dark comes more quickly these days. i rolled out from UCLA a couple of minutes past six today without my front light, but had to stop at san vincente and sixth to put it back on. i’m still a bit jumpy after last week, and decided it was better to take the minute than regret it later.
home safe and sound now, and still trying to work through some more thoughts after BikinginLA’s recent work. nothing yet, though i think the central issue for me is this: how do you balance legislation with engineering? with activism? with plain old driver education?
all of that said, one of the reasons i wanted to start a more cycling-specific writing effort was to give some sense of how possible it is to ride in this city. talking to friends on campus, a couple of them often seem a bit incredulous at the thought of riding from UCLA to koreatown, and so i thought it might be an interesting project to start putting together some maps of my rides. this one here was tonight’s.
part 2, really. i drove into campus yesterday with a friend, as i have yet to learn how to get myself to campus in time to teach my 8 am lab section. i’m not thrilled about the prospect, but there’s something incredibly satisfying about driving on empty streets and pulling into an empty parking lot.
but this comes back to cycling.
i drove home with my friend last night in traffic. in all, it took me almost seventy minutes to make the drive from westwood back to koreatown; small irony in the fact that i drove almost exactly the route that i ride, and some measure of satisfaction in thinking that i can actually bike home in less than it takes me to drive in rush hour traffic. it was wyton to wilshire to carmelita to canon to santa monica to beverly near all the way through to wilton. taking my friend down to her place near 5th and wilton, we crossed 4th on van ness. i pointed out one block west where i’d nearly been hit last week and rolled my through the stop sign.
it was only some time later when i realized what i’d done had been almost exactly like that white BMW had done last week to me. i’d like to think i stopped long enough to really look both ways, but it was probably a pretty good california roll that took me through that intersection. and though i was looking, i wasn’t really looking. sixty minutes of rush hour traffic will do that to you, lull you into an easy expectation of cars and nothing else. i’d seen bikes on beverly – most without lights, without helmets – and had taken some measure of satisfaction in seeing them. see, i thought, look how conscious of people i am.
except i wasn’t really. i was conscious of cars because i had to be; i was conscious of cyclists because i had the luxury of looking. when i rolled that stop sign at van ness and 4th, i had the luxury of looking, but i didn’t feel the need to really look. of course, this cuts both ways: riding down that hill on 4th, i have a responsibility as a cyclist to make myself visible and to ride defensively, expecting that a car is going to do exactly as i did.
maybe just end with this: as easy as it is for me to gnash my teeth at a stupid driver, i can just as easily be that stupid driver.
not on the bike this morning, which was kind of a relief. there’s a different sort of pleasure getting out of the house on foot versus bike. to be sure, there’s little that compares to the satisfaction of feeling carmelita fall easily by the wayside on a cool angeleno morning, or the slow smile i allow myself after cranking up wyton in a single gear, but there’s something to be said for walking out of the house without worrying about helmet, tire pressure, alignment, bike lock, lights, and everything else that crosses my mind when i head to campus by bike.
all that said, that explains how i found myself in a friend’s truck this evening, pushing slowly east in friday traffic on santa monica boulevard. a break in traffic going the other way, and i saw the bullhorns that give away fixies from a distance: some dude in a yellow t-shirt, lights blinking, clipping his way west in traffic, no helmet.
and sure, there’s something to be said for no helmet: keeps the ‘do fresh, rides a little cooler, don’t have to worry about some annoying little chin strap, and stuff.