It happens to all of us, even Streetsblog writers. Two years ago, Kris was doored on his way to a story. Sahra’s written about how too many people don’t report crashes, and she’s had some close calls of her own.
Yesterday was my turn.
Riding my bicycle on Pico Blvd. going east between Overland and the really hilly section a driver buzzed so close to me (note: the lane to his left was empty) that I veered right…right into an opening car door that was opened inches in front of me. As I struggled to maintain balance, another car buzzed me and this time I toppled over onto my right side into an empty parking space directly in front of the Beverly Hills Bike Shop.
I probably terrified the woman in the car. To be fair, I doubt she was at fault. I came at her at a funky angle after reacting to the “Jerry Browning.” Frustrated, scared and filling up with adrenaline I took my helmet off and slammed it into the ground as Gunpowder clattered itself on the asphalt and I walked to the sidewalk. A 6’2 guy acting erratically after a high-stress incident probably seemed like something from another planet to this elderly woman who was gripping her steering wheel and staring at me.
As I was limping around and checking my legs (bruised, minor cuts, swelling in my heel and shin), and bringing my bike and helmet to the sidewalk, she came over to see if I needed help…and admonish me for treating my helmet so poorly. English was not her first language, she had an eastern European accent, and we struggled to communicate. She was extremely apologetic, even though I still don’t think it was really her fault. I did show her how fast cars travel on the street and the narrow space cyclists have to ride. She promised to think of me every time she opened her door and double check. We high-fived (her idea) and she stayed with me until I rode away.
I didn’t get any information on the person who actually caused the crash, the driver who decided to whip past me without giving proper space. My first thought was staying upright and by the time I fell and got back up he/she was long gone. I can’t even tell you the make, model, or color of the car. I’m a pretty lousy witness.
Looking back at the incident, I’m not sure what I could have done differently other than not react at all to the near crash from behind by veering off. Better rear view, a mirror on the handlebars, might have alerted me that someone was driving fast behind me, but I think my reflex to get away would have still sent me into a Lexus’ door. I do think my reflex to move right helped me land in an empty parking space instead of in the mixed-use travel lane that was clearly a very dangerous place to be for the five seconds between when the first car buzzed me and when I fell to the ground.
Ironically, I actually thought about writing a piece yesterday entitled “who is really the asshole,” about a person who yelled at me while I was bicycling my son to pre-school that I was an asshole for…I’m not really sure what for. He was in a van. I was on the sidewalk. I almost always ride on the sidewalk on the trip to Sammy’s preschool. Maybe he was a member of the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowner’s Association.
On the same trip I saw a car honk and inch up on a woman legally crossing in a crosswalk. I saw a truck driver park so far over a concrete divider in the Ralph’s parking lot his grille was a good two feet onto the sidewalk. Someone called me an asshole for no particular reason. It felt as though something bad were going to happen.
But on my afternoon ride, which for the record was to one of our funder’s for our annual check-in, I had a different experience. Two tweens chatted with me through an open window about bicycling at a stop light to the clear chagrin of their father. A teenage boy actually put out his hand for a high-five as I rode past. It was a weird trip, but until getting Jerry Browned I wasn’t getting the vibe that something was wrong as I did earlier.
But all in all, I feel pretty lucky. I have a slight limp this morning (and was forbade to ride Sammy to school on his bike) and some minor pain in my ankle and heel. When I get an LAPD release about a seriously hurt hit and run victim on Wilshire or a response to the Andy Garcia trial from Assemblyman Steven Bradford who authored the three foot passing law that the Governor eventually did sign; I feel lucky. Lucky that I got to hop on my bike and go about life as though nothing happened. Outside of the initial crash, the worst part of the day was calling Marybeth and my Mom to tell them what happened.
As I put on Facebook, I’m doored but not done. I’m fine. I’m lucky.
But sadly there’s at least one person out who couldn’t bother to give a bicycle rider a safe passing distance because it would cost him a tenth of a second of travel time who is still out on the road. I am sorry I wasn’t quick enough to help do something about that.