Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bike Lanes, the new improved car lanes!

A couple weeks ago I was biking around on a sunny, clear morning, at around 10am in my neighborhood, doing some errands. About a year ago the northbound lanes of Vineland in Studio City/North Hollywood between Ventura and Moorpark were resurfaced and one of the traffic lanes was converted to a buffered bike lane, leaving 2 car lanes, 1 buffered bike lane, a turn lane at some intersections and 1 parking lane (although parts of the street don't permit parking... the space is still there though). I was biking along in the bike lane, traveling in the correct direction with a helmet on and more than the minimum required reflectors on my bike. Suddenly a person in a black Prius moved from the right traffic lane to the next space over to the right, which was the bike lane, and more specifically directly in front of me. I grabbed my breaks and swerved to the right and was ok, but I was stirred up to say the least. On this particular stretch of the street that I was on, there was no parking allowed and no place for cars to turn right, so there really was no reason for the car to be in the bike lane. And not only did the car cut me off, they continued to drive in the bike lane through a couple of traffic lights and finally turned onto the same street I was turning onto. I watched as the car sped down the residential street and then sat at the next traffic signal, a red light, while I caught up on my bike. The light turned green and the car turned while I continued straight, although much to my surprise, we ended up at the same parking lot shortly afterward. I locked up my bike and then waited for the car driver to exit her car.

"Excuse me. You almost hit my with your car in the bike lane."
 "What? What car were you in?" She told the person she was on the phone with to hold on.

I told the woman that I was on a bike, not a car. She had cut me off while I was biking and she then proceeded to drive in the bike lane while I was biking in it. She claimed she didn't see me. I was frustrated that not only did she drive in the bike lane, she didn't even bother to look in the bike lane before driving there. She had no idea I was there. She told me she had a bike. She was driving and didn't know where to turn, so she was just driving in the bike lane in the meantime. She seemed surprised, but at the same time she knew there was a bike lane on the street and that it had been there for a while (despite telling me that it was "new" & people needed time to get used to it.) I mentioned that a car is a deadly weapon and you really should not be driving in the bike lane, especially if you're not going to look to see if there are any bicyclists, She apologized and I reemphacized she needs to pay much better attention and we went on our way.


As always, these types of interactions trigger significant adrenaline rushes. I'm obviously frustrated by the carelessness of people driving cars when it comes to others on the street. I'm frustrated that someone who seems to claim some basic understanding of being a bicyclist still proceeds to drive in a bike lane. I'm frustrated that despite all these ridiculous and unsafe moves made by the car driver, I managed to move just as fast as the car through the 1/2 mile ordeal, only while on my bike. I'm frustrated because I have a strong feeling the car driver may have been on the phone while driving as well, and whatever method she was using to converse, she was distracted. I'm frustrated and confused about how many indicators drivers really need to know a bike lane exists and how long they need to be in place before they are noticed. I'm frustrated because this isn't the first time cars have driven in this same exact bike lane while I am biking in it. I'm frustrated because this particular stretch of the bike lane is some of the "best" bike infrastructure available in my neighborhood and this kind of thing is happening.


I'm thinking about starting a series looking at some of the bicyclist and pedestrian infrastructure, resources and experiences at a hyper local level that utilizes my day job skills to seriously discuss some of the issues and the positive aspects of my neighborhood. Theoretically the walk score for my neighborhood is decent, with a large number of basic services (grocery store, many other shops and restaurants) and extensive public transportation options, including the Red Line and is relatively flat unless you venture up into the hills south of Ventura. At the same time, there's still an extremely high car dominance in my neighborhood making the non-car driving experience ridiculous, frustrating and plain unsafe at times. While I am extremely thrilled about Ciclavia coming to my neighborhood next month, I can't help but to hope the momentum put in place by this sort of event can help improve the south east part of the San Fernando Valley so we have even better things to show off next time (and not just a sad list of potential projects) and a better quality of life every other day.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Who is this man?

If you're anything like me, you're asking yourself right now "Who is this man?"

And most likely, you have no idea what his name is. I don't know either. I do know some things about him though.....

