Biking back from downtown this morning in the poorly designed bike lane on the high speed/high volume traffic sewer that is Sunset Boulevard, I came upon a treacherous bend in the road that I’ve navigated a million times before. Over the past few months our city has seen fit to erase the bike lane markings, dig up the road and then apply asphalt the way a five year old would spread meringue on a pie. Months have gone by and they haven’t bothered to reapply the stripping. The city crew also left gouges of a size perfect for catching bike wheels, and a few slick metal plates to give us two-wheeled fanatics some extra challenges. Despite occasionally losing my temper, I try to view these challenges as a skateboarder would view a bleak modernist office plaza full of railings, concrete benches and staircases–as an opportunity for fun, while keeping in mind Robert Hurst’s, author of the excellent book The Art of Cycling, admonition to “ride with fear and joy.”
But occasionally the indignities tip the balance and my ego makes an ugly appearance. Today, coming around that bend, in addition to the amateur street repair work, I came upon two semi-trucks, one parked the wrong way, with both taking up most of the bike lane. Adding the proverbial cherry on the shit sundae, the film crew these trucks belonged to had placed an unoccupied folding chair in the bike lane, blocking the narrow strip of rough asphalt separating me from all the cell phone wielding SUV monkeys barreling westbound towards their cubicles.
In a moment I’m not particularly proud of, I picked up said folding chair and threw it forcefully on to the sidewalk. Had I been wittier this morning I might have launched into a critique of Hollywood’s inability to make a decent movie, but instead unimaginative expletives were exchanged between me and the craft services chefs disgorging the wrong-way parked semi. If all Hollywood films were directed by Werner Herzog or Goddard I might put up with the occasional dangerous inconvenience, but instead this long winded introduction gives me a chance to push a bold new way to end these indignities: the Bicyclist’s Bill of Rights.
Alex Thompson, over at WestsideBikeSIDE lays out some excellent reasons for this badly needed set of principles. Later this week we’ll put up the complete bill of rights, which we hope will spread beyond the auto-clogged dystopia that is the City of the Angels. In the meantime, wherever you are, take back the streets–they belong to all of us, not just General Motors!