut off a car on a narrow corner a few seconds later — again, forcing the driver to brake hard to avoid him.

Normally, I might have said something. And maybe I should have. But it just didn’t seem worth marring such a lovely day.

Same with the county beach employee who was driving his pick-up with two wheels in the bike lane, as he prepared for a turn a few hundred yards further down the road. I ended up right next to his open window at the next light, and almost said something.

But for a change, I just didn’t feel like it.

Instead, I contentedly followed the young guy riding with his jeans rolled up, who insisted on jumping ahead of me when the light changed — and surprisingly, was able to ride just fast enough to keep ahead of me. I finally passed him on the marina section of the bike path, after I kicked it up to my big gear, raising my speed another 4 or 5 mph. Yet when I got to the fork between the Ballona and Braude bike paths, he was still there, just a few yards behind me.

I really had to admire him, because I was really hauling through there. And I was actually dressed for the part.

The rest of my ride was just as pleasant, if uneventful, until I found myself speeding downhill about a mile from home. Suddenly, the car ahead of me stopped without warning to let a pedestrian cross, forcing me to swerve right at over 25 mph to get around him. Then as I did, the driver waiting at the cross street took that as his opportunity to cross, and pull out directly into my path. So I gently squeezed the brakes and swerved right again to go around him, then immediately swerved left to come back into the traffic lane, carving a perfect C behind him.

Only problem was, there was a car illegally parked in the red zone on the other side of the intersection, directly in my path. So I squeezed the brakes again, tapped the rear derailleur to drop down a couple gears, swerved hard to the left, then back right to straighten, and cruised back uphill and home as if nothing had happened.

It went something like this: swerve, squeeze, swerve, swerve, squeeze, tap, swerve, swerve. And just about that fast.

Like I said, it all came together this week — and not a moment too soon.

Then I went home and had a massive iced coffee, into which I may have inadvertently spilled a wee dram of Irish Whiskey.

Of course, we won’t mention the school bus driver who decided to pass me on a curve, and nearly forced me to rear-end a parked car. Because something like that would be upsetting, and risk marring the lovely mood left by this idyllic day.

And we can’t have that, now can we?


Alex tells the story of S.M.P.D.’s hassling of Critical Mass riders, and offer’s his heartfelt opinion at the end. (Welcome back, dude – we’ve missed you.) Bike completes her car-free challenge, and offers tips for the rest of us. No Whip finishes the hardest thing he’s ever done – a 500+ mile challenge through the high desert; if I wore a hat, it would be off to you, Matt. A writer for the Times shares our rants about the lack of bike lanes in this town. And finally, the S.F. Bike Examiner lusts after a very light — and very expensive — new bike.

The attack of the silly season

September 10, 2008

Maybe there’s something in the air right now.

First, our presidential candidates waste what little campaign time they have left arguing whether lipstick belongs on a pig or a pitbull. Then closer to home, Will Campbell has a bizarre encounter with a hotrodding motorist who gives him a rare double bird, then asks if he’s a USC fan.

(I used to listen to a Louisiana band that featured an even rarer audio/visual double-bird song title. The singer would extend the middle finger of each hand, holding one upright and the other sideways, then announce “The title of this song is, ‘This is for you; this is for the horse you ride.’”)

I ran into the same sort of thing this afternoon.

You see, I wanted to get one last, good ride in, because, starting tomorrow, my 14 years of self-employment could be coming to an end. I’ll be spending the next 4 weeks working full-time in a corporate office; if everything works out, it could turn into a permanent job. That’s not really what I want, but after 8 years of Bush’s trickle-down economics, I can’t afford to get trickled on anymore.

So even though it was a cool and cloudy morning, I set out on one of my favorite rides, down Montana to Ocean, on to Main, then back up along the beach to the Palisades, and back again. And since it may be awhile before I can get another good ride in, I threw in some hills to get a good workout in, starting out with an uphill course through Westwood and UCLA, and adding a quick run up Temescal Canyon for good measure.

And other than a few minor incidents, it was a very pleasant and rewarding ride.

The first occurred when a middle-aged biking perv somehow managed to turn his head almost all the way around — sort of like Linda Blair in the Exorcist — to stare at a young woman in a tiny bikini behind him. And in the process, drifted over to the other side of the bike path, nearly hitting me head on before I managed to rouse him from his lustful reveries.

Then a little further up the bike path, I came up behind a couple of attractive women riding slowly, two abreast, in a narrow section where there wasn’t really room to pass. So I just politely held back until I saw an opening, then moved up and announced “Passing on your left.”

Now, usually when I say that, the other riders will move to their right to make room, or at least hold their course. Sometime, they’ll even thank me for telling them I’m there.

This time, the woman on the outside actually moved further to the left, blocking my path. Assuming she hadn’t heard me, I said it again, only to get a response of “We heard you!”

“So why did you move to your left?” I asked.

The response from both of them, for reasons that will forever escape me, was “Fuck off!” And suddenly, I was reminded just how ugly an otherwise attractive person can be.

I saw my opportunity to slip past, so I took it, adding a “Fuck you” as I left them behind, with a parting finger over my shoulder.

As I rode off, the one who tried to block my way yelled out, “I can catch you, you know!”

By then I was 30 yard ahead of them, on a carbon and steel road bike, while she was riding in a long dress and flip flops on a heavy single-speed coaster bike. And she thought she could catch me?

Yeah, that’ll happen.

Of course, I’m usually not one to walk — or in this case, ride — away when someone starts up with me, so my first instinct was to ride back and confront her. But then what? Was I going to beat up a couple of girls? Or just stand there and scream back and forth?

I learned a long time ago that fighting with someone who is that out of control is a no win situation. So I just kept pedaling and within a few minutes, they were out of sight, if not out of mind.

Finally, as I neared the northern end of the path, I saw a woman running with her dog, a beautiful black lab. But as I rode up along side them, I noticed that the dog was limping, his right hind leg missing every other step as he ran alongside her. So I slowed down to tell her what I’d seen.

She didn’t thank me, either.

In fact, she didn’t answer me at all. But she immediately stopped running and got down on one knee to attend to her dog, while I continued on with my ride.

And that was exactly what she should have done. Because it wasn’t about me, or her; it was about making sure the dog was okay.

With that, the bizarre confrontation with the other women was forgotten, and the natural order of the universe seemed to be restored. And I rode home, fully enjoying one last, good ride through the Westside.


Streetsblog notes the state legislature has passed the Complete Streets Act, requiring that all users — including pedestrians and cyclists — must be give equal consideration in any new road project. A Florida County is overcome with rationality, rejecting a speed limit for bikes. The League of American Bicyclists ranks the states for bicycle friendliness; California inexplicably comes in at #7. Maybe things are better up in NorCal. The cycling lawyer asks why drivers are turning into the Hulk this year, while Science Daily notes the more people who ride bike, the less likely they are to be injured. Kinda the theory behind Critical Mass, no? Mikey Wally reports on 37 cyclists detained over a shoplifting incident, and offers an effective way to keep riders from drafting. And finally, China’s Flying Pigeon takes roost on Figueroa St.


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