A simple act of roadway courtesy

January 5, 2010

I have always believed in riding courteously, remembering that sharing the road is a two-way street. And that I have no less — or greater — right to it than anyone else.

So I didn’t think twice when I pulled up to a red light at a narrow intersection, and noticed the car behind me had its blinker on. I simply lifted my bike and made a couple quick sidesteps to the left so he could get by and make his right turn.

What happened next surprised me, though.

As he rolled past, the driver lowered his window, waved and said “Thank you; thank you very much” — sounding so much like an Elvis impersonator that I could barely keep from laughing.

Still winded from the sprint that got me there, the best I could manage in response was a nod and a smile, combined with a friendly wave. But he got the idea.

And just for a moment, we truly saw each other, not as adversaries competing for the same limited piece of pavement, but as real human beings.

Whether he’ll remember that the next time a cyclist is blocking his path, I have no idea. Or whether I will the next time an impatient driver follows too close or cuts me off.

But it only took a simple act of roadway courtesy, and its acknowledgement, to make me truly visible to another road user. And to lift my spirits for the rest of my ride.

And the rest of my day.

……..

Enci Box makes the case against Class 1 bike paths. L.A.’s best bike plan probably isn’t the one LADOT proposed; meanwhile, LADOT pleads poverty as an excuse not to attend future Bike Advisory Committee meetings. Will Campbell Embraces the Brilliance on a recent ride near Jefferson and Crenshaw. Flying Pigeon explains how to make your own Jasbeschermers clip; if you can pronounce it, you probably already know what it means. Making negligent driving fatalities a crime in the DC area. Bike Portland offers an in-depth examination on the lack of bike insurance. A candidate for mayor of Columbia, MO says vote for him “Because most Columbians drive cars and not bikes.” Denver lowers speed limits and adds bike lanes and traffic calming to around Washington Park (see LADOT? It can be done…). Hagerstown, Maryland includes cyclists in designing their new bike plan (see LADOT? It can be done…). The Orlando newspaper wants to know if cyclists have a right to the road. A look at 10 years of bike culture in America. Your Japanese-made bike now probably comes from China, but look for an increase in U.S. made bikes. Cycling casualties — serious injuries and deaths — in the British city of Leeds increased 10% in 2008; somehow, that works out to a fifth, according to the headline writer. Finally, this is why you never leave your sleeping children in your bakfiet; evidently, that’s just what they do over there. But at least the thief was honest responsible.


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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