The Left Hook and the Right Cross
OK, pardon me, but I need to rant. Last night, on my commute home from work through the mean streets of Arcadia, I was nearly left-hooked and right-crossed … all within the space of about 3 minutes. To those unfamiliar with the terms, bicyclists refer to drivers making a left turn directly in your path as a “left hook.” A “right cross” happens when a driver speeds up and then cuts in front of you to make a right turn in your path. Ride a bike on the roads in Southern California for any length of time, and you’ll eventually experience both.
Last night, both incidents happened on a stretch of 1st Avenue in Arcadia, reinforcing my belief that Arcadia is arguably the most bike-unfriendly city in the west San Gabriel Valley. I’ve repeatedly complained to Arcadia city officials about the lack of bike-friendly infrastructure in that city, to no avail. Last year the Arcadia City Council voted down a proposal to fund a bike plan for the city, citing lack of funds.
Yesterday was my first evening (i.e., after sundown) commute home since school started, and I was prepared to be super-visible. I have a front and rear Supernova E3 headlight-taillight combo on my Surly Troll commuter bike, both run by a Shimano dyno-hub, both of which are extremely bright. I also have an additional Planet Bike taillight for good measure. I wear a hi-vis reflective vest, like the kind worn by Caltrans workers, and to top it off, I have a helmet-mounted Light & Motion Vis 360 headlight-taillight combo that is bright enough to be seizure-inducing and designed to be seen from all angles. In short, I’m lit up like a friggin’ Christmas tree. I also make a special effort to ride by the rules of the road, and watch for eye contact with drivers, especially at intersections.
The first incident happened around 8:30 pm at the intersection of Santa Clara and 1st Ave (where the new Arcadia Gold Line station is being built). I was headed northbound on 1st, waiting at a red light. An older (mid-1990s) Dodge or Chrysler sedan was southbound on 1st, waiting at the red light. He had no turn signal on, but something about the way he edged into the intersection made me watch him warily. It’s a good thing I did, because the driver, a late-middle-aged white male, suddenly made a left turn right in front of me. I raised my arm in a “WTF?” gesture, and aimed my headlamp right at his face, but he never even looked at me. As brightly-lit as I was, how could you not see me, you jerk? How could you not look for opposing traffic when making a left turn? Were you drunk?
Not three minutes later, still northbound on 1st, I approached the light at Foothill Blvd. This time, an assho–, uh, motorist—in a macho black pickup truck, roars around me, cuts me off , and makes a right turn in front of me. Fortunately, he was gone by the time I got to the line, or I’d have blown my top, and it wouldn’t have been constructive.
An otherwise pleasant and healthy ride home was almost ruined by two inconsiderate, dangerous motorists. I was following the rules of the road in both instances. If I’m struck by either one of these jerks, (thank God I wasn’t) it is potentially life-threatening. The next time some motorist complains about scofflaw bicyclists, it is important to remember that scofflaw drivers are just as common, and pose a much greater risk of bodily harm to other road users.
My bike and I have a right to the road, and refuse to be bullied off of it by idiots wrapped in 2,500-lbs of steel and glass. My bike-commuting is healthy, good for my community (reduces traffic, noise, and the need for expensive infrastructure), and good for the planet. None of that can be said for the 2,500-lb metal piles of crap rolling around the public roads. I’m going to be extra careful in Arcadia, though, because apparently the lives of cyclists and pedestrians are cheap to city officials.
OK, if you’re still with me, thanks for letting me vent. I feel a little better now.