If Cyclists Think They’ve Got it Bad in NYC, Check Out L.A.

If you’re a New York City bike commuter and you’re feeling down about all of the pot holes, rude, dangerous drivers, and cops clipping locked bikes off of street furniture, two recent stories in LAist, the Los Angeles version of New York City’s Gothamist, might make you feel better:

MetroAssaultCyclistHandcuff.jpgHollywood Bus Driver Attacks Cyclist, LAPD Handcuff Cyclist (and Wife!), Sept. 24.

The motorist with the heavy horn hand turns out to be Metro Bus Driver #XXXXX and she passes the cyclist so closely that his left hand touches the side of the bus as it speeds past him. The number #1 lane is empty and nothing serves to prevent the bus driver from changing lanes to pass the cyclist except for a failure on her part to acknowledge the cyclist’s right to ride the streets of Los Angeles without having his life threatened.

The bus proceeds down Hollywood Boulevard to a bus stop at Wilton and stops. The cyclist pulls up on the driver’s side of the bus and addresses the bus driver informing her that honking at a cyclist with no room to spare will only serve to startle the cyclist and cause a dangerous situation and that as a professional driver she should know that if the lane is too narrow to share, she should change lanes in order to pass without endangering the safety of the cyclist.

The driver screams "You were in my way. You need to get off the road!" She slams the window shut.

Beverly Hills SUV Driver Attacks Bicyclist, Only Bicyclist Gets A Ticket, Sept. 4.

I was riding to work as a graduate research assistant for my PhD studies at UCLA at around 10:40am Tuesday morning (August 21, 2007). I was westbound on Wilshire preparing to make a left turn onto Spalding from the left turn lane when a black Ford Explorer swerved into my right of way, nearly knocking me over into oncoming traffic. I was just able to maneuver out of the way to avoid a collision.

As soon as I made the left onto Spalding the black Explorer quickly accelerated and drove right up to my rear wheel and began to honk at me. I slowed down to pull over and then stopped. She stopped behind me and then I asked, "Why are you honking at me? You nearly killed me back there."

A police officer arrived a few minutes later and immediately yelled at me to go sit down on the curb with my bike without asking either of us what had happened. I started walking to the curb and told him that this woman had nearly killed me when she swerved into my lane. He then angrily yelled, "How stupid are you? What are you doing riding in the middle of the street with your bike blocking the road?"


  • MrManhattan

    Riding a bicycle in LA is one thing.

    Riding a bicycle in LA without a gun??

    Thats just stupid!

  • Dave H.

    This information was just forwarded to me, if anyone wants to write the bus operator. The Portland Bus operator has recently added a section on driving with bikes on the road to the operator’s manual. Maybe other cities should too.

    Lynne Goldsmith

    Metro Bike Program Manager




    Metro Customer Relations

    (213) 922-6235 and (800) 464-2111


  • Dave H.

    Actually, it seems like that info originated in the comments section of the LAist. Well, whatever. Now it’s here too.

  • Brooklyn

    Assault with a deadly weapon? Sorry — absent a conscious gesture of civil disobedience, advertised as such on the spot, this guy’s a self-righteous baggy-short and visor-helmeted tool, not a rider, with no business on a bike.

    I’ve been run into the curb by asshole drivers of double-length M15s, so I know the experience is enraging and, to say the least, not fun. But delaying an entire bus of passengers who were NOT driving — not to mention tying up a 911 line — to try and press a fluffy charge garners no sympathy.

    Handcuffed and humiliated, he got what he deserved. His behavior encourages no one to ride more, or anyone to start to ride. More would have been accomplished by recording the bus number and writing a letter of complaint, letting everyone get on with their day.

  • Brooklyn,

    Reporting these types of events to the Los Angeles MTA get you laughed at by their telephone operators.

    The guy who did this is a bicycle advocate, and has done more in the past couple of years for cyclists in this county (Los Angeles County), than you’ll probably do for any group of cyclists in your life.

    When the proper channels are exhausted, and following your delicate rules of etiquitte gets you run into the curb, hit by car doors, and physically injured – etiquitte is not working!