This man was walking in the middle of the sidewalk with his phone pressed to his ear and his finger stuck in the other ear.
I attempted to get his attention by saying "excuse me" a few times as I slowly approached him while on my bike.
And after I got no response from him, I stopped pedaling and began walking my bike, while I was still on it, past him.
This man finally noticed me.
And unlike most people, his reaction wasn't to step to the side a bit so I could pass, to which I reply with a smile and a "thank you", but instead tell the person on the phone about how I nearly ran him down.
He reminded me that I was on a sideWALK and was not allowed to be there on my bike.
And I reminded him that in fact, he was wrong.
And that's when his brain malfunction became more clear.
You see, because of the size of my body, I knew nothing! My ass somehow took over my entire body & brain and rendered everything that came out of my mouth invalid.
I asked how on earth the size of my ass changed the law and made me incorrect, but he had no answers. All he could do was remind me of how wrong I was, how ugly I was and that I should look in a mirror. He told the person he was talking to on the phone that I must be angry because he was blocking the sidewalk and I couldn't get to food.

I find this sort of person pathetic. And sad. And horrible.

I fear for this type of person's children or grandchildren, for this is the type of person they have to help guide them through life. You're only an illness, injury or gene expression away from becoming worthless in his mind.
I fear for his wife, girlfriend, boyfriend or anyone else that relies on him and trusts him. All it takes is your ass to grow and *poof* your brain doesn't matter.
I feel sad for his friends, who either find this behavior acceptable, don't know about the 10lbs that it would take for him to ditch them or don't agree with it, but somehow can't help him see anything differently.
I feel bad about people that feel like they need to fit some sort of perfect and ideal body form. Why? For cranky, shallow, rude and evil men like him?

But there's one bit of goodness. At least my ass works as a pretty good filter when it comes to identifying a subset of the horrible people in this world.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Too Close for Comfort - vol 1


-Wearing mostly dark colors with accents of lime green
-Wearing a helmet

My Bike:
-Minimal required gear for biking at night including rear, front, pedal and wheel reflectors and a bright white headlight
-a second blinking white head light, a red rear blinking light, a strand of Christmas lights and additional reflective material on my bike. I also have reflective material on my backpack.

I usually try to bike during quiet times of the day or on residential streets. I like to avoid car traffic if at all possible.

So this evening I was biking in a residential area on a newly paved street. The houses in the area are generally pretty expensive and nice, but the street has known speeding issues. Sidewalks are only located on one side of the street and I've seen many other bicyclists, runners, people walking their dogs and strollers (you know, normal residential stuff) on this street over the years. There's only 1 lane in each direction with some extra room for street parking with a speed limit of 25mph. Until the street I was biking on was recently repaved, it had speed bumps on it and "Slow down: We love our children" signs.

I'm biking along, on the right side of the lane, with traffic, just outside of the door zone of the nearby parked cars. Suddenly a car comes flying down a perpendicular (also residential) side street, nearly running down a pedestrian crossing the street as well as myself. He turns right and continues on ahead of me.

A few hundred yards ahead of the first incident, I start moving towards the left side of the lane in preperation to turn left at the next stop sign. There are no cars immediately around me. About 15 feet from the stop sign, a car that was speeding way too fast behind me in the same direction pulls up on my left side to pass me. I scream at the car driver "STOP". He rolls down his window.

"Why did you do that?"
"What? Pass you?"
"Yeah, I'm turning left, we're super close to the stop sign and you're passing me on my left"
The driver rolled up his window and sped off, going straight.

I often find myself frustrated when (angry) car drivers declare that all bicyclist are nothing but scofflaws, blowing through stop signs, not using lights at night or not using enough/bright lights at night, not riding on the correct side of the road, not wearing helmets (which aren't always legally required for adults.) I know I am not that bicyclist and I'm left wondering if they like to pretend they've never seen a bicyclist like me or they just don't see us. By riding with traffic do I become invisible? Does their frustration towards others come spewing out on me despite me not having done anything wrong? I'm left wondering why the drivers couldn't wait 5 or 10 seconds for a more vunerable user of the road to just get out of their way. Would it take hitting someone to understand the gravity of the situation & why the speed limit was low near houses? Would they try to pass a car turning left on the left at a stop sign with only one lane of traffic in each direction? Would it really be worth seriously hurting someone to save a matter of seconds on your commute?

At least Steve Carell is on my side.....

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hail! Hail to the bottle!

