Crashing the Bastille
Urban cycling has always been a perilous activity, unless you are fortunate enough to live in one of the few cities where everyone’s on a bike, the roads are flat, and bike lanes are everywhere (read: somewhere in Europe like Copenhagen). I commute by bike and public transport in Los Angeles. The drivers are skilled enough, but do not always concede the lane, sometimes being within 12 inches of clipping you; despite Mayor Eric Garcetti’s pledges to get the simple stuff, like roads, fixed, sometimes I arrive at my destination wishing I had a mountain bike instead of my hybrid. Most cycling accidents are grisly affairs, regardless of who is to blame—injuries and even deaths abound on LA’s major thoroughfares.
Yesterday (14 July, Bastille Day), I had my first literal run-in with a car on one of West LA’s busiest intersections, when I miscalculated my speed on a slight incline during stop-and-go traffic, failing to brake in time and smashing my brake lever into the tail light of the vehicle ahead of me. This is a bike accident from Bizarro world: I was completely unscathed aside from a scratch less painful than a paper cut, my bike was almost undamaged except for a chip of plastic falling off—and, unfortunately, I managed to inflict damage on the vehicle. Assuming complete blame, I am set to liquidate a good portion of my financial aid money soon, because luxury car parts have arbitrarily high costs (you know, economics stuff). In keeping with the strange nature of the accident, the driver was more amused than seriously upset as we exchanged contact information. Having a cyclist hit you must be akin to winning some strange prize. I agreed to make the payment on Venmo (the mobile-centric social payment transfer app) once the vehicle was fixed. Along with the fact that we used smartphones to exchange contact information, this is perhaps the most 21st-century-esque accident resolution ever.
Of course, my physical interaction with one unlucky steel box could have ended much worse. I could have swerved left to an already fast-moving traffic lane, potentially hitting a sideview mirror or even landing on the wrong side of another car, which could have resulted in a much more serious injury.
Some debriefing, then…could the accident have been prevented? Yes, of course, and the burden falls on me for not applying the brakes earlier. But my accident warrants some further exploration of the context: I was the only bicycle in a traffic lane, surrounded by 10 to 15 cars. Tellingly, no bike lane exists, and perhaps that is understandable for an intersection where tens of thousands of cars pass by each day. But it does suggest the significant weakness of bicycle infrastructure in a city that has, to its credit, made great strides in the last 6 years, thanks to bike lane implementation efforts by former Mayor Villaraigosa. Another structural explanation for how I was able to be so unfortunate in the first place is in the fact that most LA roads were designed for automobile travel rather than cycling. Hence the high volume of vehicles, the existence of several traffic lights in quick succession—which, in turn, resulted in stop-and-go situations—and a generally car-preferring culture, which is definitely understandable given the size of the city, and the relative weakness of our public transport system (again, hindered by the high cost of attempting to accommodate everyone across the county). This won’t change soon, but it’s quite a shame, as reliance on the car is a massive tax on global resources and the environment.
Biking in the middle of the street sounds scary, but it is not as audacious as the belief that driving is the best way to get around for anything besides personal convenience. My bike-bus-subway hybrid commute takes quite a while (it’s 23 miles one way) saves a massive amount of money and the carbon footprint is hardly visible. In light of this, the repair bill is a small price to pay.
This is since the attacks started on Tuesday. Let it sink in. Via Al Jazeera.
(Source: , via mytongueisforked)
Neil deGrasse Tyson, on being asked what would happen if the Earth suddenly stopped spinning.
Sidenote: This wonderful physics funfact is also why you should keep your car clean. A tissue box flying at 85 MPH after your car has suddenly stopped due to a car accident can kill you.
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"STOP NOT BEING DOOMED"