The Everyday Girl Guide to: Bikes and the City

August 20, 2013

I work in the metropolis of Los Angeles (technically the San Fernando Valley, but it’s part of Los Angeles on maps). This means I deal with the fun of commutes, traffic, smog… the joys of city living. (If you haven’t picked up the sarcasm in that last sentence, let me make it very clear: I am not a city girl.)

For most of the last year or so, I’ve been commuting on the train to a station that is 3.2 miles from work, then biking the rest of the way in. I enjoy the exercise; I do not enjoy LA drivers and pedestrians. Here are a few things I’ve noticed during that time:

* Pedestrians will walk straight toward a biker (yes, I use the sidewalk unless there is a dedicated bike lane) and expect the biker to move even if the biker is on the right side of the sidewalk.  (Other bikers do this as well.)  That whole “driving on the right side of the street” translates well into sidewalk commuting, you know.

* A driver will often only see a biker (in spite of the fact that this is a heavily biked area) if the biker makes him/herself obvious.  Today I had to tap a truck’s hood just to get the driver to look right and see I was there.  (The last time I didn’t tap a hood, I ended up with scrape marks on my leg from an oblivious driver’s license plate holder.)

* Right-of-way means nothing here.  If you are big enough to win a game of chicken, you might as well make your own traffic laws.  I’ve stopped stressing as much about hitting the crosswalk button and stress far more about looking in all directions before I cross even the smallest driveway.

* A commercial truck driver is far more likely to notice me than a regular driver.  Because of that, I try far harder to make sure that I treat them with extra common courtesy.

 

I am quite certain that I shall never bike in New York City (completely aside from the fact that living in NYC would probably cause my soul to shrivel up and die a slow, painful death).  The only thing that keeps an LA commute doable is how truly sprawling this “city” is.  If I happen to be counting down to the day when I can move away from this area for good… well, the bike issue is just one of many reasons.

For now, I will continue to bike and thank God every night for the guardian angel that has to brave my commute with me.

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