Friday, June 8, 2012

Bike Lanes, Gardena, Safety, Fear

After a harrowing weekend involving a bicycle accident (it was serious, but luckily and thankfully without serious injury) on San Fernando Road and Roswell while trying to get to the LA River Bike Path, it was bittersweet to find that at some point between Friday morning and Sunday afternoon, new bike lanes were painted on Figueroa and Vermont along the paths of my morning and evening commutes.
This is another Good Thing, most definitely, but I can't help but be like the mouse who was given a cookie and wish that there were bike lanes along the narrower, scarier roads, like Rosecrans Avenue. The stretches of Figueroa and Vermont have ample space for bikes, which is probably why there are bike lanes there now-- it's just easier. One thing I noticed while biking along Rosecrans is that drivers seem to become more and more hostile as I get farther west, toward Manhattan Beach. I'm not sure why that is. I know that some drivers get very anxious or fearful around cyclists, which is valid-- I just know how much more fear there is in being the one on the bicycle, hoping not to get hit, and how much more vulnerable a cyclist is than someone in a two-ton killing machine.

I was already quite cautious around cars, and I'm even moreso now. Some things I do as a cyclist that help me assuage some of my fear:

  • I hate biking on the sidewalk, because I know pedestrians get anxious, but there are times when this is necessary. When I bike on the sidewalk, I definitely do not go nearly as fast as when I'm on the road, both for the sake of pedestrians and for fear of drivers rolling out of driveways without checking. 
  • If I'm on the street I always go with traffic. I seriously worry about the people I see biking in the opposite direction in a bike lane. Sometimes I do have to go opposite traffic, either because of a weird intersection or some other obstruction, or not wanting to deal with awkward left turns, but I ride onto the sidewalk.
  • I slow down when I approach cars getting ready to turn. I think I used to always attempt to make some kind of eye contact, but now I actually put up my hand and wave to make sure I have driver's attention. This helps me feel more secure that they know that I'm there and that they're watching me. 
The reality is that even when you do everything right, freakish things happen (which was the case last Friday). That's something I've been thinking about a lot this week. How anything can happen at any moment and there is only so much that we can control. I had a moment where I think I may have been on the edge of breaking down over that. I took a deep breath, calmed myself, and decided that I have to do what I love, anyway. And stop resisting the people who care about me and ask me to wear a helmet.