L.A., city of mean drivers

Jeremy gave me this heads up on this article via BRAIN.

LA Times Highlights City of Mean Drivers

LOS ANGELES, CA (BRAIN)—The LA Times recently ran a feature story on the dangers of riding your bike on Los Angeles city streets.

Times staff writer Jeannine Stein said that bicycle-related accidents have increased slightly in the past year. There were 25 deaths and 2,885 injuries in 2005 and an estimated 28 deaths and 2,910 injuries in 2006, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Across the Golden State, fatalities numbered 120 in 2002 and roughly 155 in 2005.

Scott Sing, who works at Helen’s Cycles in Southern California, and who logs between 250 – 400 miles a week, said that a couple years back kids in a car threw a tire iron at him.

“If anything, it’s gotten worse,? Sing said of LA’s inconsiderate and sometimes mean spirited drivers. “As I’ve become more experienced, I feel less threatened. But twice or three times a week I hit the brakes because somebody is doing something illegal.? —Jason Norman

I guess it depends on people’s routes. I haven’t had any issues with drivers on my 2 years plus of commuting, as long as I respect them, I get respect back.

Meet fellow Bike Commuter David Byrd, also known as “DB” when he posts comments. Here’s his Commuter Profile:

David Byrd
DB
How long have you been a bike commuter?
Off and on, about 8 years now. I had a two-year stretch, though, where I wasn’t able to bike commute because of my job. I’m averaging 3-4 days per week, and hope to maintain that year-round.

David Byrd
Nice quiet street

What do you do and what city do you bike commute?
I’m a technical writer in Boise, Idaho. We design and write user documentation for client companies that develop hardware and software. Boise is trying hard to be a good biking city.

David Byrd
Main drag
Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?
I started to ride basically because I wanted to save gas and exercise more. I already had two mountain bikes at that time, so I converted the older, cro-moly Trek into a commuter by adding a rear rack, panniers, and slick tires.

Currently my commute is 15-16 miles round-trip, depending on what options I take during my ride. About 3-4 miles of the round-trip is on a multi-user path (MUP), and the rest is on a mix of residential and busier city streets.

David Byrd
Bridge over water creek
What kind of bikes do you have?

  • · My primary commute ride is a Morgul-Bismark Manx road bike. I ride this bike for fitness as well, so it also sees some training and charity rides.
    · My backup commuter is that Trek 820 mountain bike that I converted. I use it if the weather’s gonna be wet, if my back is giving me a hard time, or if I need to haul more stuff than usual to and from work. I will switch to it as my primary bike when winter arrives.
    · I also have a Gary Fisher Hoo-Koo-E-Koo mountain bike that I use almost exclusively off-trail. I’ve probably used it to commute twice in the 10 years that I’ve owned it. I don’t like running knobbies on asphalt.
  • Any experience that you can share with us about ‘learning the hard way’?
    I’ve been really fortunate in that I haven’t had a lot of horrific events. I’ve learned to make sure that I have a backup light when biking, because my front light always burns out 5 minutes into my 30-minute ride. And that front light is critical not just for seeing the road, but for oncoming cars spotting you. The closest call I’ve had with a car was when a motorist turned left in front of me at 7 a.m., after my lamp had gone out. I couldn’t really get upset with him/her in that case.

    David Byrd
    Riding the bridge over MUP

    What do people say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?
    Not much. There is a pretty strong, visible bike community here, so even if people don’t bike, they usually know someone who does. I work within walking distance of the HP campus here, and that site tends to attract a number of bike commuters. My family, friends, and co-workers are supportive. I get the occasional “You’re crazy” when I ride in the rain or when it’s going to be 105 degrees, but other than that, they encourage me.

    Do you have a funny story or a weird experience that you want to share?
    More weird than funny. I hit a squirrel this year. I was lucky in that as fast as I was going, I didn’t lose control when he and my front wheel met, and the squirrel survived as well. In Boise, I see a lot of animals that most city dwellers won’t see — deer, coyotes, foxes, herons, eagles. Another plus to riding instead of driving.

    Anything that you want to share with us?
    I’m a pretty strong advocate of vehicular cycling.
    · Whether you’re out there as a commuter or recreational rider, act like you belong there, and follow the rules for vehicles.
    · Don’t blow through stop lights or stop signs if there’s other traffic present. At the very least, slow down when approaching traffic control.
    · Be predictable: use hand signals for turns to communicate with motorists.
    · Know your state’s traffic regulations for bicycles.
    · Put yourself where the drivers are most likely to see you. I see a lot of wrong-way and/or sidewalk riders in my town, and I think those are really good ways of getting hurt.

    We want to thank David for his time and for sharing pictures of himself and his commute.