Life Without Wheels: Chronicle of a Car-Free Lifestyle
 
The sun is out, the road is relatively dry, and people are driving more or less like sane creatures again. Thank you, weather gods! 
 
 
One of my favorite bicycling blogs is Ted Rogers' Biking in LA. His viewpoint on cycling issues and policies empathizes with the cyclist while being realistic about the world we live in--one dominated by cars. It's not uncommon for me to engage in the discourse in the blog's comments section, as I did with his post "Two-wheeled second class citizens on LA's Metro rails."  

Below is my comment:
"danceralamode Says:
January 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Reply


I quite frequently take the Red, Purple, Green, and Blue lines with my bicycle. Regarding the limitations during rush hour, I’ve never seen any bus driver or train driver enforce them, and I’ve never worried about it. Regarding this two per train car rule…I’ve been on the train with people crammed up against me and my bike and there are three other bikes in that car. I have never seen any enforcement of these rules.

So if they aren’t enforced, why are they even rules? What really irks me is the bike racks on buses that have only two spaces. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to let two or three buses pass me because there was no room for me, including on New Year’s Eve, at 4am. The bus driver politely stopped and opened her door and just stared at me. She asked me if I was getting on, and I said “Well, I can’t get on with my bike, can I? And your rack is full.” And she just stared at me like I was just going to leave my bike on the sidewalk. So at 4am on New Year’s Eve I had to brave the streets with speeding drunk drivers (people-including PD-doing over 60mph on Wilshire Blvd according to the speed scanner posted there).

I’ve been meaning to write Metro a letter. I feel very strongly that they put me in a precarious situation (and yes I know I had options, but the option of lock my bike on the street in Santa Monica until I can come and get it, when I live on the other side of LA is not really an option)."
Ted suggested I write a letter, and he would post it. Therefore, I am up at 3:40am, because words have been floating through my head, writing a letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The only other time I have written a letter to an elected official (aside from form petitions online) is when I wrote to Senators Feinstein and Boxer as well as former President Bush regarding ratifying a document that solidified the US's stance against equal rights for women throughout the world. I had read a story about a woman in a 3rd world, civil war ripped country who had to undergo unspeakable horrors, and I felt that our country could take a definitive stance towards this kind of treatment of women. Without going into details, the woman's story infuriated me to the point where I dropped everything and started writing my representatives. 


This situation is different: this actually happened to me. And the more I think about it, the more angry I should be. I was put in very real danger. How many stories have we read recently about cyclists being mowed down by drunk drivers? And here I am, basically forced to brave the streets of LA on New Year's Eve. I guess it's time to stop talking and stand up and actually SAY something. So here's to telling your story!
 
 
So on Thursday I bit the bullet and enjoyed the hospitality of Metro Line #16. The bus was strangely empty. (I assumed with the rain that all of us who walk or ride would be cramming on with all the bus-riding regulars.) I have to walk five or six blocks from the bus stop to work (and the reverse in the evening), and on the way back to the bus stop, amidst the thunder and rain, my umbrella stopped protecting my head and became a side fender. Fairfax was so flooded that every car that passed me inadvertently (or advertently) sent a wave of rain water at me. (Thank goodness I have a huge rain/cold weather coat that my mother bought me many years ago and that I didn't throw out!)

Today I saw blue sky and decided to chance the ride...Part of me desperately wants to write about the guy who failed to yield the right of way to me (I was able to stop in time, so I wasn't in danger) because it's so absolutely frustrating and irritating, but I also feel like it's just a repeat of the same old story. Negligent driver, moving vehicle violation, me mad...Sigh...

I've decided I'm going to purchase some sort of loud horn to get these jerks' attention when they make these infractions. I think the most irritating part is that no matter how much I wave my arms, etc., THEY NEVER EVEN LOOK AROUND OR SEE ME! It's one thing to make a mistake and recognize that, "WOW! I could've hit that person, I should be more careful." (I can clearly recall a few moments like that from my past life as a motorist.) It's an entirely different thing to be totally oblivious to anything else on the road. We all have a responsibility to watch out for ALL other road users. (Oh crap, here I am, preaching to the choir.)

On another note, for about 3 blocks a woman in an older white Camry or Accord waited patiently to pass me. I was very consciously taking the lane (somewhat to prevent her from right-hooking me), and she was patient, and the second I had the chance, I coasted to the right and waved her around me. Sadly, I noticed she was talking into her phone like a walkie-talkie. At least she was driving slowly? I wanted to say, "Yea! There are considerate drivers out there!" And then I saw her on the phone...Now I'm torn.
 
