Thursday, May 20, 2010

OMG, I have to slow down while driving during rush hour in the middle of a crowded city? Blame the bicyclist! Honk honk honk.

View Lame Stretch of Glendale in a larger map

Usually I ride the Red Line home from Union Station in the afternoon. Sometimes, though, getting off the Metrolink and feeling the warm air and bright sunshine, I'm less inclined to descend into the tunnel and wait for the train to carry me home. I stand on the platform for a minute, debating between the fear and harassment inevitable when biking in LA during rush hour, and the boredom of sitting down below on a train full of tired folks.

When I bike home, I think of myself conquering my route in little stages. Stage 1: Union Station to Los Angeles Street, passing alongside Placita Olvera and the civic center. Stage 2: turning right onto Second, passing through the famous tiled, echo-filled tunnel (how do people manage to sleep in there? Ah yes, necessity). Stage 3: riding along Glendale under the 101 and turning left onto Beverly. Stage 4: Climbing up Beverly to about Westlake. Stage 5: zooming down Beverly to Commonwealth, avoiding the frequent ruts in the road. Stage 6: Turning onto 1st, slowly climbing the hill and heading home.

Although drivers will do menacing things like accelerate and swerve around me at any point on the route, it's especially bad during Stage 3. I always expect people to honk at me in the tunnel, just cause that would be especially loud and startling, but the honking doesn't start until Glendale. As a vehicular cyclist, I ride in the middle of the right hand lane, avoiding the broken glass drunk drivers' crashes have left along the gutter. This infuriates strangers on a regular basis. How dare I cause them to drive at a slightly slower pace? And outside of a car too?? Honk! The engine roars as the driver self-righteously pulls around me, perhaps clearing up any ambiguities that might remain by yelling at me as s/he passes by.

Different people do this in the same place every time I ride this way. I know it is near a 101 off ramp, but where do people get off menacing bicyclists like this? How do people justify such hideous behavior? Really? You need to honk your horn loudly in the naked ears of someone busy navigating shitty roads as though you have some kind of prior right to the street?

You don't. Bicyclists are SUPPOSED TO RIDE IN THE ROADWAY. On this particular stretch of road, there are two lanes in each direction, so it's not like I'm comically blocking a huge line of honkers. I think what usually happens is someone a few cars back gets frustrated, bursts a honk, swerves around the car behind me, and then car behind me gets frustrated too cause not only are they behind me (a worthless, carless piece of trash) but now they're getting honks.

Driving makes other road users into enemies, blockages in what's supposed to be your personal artery of smooth sailing. How have we gotten our heads so far up our asses that it's socially acceptable for people to treat each other like this? I mean, it's beyond socially acceptable, I get looked down on by a lot of people I meet in LA because I choose not to drive. It is socially expected that you get into a car every day.

Not all motorists menace bicyclists, but the jerks sure make me remember that driving is a selfish waste of resources that millions in this region justify every morning. And it's so absolutely normal to drive that I'm sure most people who are witnessing the horrific destruction caused by oil drilling in the Gulf are not making the connection to their gas tanks. Or, if they are, feel helpless to change their commutes. Well, the thing is, we're all in this thing together, so the sooner we start treating each other like human beings, the better it will be for all of us.

And those of you who see the rest of us as mere barriers to your all-important journey, why don't you go build your own roads somewhere else? Cause, you know, those ones outside? The ones you drive on everyday? They belong to us.