Life Without Wheels: Chronicle of a Car-Free Lifestyle
I just don’t know where to start. The strangeness that occurred tonight is still turning over in my head, and I’m trying to replay the events of the night and all the details, but here goes.

About a week ago, my friend Rachel and I decided that we wanted to ride around Friday night then find a place for a beer. We didn’t want to ride LA Critical Mass (although we generally enjoy riding with them) because we had both heard and seen a lot of LAPD targeting, and we just didn’t have the energy for the big group. We decided we would meet up at LACMA, where I work, take in some art, ride around a bit, and then find some food and beer. She invited her boyfriend, and I invited some other cyclist buddies to join this “nonride.” Once I tweeted about it, others chimed in that had we planned earlier, they would be interested, so I will do another, but onto tonight’s “carnage.”

After we met up at LACMA, we started off on the 8-10 mile route I had plotted. Now, even though we weren’t riding LA Critical Mass, I had plotted the route in honor of them, meaning we were taking main arterial roads, obeying traffic code, and taking the lane. I hadn’t originally planned it this way, but I got into my head that it would be really fun to take the four of us onto arterial roads, ride legally, and make the cars deal with us. The other three cyclists were all fairly seasoned vehicular cyclists, so they weren’t squeamish on the arteries, so we set off.

We headed East on Wilshire, and as we reached La Brea and pulled into the left turn lane, I was rather surprised that not one motorist honked at us or even came remotely close to buzzing us. We headed up La Brea and entered the left turn lane onto 3rd Street, and still no problems. We headed down 3rd, taking up the right hand lane entirely, went through the Grove, came out on Fairfax, and turned onto Beverly. At some point when we were on Beverly, apparently a police officer followed me as I took the lane for a minute (I never saw him, this is according to my friends who were following me), but apparently he determined I wasn’t doing anything wrong as he went on his way.

Here’s the incident of note for the night.

We were on Beverly, nearing the Larchmont area, and we had taken the lane, but riding single file. We were approaching a light, and I noticed that a car had squeezed between me and John, and the car, a black luxury sedan, was following me rather closely, even though there was no one in the left hand lane, and they had room to pass. I pass under the light, realizing as I do so, that it had just changed and my friends were stuck at the light. I turn my head to the left to see if they made it and to check on the car that is following me. At this point, the driver lays on his horn, and I mean LAYS on his horn. It blasts for a good 6 or 7 seconds. At this point I’m slowing down to pull over and wait for my friends, but as there are cars parked along Beverly, I have to go up another block. So before I can pull over the car changes lanes, still driving slowly, pulls up next to me, and some rich woman in her late 40s/early 50s with white hair screws up her face, making her meanest Wicked Witch of the West/Evil Stepmother face, and SCREAMS at the top of her lungs “YOU’RE GOING TO KILL US ALL!!!!!”

Apparently, to this woman, my bicycle is a death machine, and my riding it in the street is like me pointing a loaded gun at her. Seriously, she yelled it like I was shooting off a shotgun into a crowded nursery.

So I’m sure many people have wonderful retorts for Mrs. I’m Afraid of Bikes. I knew it wasn’t worth it from the moment Mr. I’m Afraid of Bikes (the driver) laid on his horn. I looked at her and immediately burst into hysterical laughter. HYSTERICAL LAUGHTER. I mean, was I supposed to take her seriously? An old woman leaning out of her car window to scream about how I’m going to kill her with my bicycle? Seriously? 

I considered it a victory that I didn't give this woman what she wanted, which was to fluster me, to engage and provoke me into yelling and screaming across traffic lanes, and ultimately to push me off the road. You can scream all you want, Mrs. I'm Afraid of Bikes. I'm the 10 Speed Avenger, and tonight I won. 

Aside from one other honker, the rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. We took Vine up to Hollywood, rode through Hollywood (taking the lane the whole way), then cut down to Santa Monica Blvd. and Barney’s Beanery, where we all laughed heartily over Mrs. I’m Afraid of Bikes.

So I’ve named the nonride, the Nonride to Nowhere. It’s inspired by District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan who ruled that if a group of more than 50 cyclists ride in New York City, then they need a parade permit (or something to that effect). My biggest question was what if you have 50 cyclists who all just happen to be riding in the same direction? Every night more than 50 cars parade through NYC to cause rush hour traffic, and those motorists don’t need permits. So it’s not a ride. We just all happen to be heading to the same place. The goal is to meet somewhere with a small group then take an 8 to 10 mile route of major arterial roads (and take the lane!) to the main meet up location where we eat, drink, and be merry. Ride completely legal, be traffic, and TAKE THE LANE. Ideally, we’d have 4-5 groups of 4-5 people each heading to the same area. 

Follow me on twitter as danceralamode to stay tuned for details on the next Nonride to Nowhere, which will occur in a few weeks. 

Whoops! I meant to add that right after the incident with Mrs. I'm Afraid of Bikes, I hoped and prayed aloud that she and her gentleman, as they were heading East, would run into our friends in LA Critical Mass, whom we were pretty sure were circling downtown then heading to Hollywood. I hope they did run into LACM. And I hope it was at the Circle of Death. Thanks LACM!


03/01/2010 06:59

Your response was PERFECT! Maybe her therapist was out of town and she couldn't get her downers or something.

03/10/2010 14:26

your response was ace! good for you and for the biking community in la. just wish there were a police officer around.


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