Today's Ride, Where I Wish for an Empty City

The post's title owes a tremendous debt to BikingInLA, whose recent post turned on the issue of another cyclist blissfully (willfully?) ignorant of the risks he was running.

But today's ride took me from my place in Koreatown to my mom's house in Mar Vista. It's the first time I've made this ride, and I learned a couple of things. First, I still need to figure out a better way to get between 3rd and Venice. I picked Wilton today, hoping that weekend traffic would be slack enough to leave me plenty of space. I was half right. Weekend parking takes up most of the right lane, which left the rest of it for me. That was all well and good until I passed south of Olympic, at which point street parking fled and it was me versus traffic.

It all worked out in the end, but not before I had one sour experience with a driver in a Dodge Hemi. He'd seen me coming through a couple of lights, and I suppose he took exception to my passing cars on the right when everyone was stopped at a red light. When I finally pulled in front of him, just into the crosswalk, he must have taken exception to the fact, because he decided to tap his horn and nudge his car forward, just to make sure I knew he was there.

As if I was going to miss him.

He sped off (because, as one quickly learns in Los Angeles, the roads are for you first and everyone else second, and woe to anyone who doesn't actually understand that local nuance) and I was left to huff and puff my way west on Venice into the wind and the mass of fog pushing in off the water. It was all fine, though not nearly so pleasant and peaceful as last night's ride, and I started to give a little bit of thought to my own reaction to that driver.

If only there weren't cars to deal with, I thought, biking would be such a peaceful experience. The fact that it wouldn't be peaceful, even without cars, is kind of beside the point. Last night's road, empty of cars, filled me with an incredible sense of satisfaction, to be on the bike and working my slow way home. Today's ride was about coming to terms with how rare a feeling that satisfaction is, and how impossible it really is. To have it, I think, Los Angeles would have to look a bit like the perfectly empty cities of the Renaissance imagination.

Life is nothing like that. While calling it brutish, nasty and short might be a bit much, it's a messy affair, and it's often a selfish one. That was at the root of my issue with this driver this afternoon: I wanted my empty road to ride, and he wanted his empty road to drive. It just so happened that we were on the same road at the same time with a score of other cars. Something has to give.

And when we talk about funding and planning scads of new transportation projects in the coming years, how do see what we plan? Do we see a perfect city, a silent solitary ride down wide boulevards? Or do we see the city in all of its messy disorder? How does that happen?


Jordan M said…
If only there weren't bikes to deal with, I thought, driving would be such a peaceful experience.
Timur said…

would that it were the case. you still have other drivers to deal with in a car; it's kind of a pain regardless.
Anonymous said…
Heaven, to me, is riding a back country road illuminated by a full moon, without no cars for miles. I can't imagine ever getting that feeling here in L.A., where you have to compete for those few feet of asphalt.

Popular Posts