People are trying to kill me- the dangers of cycling in Los Angeles

For real.

I was riding my Dahon Speed Folding Bicycle to work like I do every day. I don’t take the sidewalks, which are actually much more dangerous for the cyclist, pedestrians, and motorists who watch the road. Plus, the law dictates that I ride on the street. As gas prices rise, American motorists need to become familiar with dealing with cyclists. They also need to lean to love public transportation.

Today, riding to work, was uneventful. I’d passed through the most dangerous part of my journey, where I merge across three lanes and sit in a left turn lane until the light changes. I passed through the light, and this time no cars were behind me. I continued down the road as semi trucks and other large trucks file down the oncoming lane. It’s quite a rush to ride next to the loud, low, tremble of their giant engines and enormous girth. I am well aware that any collision with them (or any other car) would likely end in serious to fatal injury.

HALF A BLOCK before I turn into my place of work, I was frightened by a loud and constant HORN blaring from a car tailgating TEN FEET behind me. This is a terrifying experience for a cyclist. It would be very easy for me to panic and fall in front of her tires. I wave a ‘hold on’ signal to the irate motorist, continue until the parked cars give way, and merge into the should per the norm.

A young platinum blonde in a white BMW shoots me a dirty look, swerves slightly toward me, and guns it, speeding away… and then immediately turning into a parking lot.

I decided to follow her in.

I stayed 20 feet away from her car, on my bicycle, and consciously made an effort not to yell or appear threatening. She saw me and decided to take FOREVER fiddling with her purse, hoping I’d go away. My adrenaline is pumping.

She gathered her strength and got out of her car.

Click below to read the exchange:

“Ma’am, I have every right to be on the road that you do. With fuel prices going up there’s going to be a lot more-”

“Bicycles belong in the bicycle lane.”

“When there is no bicycle lane, I have to-”

“I don’t want to talk about this.” She gets back into her car.

“Ma’am. I’m not going to hurt you. Ma’am, can we please talk about this like adults?” I’m using my authoritative but ultra calm voice.

“If you don’t leave, I’m going to call 911.”

“Ma’am, I’m not going to hurt you. You don’t need to call anyone. Will you please at least crack your window so we can talk?”

“I want you to leave. I’m calling 911.” She mouths through the closed window.

“Ma’am, I can’t hear you. Will you please crack the window?” I back away from her car another ten feet placing another car between us.

She does not respond. She’s talking to someone on the other end of the line, likely someone inside the office and not 911. I push off on my bike and start to leave.

I’m not proud of this last bit, but I’ll be honest in my portrayal of the scene.

“You’re a rich, b*tch!” I yell, now on the other side of a short wall.

It was a parting shot that undermines my dignity, but sure made me feel better. Immature? Yes. I’m not as Zen as I’d like.

She’s not the first and won’t be the last motorist who decides to scare me into submission for daring to take to the streets on a bicycle. I’ve had worse instances as well with people purposely driving very close to me, honking, yelling, and even throwing things at me.

I understand road rage. This is not road rage. This is a complete disrespect for someone else’s life.

When there’s room, I ride on the shoulder. When there is not, I take the lane, a full lane like a motorized vehicle. This is the law. I command the space with authority. It is clear I mean to be in your way. I do NOT want you to ‘scootch’ past me, a couple of feet away from my handle bars. You can pass me in another lane, or wait until I have room to move over and let you by. You don’t like it, lobby for more bike lanes.

Sometimes this means a semi-truck might have to trudge along behind me for a block. Occasionally, I’ll even build up two or three cars for a short time. But I ride at least 15 miles per hour and often I kick it up to 20-25 for a short sprint when I’m holding cars up. It’s not so bad. You can deal. I’ll probably catch you at the stoplight anyway.

Should I have confronted her? A part of me thinks people should know when they’ve done something wrong. Without the confrontation, she might have only felt annoyed at the ‘dumb’ cyclist. Now, she has faced some resistance to her thoughts. I can’t control where she takes them from here.

UU’s, remember your seven principles when driving to work!

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5 Responses to “People are trying to kill me- the dangers of cycling in Los Angeles”

  1. Ed W Says:

    I confronted a motorist who’d passed far to close, blaring her horn and yelling out the window. Like your Beemer pilot, she turned into a parking lot where I caught up to her. She immediately called the cops when I confronted her and I waited patiently for them to arrive. One said I should never confront a motorist. “Then how do they learn there are consequences for their actions?” I asked. “If there are no consequences, they’ll simply keep harassing cyclists on the road.”

    Generally, the local cops are very proactive, but not that one.

  2. Mike Ball Says:

    I’ve been harassed by both car and truck drivers in the Boston area. I encourage them to call 911 if we are face to face. In fact, I shall do it for us. Endangering a cyclist (or pedestrian or driver) like that violates a series of laws and regulations. I make it my point to know the specific Massachusetts laws and can rattle them off to the cops. When it plain that you know it is not some local traffic regulation but state crimes, the cops’ attitude swings your way quickly.

    In effect, if you stand by the violator’s car, you are in the process of a citizen’s arrest without even having to call it. The cops an explain clearly why threatening someone with a 3,000 motorized vehicle is not legal.

    You’re likely right though that the driver probably has no idea what could be in store — loss of license, a ticket, a court appearance, fines, points on insurance and on and on.

    Don’t be confrontational, just educational. Tell ’em to call the cops. You can help ensure everyone obeys the law and keeps people safe.

  3. Mike Ball Says:

    Well, duh. I notice several typos in the comment. Sorry, but I think you can make sense of it. [When it’s plain… and The cops can…]

    I should have also said, this is like claiming a lane. You’re right. They’re wrong. It’s a public service.

    Also, Massachusetts has a nifty form to notify state cops about actions by a specific dangerous driver. I’m told that they store them and folk get in trouble if they get a couple such complaints. Likewise, if they already have current moving violations, cops pay them visits to discuss the compliant and maybe bring charges.

  4. A Crude Awakening « Aaron Sawyer’s DiscoverUU Blog Says:

    […] of you may know that I ride my bicycle to work. You may also be aware of my perpetual poverty, though many apsects of my life have been […]

  5. David Says:

    im in the uk here. Got hooted by a municipal lorry and shouted at as they passed. I emailed their employer who copied me into letters sent to all drivers and contractors telling them to respect cyclists. No more problems.

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