Monday, August 30, 2010

Left Turns and Taming the Ragemonster

I have really been trying to get the whole family on board with the bicycling thing and believe me, telling a 17 year old that a bicycle is better than a car is a tough issue to take on.  S1 is an artsy,  sensitive, caring, periodically vegetarian, environment-loving person in all other aspects of his life, but when I try to say, "let's take our bikes!", whoa - I get a totally unexpected response.  I am sure this is in direct relation to the fact that by living in L.A. he has had to start driving later than his friends and cousins that live in a more rural setting combined with the fact that I have been in no hurry for my child to start driving around crazy L.A. in a metal death trap so I drug out his permit process for as long as I possibly could, therefore I am now reaping the result: It doesn't matter if we are going two streets over, he wants to drive a freaking car!  That being said, I still have S2 who although she idolizes S1 and tends to parrot a lot of his ideals,  still loves her mom and after all, she is the reason we started this biking adventure and on top of that she has a really cool bike.  So what's not to love?
 I talk her into riding with me on a beautiful Saturday morning to her acting workshop and then on to CVS, lunch and to the mall area for hair-cuts and pampering.  What fun right?  Well as we ride along, I can tell that she is fluctuating between loving it and a why-did-I-let-her-talk-me-into-this attitude.  I figure I won't acknowledge it and just let the bike and the beautiful day do it's work on her.  It was perfect.  We ride down the peaceful tree-lined streets, mother and daughter, chatting about the day.  As we turn on a more main street, Verdugo, I explain that she should stay pretty close to me for safety reasons and that it is easier for cars to see us together than if we let distance get between us.   As soon as I say that, the rebellious teen thing kicks in and she starts to lag behind.  We don't have that far to go so it works out fine.  We lock the bike's up with no problem (love not having to look for parking) and head up to the The House of Actors's for her workshop.  After the workshop, which goes great btw, we start heading West on Verdugo with the intention of stoping by CVS on the way home.  This is where I have to hand in my Mom card.  We are heading West in the Verdugo bike lane from Victory and we have a big intersection coming up that involves 3 streets: Verdugo, Olive and Sparks.

I tell S2 to stay right behind me and I eyeball the intersection up ahead, everything looks good.  No traffic, we have our own lane so everything should be fine.  We stop at the red-light, I tell her "let's go!" when the light turns green and off we go, through the intersection continuing west on Verdugo, in the brand new bike lane on the right side of the street.  I am continuing to look ahead as I also look back to check on S2 and say "Stay with Me" as we are going to be turning.  You see, we need to turn left into CVS.  It Shouldn't be a problem because there is essentially no traffic and I know the rules right?  So as soon as we cross the intersection, I tell S2 "Do exactly what I do" and I signal with no cars behind me, that we are entering the car lane as we will soon be turning left.  Suddenly I jump out of my skin and almost eat it on the pavement when a car driver honks loudly right behind me, and then proceeds to stomp on the gas and pass me to the Right, in the bike lane yelling something I cannot hear.  I turn to make sure my daughter is safe, when a 2nd car does the same thing, honking and passing to the right very aggressively and illegally in the bike lane because 1 minute of their life having to wait on a bicyclist to get out of the way is too long when finally a third car pulls to the right of me and slows down.  A woman rolls down her window and screams at me to get in the bike lane and  . . I lose it.  She is right beside me, in my face and I totally screamed back F--- Y--!!!! and she of course responds back with the universal friendly hand gesture and I turn into our destination, shaking, enraged and ashamed.   I know immediately that although I was not wrong, the woman learned nothing from that exchange and in fact all I did was confirm to in her mind that bicyclists are idiots or that I was an idiot, or whatever.  Why I didn't say, "Um, We are  turning left! Lady" or something to that effect which would have at least explained that she was in the wrong or at least educated her to fact that what were were doing was legal and correct, I don't know.  Ugh.  In looking back, I hadn't signaled quite yet because I was looking back for S2 and there was a little street with cars to the left of the McDonald's that were waiting to come into my lane so I couldn't signal until we were past it so the cars wouldn't think we were turning earlier and try to come out on top of us when the crazy car drivers behind us honked and scared me to the point that I had to grip the handle bars with two hands making signaling at that point extremely difficult.  So how did it end? My daughter was scared and humiliated and would not speak to me for 15 minutes while I asked for forgiveness and tried to explain my actions and that although it was not the correct response, and that I was very sorry I reacted that way, sometimes a deeply hidden ragemonster overrides the intelligent caring person she normally knows as her mom.
by: Mark Harmon

After explaining every detail of the incident to my husband Borgbiker and B.i.l. (brother-in-law) over delicious Philly cheese steaks and pizza at South Street, I realized that I should have taken the safest route with my daughter and stopped at the light and crossed the street on the crosswalk to the opposite side like a pedestrian rather than pissing off the cars and possibly putting both our lives in danger.   I hate that I did not represent bicyclists very well to the car drivers and even more so that I didn't represent myself very well in front of my impressionable daughter.  Oh well, we hugged it out, went on to have a great afternoon on the bikes and chalked it up to lessons learned.  Thank goodness we are still here to learn from it.  So biggest lesson learned? It is better to take a little extra time and make the safest choice rather than try to prove a point and possibly lose the chance to ride a bike ever again.
Life is short enough.  Love people, love life, love your bike.

- Commuter Girl

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