Stuff happens

A banal right hook, barely avoided, haunts me today, the scenario running through my head, questions of what happened and what lessons I can take from it. In less time than it’ll take you to read this paragraph, the incident came and went. The driver of the gray Prius, headed west on Santa Monica in West Hollywood, decided to make a right turn across my path in the bike lane and into a driveway. I didn’t see a blinker, or I might have been able to brake earlier. As it was, I don’t think I had more than a car’s length of space to react. Somehow, nearly a miracle, I maneuvered right, the driver came to a stop, and only my left shoe kissed the front bumper of the car. Crash avoided, but only just.

As I shook off the willies and continued on towards home, I wondered what the driver of that gray Prius was thinking. Given all the anti-cycling rants I’ve heard and read, there’s as much reason to believe that the driver blamed me for being in the bicycle lane, for “appearing out of nowhere,” as there is to think that he or she realized that his or her careless right turn nearly caused an accident. Was he or she shaken by the incident as I was? Did he or she reassess the actions that lead to it? Or is he or she going to tell his or her friends today about the “idiot cyclist” who nearly hit the car?

I am the lucky one here. It irks me to write those words. If there had been a crash, I would have been the one hurt, sprawled across the hood of a Prius, perhaps just road rash but possibly worse, the victim of just another unfortunate driver decision. We cyclists always lose, fault or not.

Of course, nothing will come of today’s event. I have no video, no witnesses, no tell-tale marks, no road rash, nothing — just a memory of a bad moment that somehow turned out OK. The driver and I each will be back on the road soon, anonymous users of the streets, fighting and clawing for space. Perhaps there is no lesson here. Perhaps there is nothing to say but that stuff happens. May such stuff never happen again.

  1. November 4, 2013 at 7:04 PM | #1

    Proof positive that Class II bicycle lanes won’t prevent drivers from driving irresponsibly! After all, how difficult is it to signal a turn? Or develop the habit of looking in the side mirror just after passing a cyclist?

    Yet on-street bicycle lanes are one of the best improvements we can make for increasing the perception of safety, and for actually riding more safely.

    Here in Beverly Hills we have that opportunity: this fall we’ll be deciding the design of tomorrow’s Santa Monica Boulevard. With construction to start in 2015, but with features to be decided *in the next few months,* it behooves all cyclists to take notice.

    Our first meeting is this Thursday, November 7th at 6pm in the BH library, with two more meetings and two mobile tours to follow. Find more info here: http://betterbike.org/2013/11/mark-your-calendar-sm-blvd/

    Safe riding!

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