    In this case, and according to the laws of California, this dude has the right to detain someone who has tried to use fatal force against his person and is attempting to flee before police arrive.

    What have you done to make sure that bus drivers and car drivers are made to obey the law and not endager your life?

  • alex


    I don’t think reckless driving of a bus, and the the implications thereof can be pushed aside as a “fluffy charge”.
    Also, its quite unreasonable to assert that the cyclist “got what he deserved”. Especially considering that you probably don’t live in LA and have next to zero understanding of the cycling dynamics and relationships with government in that city. You and I understand the NYC perspective, but I can assure you that our perspective (as NYers) how we are percieved by those around us while we ride, is MUCH different than the scene/dynamics in LA.
    Although from what Brayj says, it sounds like beauracrats hate their jobs in both cities.

  • Damien

    What I don’t think you can really understand unless you’re out here is that to most LA folks, if you ride your bike to commute you are treated as some sort of nutcase.

    When I lived in the NYC suburbs (East Rutherford), we might have joked about how L.A. was some sort of pedestrian/cyclist hell, but once you’re out here you see its worse than you might imagine.

    For example, I just moved out here a couple of weeks ago and I know two executives that wanted to ride to work who were both told by their bosses that they can’t….its “too dangerous.”

    Reading these stories makes me think the bosses might be right.

  • Jarvis

    I commute my bike in the South Bay of Los Angeles to work everyday. While Torrance and Carson may seem like small potatoes compared to the congestive hell of West Los Angeles and Hollywood as a former Beverly Hills resident, The road sharing fighting of cyclists and drivers in Los Angeles is horrible and livid. In Southern California, Disrupting the flow of traffic is a “crime”? wtf?

    When I rent a bike to meet my friends at Greenpoint or Williamsburg from hotel stays at Manhattan, I don’t feel threatened that much at NYC except for the moron who parks his car on the designated bike lane. One thing is certainly clear, biking in NYC is easier and safer than biking in Los Angeles. It’s only by my experience in riding a bike in these two cities.

    I’ve had near misses and drivers throw starbucks frappucino bottles at me in the “bike-friendly region of Los Angeles known as Torrance, California”. I’ve had drivers zip past me by inches in their BMWs and Audis at 35+mph when i’m biking waiting for a red light in the pavement whether it be Carson Street or Wilshire Blvd.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Los Angeles decides to ban cycling just so that the drivers and bus-riders would get by their day to day lives of work, eat and sleep. At Los Angeles, Cyclists have no rights in the road nor the sidewalk. No local governments are helping us and taxpayers here revolt if they have to pay for segregated bike lanes or insurance hikes for protecting cyclists as they do in Europe. I hate Los Angeles.

    I also drive an SUV, but why drive my 4 Runner for a short ride when biking cuts the commute in los angeles by half through rush hour traffic? I’d wish there are more bikers in Los Angeles who realize there’s more to this craptropolis than riding a car. It’s a car culture here, and being a native Californian from San Diego, Cyclists at Los Angeles are the new Mexicans – Blamed for everything, Useful for something, and Always Underappreciated on anything.


The Jay Street Bike Lane Won’t Work If NYPD Parks All Over It

As crews restripe Jay Street to implement a curbside protected bike lane, some sort of learning curve is to be expected. Drivers need a little time to adjust to the new parking lane, which floats to the left of the bike lane buffer. But NYPD should know better from the start. Streetsblog reader Brandon Chamberlin snapped the […]

Getting a Fair Share of the Road

Today on the Streetsblog Network, we bring you a post from Greater Greater Washington in which a bus and a bicycle have a bad encounter, leading to a discussion about windshield perspective (that bus has a mighty big windshield) and sharing the road. Antonio López writes: Bus and bike (not the ones in the story) […]

Londoners Take to the Streets — on Cycles

Via the blog of Stuart Hughes, a BBC journalist who lost part of his leg in Iraq while on assignment in 2003 and who is an avid cyclist, come a few interesting links regarding cycling in London. First, a BBC story on the skyrocketing popularity of biking both for recreation and commuting in London, a […]