What CiclaValley is Thankful For: Life

It’s the Thanksgiving holiday. Time for family, friends and a bit of reflection.

There’s a lot to be thankful for, but to me it starts with good health to me and my loved ones. I feel fortunate everyday I get to share with my parents, brother, wife, daughter and extended family and I hope the same for you.

Cycling plays a very important part of my life, but being on the bike can feel a bit tenuous. No matter how well you

CV Jr. loves to ride
CV Jr. loves to ride

ride, you are not always in control of your own destiny. As lethal as cars can be, the attitude of some drivers do not match the severity of their actions.

On Monday, I was coming out of Griffith Park turning left off of Crystal Springs Road coming onto Los Feliz Blvd. briefly to reconnect with the LA River Path. While I was waiting in my turn lane, the driver next to me had his window down, music blasting and texting. I gave him a friendly “Really?” look with a smile and he returned the expression and put the phone down.

The light finally changed to green and I moved twenty feet into the intersection waiting for an opening to turn. Looking down the road, there appeared to be a possible upcoming gap, but an approaching car slowed down to turn as a teen entered the crosswalk. No big deal, I’d just wait for the next space.

I had already been waiting for a few seconds, when something came out of the corner of my eye. A small sized SUV completely ran the light to my right and was moving at a pretty good speed. The vehicle missed traffic moving from my right, but I could see a Suburban sized SUV coming in the opposite direction.

It was one of those moments where time slowed down and a million things go through your head while it happens. The Suburban took it in the front and debris was sent all across the intersection. Both drivers looked at each other, stunned as any person would be, then moved off to the closest side of the road nearest to them.

I had an appointment to get to, but nobody else looked like they were staying, so I turned back towards the nearer vehicle, which was the offender.

She took a few moments to come out of the car and I asked just one question, “Are you okay?”. She said yes and I kept my mouth shut until the other driver came.

The man crossed the street, still in a bit of a haze reacting to what happened when the woman stepped out and they began their exchange. Her “excuse” was that she was sick and of course, it was an “accident”.

Her explanation lacked any sincere culpability for her actions. From my eyes, traffic in her direction had already stopped for at least five seconds before she entered the intersection. That may not sound like a long time, but try closing your eyes and counting. It seems like an eternity. Not seeing a red light for that amount of time? You either have to be narcoleptic or texting.

The nonchalant explanation she gave angered the dad. “Did you know I have my four kids in my car?”

“I said I’m sorry! What more do you want from me?”, replied the lady.

Her words and attitude encapsulates the failure of our system. Was she trying to hit the car? No. Was she going to accept any responsibility for her actions? She didn’t mean it, this was an “accident”!

Sadly, her sensibilities are not unique. Penalties are thin. People don’t fear enforcement. Even with all the evidence, it’s hard to convict someone. Who is sending a message that driving a car should be taken seriously? That’s the eternal rhetorical question that rarely gets asked until someone gets harmed.

I took the father aside and I said, “You know what? You’re lucky she hit you.”

A little puzzled, “Why?”, he responded.

“Because if she didn’t hit your car, she would have run over the kid in the crosswalk.”

*****  *****  *****  *****  *****  *****  *****

I didn’t quite realize the gravity of my words until after I said it. This stranger and I are both fathers, and we were both thinking the same thing.

That boy in the crosswalk is someone’s kid. He had done nothing wrong and by a stroke of fate, he crossed the street unscathed. All I could think about was had this man’s car entered the intersection just a fraction of a second slower, what I would have seen.

We both got a little teary eyed, uneasy from the thought and took a few seconds to breathe. I never want to be the parent receiving that phone call and no one else should feel any different.

*****  *****  *****  *****  *****  *****  *****

That incident has been at the top of my mind for the entire week. On the bike, you have a lot of idle time to think. I occupy most of it with thoughts of my daughter. I think about the faces we make with each other, her cuddling up to read a book, the songs we sing or how hard she makes me laugh.

ElieBike

CV Jr. getting ready to roll

Yesterday, my daughter turned three. While the nature of my thoughts have recently been about how much she’s grown in the past year, many of them were invaded by this collision.

Can she grow up in a world where she can feel safe on the streets? How would I react if anything like this ever happened to her? Is my day coming when I meet with an unattentive driver?

Saturday, I was driving home when I passed someone driving while texting with BOTH hands. I yelled out, “hey”, so maybe her attention would turn back to the road, but she just smiled at me like we were laughing at the same joke.

During my daughter’s party yesterday, the late arrivees were detoured by a car wreck I could see from my driveway. Sure enough, when I took a look, there was another father explaining to his kids how lucky they were.

It’s very hard for me to clear the thoughts of last week’s episode when you’re constantly reminded there are drivers out there who don’t give a damn about their actions.

Riverside01

Our birthday surprise

I saw a lot this last week. Some people may say it’s an anomaly, but think of this: How many times do you come by a spot where someone was just shot? Pretty rare I’m guessing.

Gun violence is one of our nation’s largest problems, but you are more than twice likely to die from a car than a bullet.

*****  *****  *****  *****  *****  *****  *****

As CiclaValley, I try not to focus on the negatives because it can beat you down and take everyone with you. I like to pump sunshine and give people hope.

I am fortunate that I have something to fight for and I want to give others the same hope. I like to teach people that cycling is fun and how easy it is to ingratiate yourself into the cycling community.

The work I put in with this blog and with LACBC may not directly benefit me, but hopefully I’m doing some good for others. There have been plenty of people that have put their neck on the line to make the world a better place for us, so the only way to be thankful is by action.

I will continue to push for cyclists to have safe passage wherever they want to roam. People should be able to walk to work, school or the coffee shop without the indignity of dying like roadkill. And yes, I even want to make life safe for drivers, so no one ever has to experience the same fate.

These are our streets. Let’s all be responsible.