Los Angeles Magazine: Five Driving Tips From an L.A. Cyclist
The road doesn’t need to be a battlefield
Posted on 4/4/2014 9:10:00 AM by Kyle Fitzpatrick
With CicLAvia this Sunday, Los Angeles will be a bikers’ paradise for a few brief hours on Wilshire Boulevard. But those of us who prefer to get around on two wheels generally have learned that sharing the road with motorists isn’t easy. Cyclists are in constant danger of being tailgated, clipped, or doored by frustrated drivers who turn the streets into a battlefield in a struggle for dominance. Can’t we all just get along? To the bicycling enthusiasts out there, I say: Mind the rules of the road. Don’t speed down the sidewalk or into crosswalks, because you can’t be treated as both a pedestrian and a vehicle. For the drivers out there, I have a few more suggestions:
Easy on the honks.
Logic dictates you give a little toot to alert a biker to your presence if you’re concerned that he or she can’t see you. Don’t lean on the horn—it’s both unnecessary and startling. Most bikers are aware of cars around them, and unless you’re driving a Prius or Tesla, we can hear you. If there’s just one lane? Chill out and drive a little slower. You’ll be able to pass us soon enough, and everyone in L.A. is late for everything anyway.
Watch the speeding.
Just because it’s rush hour and that lane normally reserved for parking has opened up doesn’t give you license to go speeding down the street like it’s a highway. As previously noted, local drivers tend to have a lead foot on Fountain, La Brea, and Fairfax—and some of this extra space is actually intended for bikers. If you change lanes too quickly, you might not see us in your mirror, and if you whiz by us in a tizzy, you can inadvertently slipstream us, meaning your momentum interferes with our balance.
Don’t let bikers “stagecoach” your driving.
Drivers often feel they need to limit their driving to “protect” bikers. This probably contributes to their irritation. Common limitations include not turning right because a biker is approaching behind you, prolonged stops at four-way intersections because you want the biker to go first, and driving extremely slowly in one lane because you’re too scared to pass, giving us six or 10 feet instead of three. Don’t ignore us, but treat us like a smaller, more-frail car. We don’t want to create more traffic—and you shouldn’t let our presence cause you to create more traffic, either.
That said, this is the worst, and many drivers out there are guilty of it. They get so annoyed at a biker that they drive up right behind us or swerve really pointedly around us, just to let us know they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. This is dangerous, as bikers are forced to ride in uneven gutters, often compromising equipment in the process. This sort of bullying costs me at least one tire a month.
Watch your doors.
My biggest fear is getting doored. It’s happened before and it can be fatal. Please look in a rearview mirror. If you mindlessly throw your door wide open while futzing with something in the car, it’s the worst, because there is no way for bikers to anticipate people exiting from vehicles. Yes, we watch for cars that have just pulled into a parking spot, but we’re also avoiding other cars, watching for pedestrians, trying not to hit potholes, and powering a bike. Maybe we don’t say it often enough, but your consideration means a lot to us.
Kyle Fitzpatrick is a writer, an infrequent performer, and a lover of dogs, art, shorts, champagne, and L.A. You can find his musings Fridays on CityThink. For more, check out his locally focused art, design, and culture website, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.