Just so it’s clear: When biking at night I don’t care whether it’s across a cowtown or a cityscape, there is no such thing as enough lights. One can never have too many. Period. Sure, the fixie punx loitering the banks of Ballona Creek might chortle at the sight of me nerded out like an escapee from Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade with the white and red blinkies integrated front and rear, respectively, on my helmet; my blindingly superbright red LED on the back of my bike — augmented by another red blinkie strapped to my backpack; my dual 5-LEDs-each white headlights on the front of my bike; and the double BikeGlow strands wrapped around its frame…
BUT AT LEAST THEY FUCKING SEE ME.
The same cannot be said for the driver of the econo-sedan last night that brought me the closest to impact and injury as I’ve come with a moving vehicle in a loooooong time by left-hooking directly in front of me without using his motherfucking, brain, his eyes or his goddam turn signal.
And where did this near-accident occur? 4th and La Brea, perhaps? That’s a good place to get hit. Howsabout Venice and Hughes? Nice! Or Sepulveda and Slauson? All of those have huge potential, but alas none are it. Instead the incident occurred at the lonely, deserted and somnolent intersection of 1st and Lucerne, a block west of Larchmont in the lazy village of the same name.
I’m heading east on 1st, he’s heading west. I’m doing maybe 15 mph. He’s doing maybe 20. We’re both approaching the intersection. We both enter the intersection. Less than 10 feet between us suddenly he’s diving across my path and all I can do is go total crunch-grab on both brakes.
Now, braking at normal speeds in normal conditions ain’t nothing but a nice-and-easy thing; rear brake all the way. Braking at higher than normal speeds in normal conditions is pretty much just as simple, but requires a conscious and judicious balance of front and rear. Too much front brake and you might endo. Too much rear and you risk a skid. Neither are good, but if you must choose between the two, a skid leaves one with a modicum more control than does sudden flight over ones handlebars with the bike suddenly riding you if you don’t let go (and odds are you won’t, at least not quickly enough).
Do-or-die braking throws all consideration and application out the window, and for a split second in a way it’s a bit of a relief. No worrying is involved other than wanting desperately to stop in as short a distance as possible with the chief directive being to avoid whatever idiot-operated object or obstacle prevents you from passing through unabated. In short, you already know it’s not going to be pretty, so what you’re trying to do is keep it from getting really ugly.
And so this is what I had no choice but to attempt (supplemented by the yelling of a wholly appropriate expletive that proved loud enough to get the blind driver’s attention and bring his car to a halt). For the most part the braking was going pretty well. I managed to throw my ass behind the saddle as a counter-balance to keep the rear wheel down as I locked up both wheels. But for better or worse, my ass fails to offer the mass required to keep a 220-pound human and a 28-pound bike from proving the laws of physics and so up and over we went. It’s a sensation that never gets old. Or pleasant.
Fortunately mid-way through the arc of doom a miracle happened. Instead of doing a face-missile into the roadwayÂ I was somehow able to unclip from the pedals and then somehow get my feet beneath me enough to stumble bumble forward until I stiff-armed the passenger side rear-quarter panel of the sedan and was able to remain upright while Eight Ball clattered to the concrete somewhere behind me.
It was when I stood up that I guess the driver decided the best thing he could do was flee the scene of his doing. So, since he wasn’t going to do the right thing and instead be a dickbag full of chickshit, before the back end of his car moved out of reach I violated that all-important rule of “Don’t Purposefully Touch The Car” by bringing my fist in a full bash down upon its trunk lid leaving him a souvenir of our close encounter. Something to remember me by.
The impact of that brings the car to a halt and I’m already around the passenger side ready to put words away and Bring all my adrenalized frustrations to bear. But instead of some pissed-off assbasket it’s an elderly man who exits and he’s all pathetic apologies, typically proclaiming that he did not see me.
I point to my bike and my helmet: “How could you not see me? I’m lit up like a fucking Christmas tree!”
“I know. I know. I’m so sorry!”
“Sorry don’t mean shit to me!”
He goes on a bit about looking farther down the road instead of what was right the hell in front of him and he apologizes some more.
“Here’s a tip: Instead of being so damn sorry after the fact howsabout you be more careful behind the wheel beforehand — and while you’re at it figure out how to work your turn signals!”
“Next time I will. I promise. I’m sorry!”
After a few more expletives from me along with an invite to use the fresh fist-sized dent in his trunk as a reminder how not to drive he was back in his car and heading south on Lucerne and I was left in the middle of the empty intersection to retrieve Eight Ball and take deep breaths to counter the adrenaline rush before continuing on slow and shakened the rest of the way home.