To the Gentleman I made eye contact with while walking through the bank parking lot this evening,

I highly suspect you know what I saw - you quickly headed toward the exit of the parking lot soon after you noticed me looking you. I think somewhere in your head, you know what you were doing wasn't quite right. I mean, I totally understand that it's Friday evening, the main part of the work week is over. You looked like you were heading home from the office, still dressed in a button up shirt and tie. But you were already in weekend mode on the inside, taking swigs of beer from an unmistakable Newcastle Ale bottle only moments before you drove off.

As an adult living in the U.S., you have a right to drink alcohol. Drink a little every day. Drink until you pass out every night. Drink on the weekends. Drink to kill yourself tonight with alcohol poisoning. Drink until you kill yourself slowly by destroying your liver first. I really don't care what you do - not that I would choose some of those methods of death. I know firsthand that some aren't so great, but I do have lines where I feel fully justified in having an opinion.

Notice all those deaths... they were all for yourself. If you want to, you can kill yourself with alcohol. You don't have the right to kill anyone else though. Not your wife or ex-wife. Not your children. Not your parents. Not your grandchildren. Luckily no one else appeared to be in the car with you tonight, but you also have no right to kill anyone else that might be on the road that might simply be trying to get home tonight to enjoy their weekend.

I suspect you have a problem with alcohol though. Most people don't find a need to drink a beer in their car while driving the evening & with good reason, it's illegal in the U.S. When I pulled out my phone to take a photo of your license plates, I realized you didn't have any on your tan Toyota Highlander SUV, which was pretty convenient. It felt useless to call the police and mention there was a guy in a tan SUV driving around North Hollywood or maybe even was already on the freeway, drinking beer during Friday rushhour. As a pedestrian, there was no way I was going to keep an eye on your car for long. I hope in time you can get help or at least get some control over your drinking before that bottle causes too many problems for yourself or the others in your life. Hopefully it's not too late.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

crosswalk dodging

Nothing really makes the experience of walking in a crosswalk as stressful as almost getting hit by a car. Last night while walking near my home, I encountered the crosswalk below, on Ventura Blvd. I waited for my pedestrian crossing signal and began to cross. I was the only pedestrian crossing and there was a single car that had a green signal (coming from the upper left lane in the photo.) As I was walking across one lane and about to cross the second, I noticed the single car turning left, almost directly into me. I stopped, confused about what was happening. The driver suddenly noticed me when she reached the crosswalk, a few feet from me. She was young and had a car full of passengers. She waved quickly, swerved around me and continued her left turn as I stood in the street. I was somewhat stunned and confused about what just happened as I finished crossing the street.

I don't know what happened. The crosswalk is at a weird angle. Maybe this makes seeing pedestrians more difficult. When I took the photo above a few months ago, you can see that although it is a marked crosswalk, most of the marking is long gone. Last night I was wearing dark colors with a lighter colored sweater and I was carrying a white bag and my skin wasn't completely covered. I waited for the signal to indicate it was time for pedestrians to cross and I was already in the crosswalk when the woman began driving almost directly into me. I had 3M reflective tape on my person.

What should I have done differently? I sometimes wonder if I should take more inspiration from Burning Man and walk around with colorful lights on myself at all times. I suppose I should start wearing more reflective items on my person as well. I try to make eye contact with drivers, but in this sort of situation, making eye contact is difficult. Otherwise I can only ask that when driving, please pay attention and watch for pedestrians and other vulnerable parties on the streets. Unfortunately, despite situations like this one being technically illegal (pedestrians have a right of way in California), the nearby police were up the street, dealing with other issues. Most of the time, unless someone is actually hit and injured, nothing really is officially acknowledged, and even then, there's rarely someone around that was watching and paying attention the whole time.

Intersection: Ventura and Campo de Cahuenga
Walkscore:  78
Transportation Nearby: Red Line (.3 miles away), bus stop (0.0 miles away), Hollywood Bowl Park & Ride (.1 miles away)
Walkability impressions: never many pedestrians around unless there is an event going on, graffiti at nearby bus stop, crosswalk forces user to walk diagonally (not the shortest path), might need more light or permit pedestrian only crossing at some point, not much shade, shelter present at nearby bus stop, 4-way intersection with car right turn-yield branch & pedestrian crosswalks at 3 of the 4 intersection with stripped crosswalk at yield sign, pedestrian-only island present