 
Regardless of the torrential rainstorms plundering Los Angeles this week, I have ridden to work both on Tuesday and today. Tuesday was no problem. I managed to get into work and home during huge windows in the rain. I didn't notice any particularly unusual negligent driving from motorists, just the usual stuff, right hooks, illegal passes, failure to yield the right of way, etc., but all these infractions I was able to predict. Even on the ride into work on Wednesday, I felt pretty safe. 


Then the storm hit.
 
 
I promise, I promise, I promise! I will catch up to everything soon! I have video to post, route updates, plus I need to work on my Grand Canyon route! I did my first overnighter this weekend (190 miles total), and I want to write about that too! I just need to set aside a short block of time each day to get this stuff done, but oh so busy! 


Did I mention I had a bike date too? And it actually lead to a second date (tonight actually)?! New post tomorrow on car-free life, I promise!
 
 
Okay, I'll make this quick. Over the past couple of weeks, an anti-cyclist Facebook page has been passed around the internet via Twitter, forums, blogs, etc. to try and get as many people as possible to report it and have it taken down. According to Streetsblog, this is Facebook's response:

"We take our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities very seriously and react quickly to remove reported content that violates our policies. Specifically, we're sensitive to content that includes hate speech and/or actionable threats of violence. The goal of these policies is to strike a very delicate balance between giving Facebook users the freedom to express their opinions and beliefs, even controversial ones, and maintaining a safe and trusted environment.

We've reviewed this group and determined that it doesn't violate our policies.  We encourage users to report anything they feel does violate these policies using the report links located throughout the site. Thanks."

Many people have joined HELP REMOVE this HATE GROUP against cyclists! in protest. Here's my solution: IF YOU CAN'T BEAT 'EM, JOIN 'EM!

Let's all join the anti-cyclist Facebook page and FLOOD it with positive cycling stories and stories about those who have been prosecuted and convicted of crimes against cyclists. @Area45, @jeremy211, @jonthelam, @dudeonabike, etc., all have plenty of positive stories on their blogs that we can flood this vindictive little Facebook page with. If anything, positive stories of interactions with cyclists and motorists will show these people that we're human and that we don't all have chips on our shoulders (not that they don't!), and, hopefully, we can start educating each other, bring awareness to the streets, and promote safe cycling and driving. 

Who's with me? I'll log on when I get off from work tonight and start the revolution!


 
 
 
So much has happened since the holidays, and I haven't kept up with posting very well. I still have to do an update about my successful Century Ride, I have a post on hold about the benefits of cross-training dance and cycling, and I need to post the video from a work-in-progress showing from my performance at Max 10 this past Monday. Speaking of...

Unfortunately in preparation for that performance and the performance itself (and the ride home) I fully strained my right quad and my left quad to a lesser extend--in the area of Oh-My-Goodness-I-Can't-Walk Land. My left quad is pretty much healed, and I think by tomorrow the right one will be ready to ride as well. Hence, I have only been on my bike ONE FREAKING DAY in 2010, logging approximately 25 miles that day. It's very upsetting. After the Wolfpack debacle, I had a lot of inquiries and offers to ride with some different women's groups and just other women who want to ride, which was extremely encouraging. Unfortunately, AGAIN, I haven't been able to take up anyone on those offers due to, first, preparing for a last minute performance, and, now, recovering from said performance.

I hope to be back on my bike tomorrow. See you all out there!
 
 
 
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As I approached Highland on 4th this morning, I pulled up behind this woman, driving her nice big SUV. I noticed she was talking, in a very animated fashion, on her...wait for it...cell phone. Phone held in her right hand, glued to her ear (if you zoom into the photograph you can see the shadow outline), she kept looking back and forth frantically to see if it was safe to cross into the median.

I watched as she would start forward then look the other way and slam on the brakes. Frankly, it was scary to watch her be so distracted, waiting for the accident to happen. From behind her, I made large gestured of making a  phone sign with my left hand, putting it to my ear, then very clearly making the "hang up" gesture. She either didn't see me or didn't care. I considered pulling up next to her and confronting her, but as Bike Girl said, it was not the right battle. I could only hope that she would be lucky, that the people who are in cars around her would be lucky, and the pedestrians and cyclists she passes would be lucky. I watched her pull through the median, then into the Southbound lanes and away. I shook my head and hoped.

When I pass drivers who are obviously breaking the law and talking on the phone sans hands-free device, the anger I feel is for myself. They are putting ME at risk...especially this woman in her HUGE SUV, which would obviously kill me in any "accident" between us. But as I watched her drive away, the anger and sadness I felt was for the families--her family, the family of the other person, my family--all the people who would miss her and or the people she might harm or kill because it was more important for her to talk on the phone than be safe. We so often think about how these careless individuals put others at risk, but what's really sad is that they don't care that they put THEMSELVES in so much risk. What's more important, taking what's probably a relatively unimportant call or being alive?

I'm going to go with being alive.

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