The Bicycle Brief, Chapter 2: Invisible Bike (Non Lolcat Version)
If you’re a biker in L.A. who’s even remotely afraid of ending up in traction, you know of the constant struggle to find the least undesirable option in getting from point A to point B. Sometimes you choose wrong and nearly get pushed into traffic by the very people who are supposed to protect and serve, like I did on Saturday.
Riding on Melrose east of Fairfax is one of my worst nightmares, so I was taking alleys, even though they’re filled with potholes and scary Dumpster detritus. As I got closer to the the hot dog-scented intersection of Melrose and La Brea, though, I started to bike on the sidewalk alongside Melrose, stopping at a red light before La Brea. As the light changed (including a walk light), a cop car on my right stopped just short of the street, taking up the entire width of the crosswalk I was about to cross.
I made eye contact with the cop, but he wasn’t budging. I looked over my left shoulder to see if there would be a gap in traffic to go in front of him, but there was a bus in the right lane. I braked and ended up stopping completely (no way was I going to risk sliding between the squad car and the approaching bus) as I looked at the cop again and flatly said, “Crap,” a G-rated version of what I’d usually say — I guess I feel the need to be on my best behavior around cops. Finally becoming aware of my inability to cross the street, the cop backed up until he was covering only half of the crosswalk, then smiled at me, and I biked on, relieved that I hadn’t ended up under a bus.
It’s pretty sad when a person who is supposed to uphold laws is barreling toward an intersection, not giving a shit that he’s about to block non-car traffic. I see this a lot from drivers who are too busy worrying about their right turn to notice the proximity of their car to humans. I’m sure some will argue that I should’ve been on the street, not the sidewalk — but it is legal to ride on sidewalks in Los Angeles as long as you’re not endangering pedestrians.
And even though I’m also well within my rights to ride on the street, Melrose is a pain in the ass, and it’s not unrealistic to think that riding there increases my chances of being hit by a car. A lot of people driving down Melrose on a Saturday afternoon are looking for parking or checking out the half-naked chicks coming out of shops and might not be completely concerned with things directly in front of them, particularly when they are much less imposing (and visible) than a car. Bikers need to be near the center of the right-hand lane on a street like this to avoid being smacked by a car door — and there’s frequent entering and exiting of cars on Melrose. So if you’re riding there, you’re worried that drivers aren’t going to see you, or that if they do see you, they’ll be pissed that they can’t get around you. That’s part of the reason I had forced myself into the alleys. So in the end I chose the least bad option and still had trouble. Such is biking in this city.