The day started out with anticipation — this would be my maiden voyage on the new touring bike. What I didn’t know was how quickly I’d be testing the brakes.
The night before as I’m drifting off to sleep I remember assembling the front brakes; they had to come off again as I installed the front rack, but as I toss and turn on my way to dreamland I realize I must remove the brakes one more time, to move the washer that fits it tight into the bike frame. It’s a minor adjustment, but brakes are one feature I want to get right the first time.
I set off for the Newport pier where I’ll meet with my fellow bikeNewportBeach advocates Dan Murphy and Matt O’Toole. My route includes the Sharrows on Bayside Drive. The Sharrows convey that the roadway lane is too narrow, so that bikes may take the entire lane. Usually this isn’t a problem because the speed limit ranges from 15-20 mph and when I’m heading toward Balboa Island I have no trouble keeping up with traffic — it’s a gentle downhill route.
Today after I enter Bayside Drive a SUV soon arrives behind me. It happens so frequently, I can’t help but wonder — will a horn-blowing incident ensue? Not this time. No, this time I hear a female voice shouting, “Move into the bike lane!” Of course, there is no bike lane here, just parked cars and the Sharrows insignia on the road.
Maybe because I’ve just returned from a 10-day trip to Russia where I was wined and dined and treated like royalty, I don’t take her shouts all that seriously; after all, where is someone going on Bayside at 10am on a quiet Sunday morning?
In just a few seconds their impatience escalates. It’s a man and a woman; they pull up alongside me for curses, more shouts and gestures, too. They look about late thirties as I sneak a glance; to them I surely look my almost age of 60. Do I curse them back? I still can’t fathom their fit of pique so all I can manage is, “Oh, be quiet!”
My mistake. The man is behind the wheel and after pulling alongside he now makes a sharp turn into the lane ahead of me. I should’ve guessed what was coming next, but I was surprised as he slams on the brakes immediately in front of me. My reaction time — I can recall every millisecond as I reached for the brakes to make an emergency stop. They worked. My many tweaks to the brakes didn’t compromise their effectiveness; I wobbled and almost lost my balance, but remained upright as the offending vehicle sped away — probably on their way to church.
I’m not hurt, but rattled; it’s been a long time since anyone deliberately tried to injure me. This is my personal Mandeville Canyon incident; obviously, the driver doesn’t remember how Dr Christopher Thompson went to jail for the serious injuries he caused with a similar stupid move.
My fellow bike advocates all offer the same advice: shake it off, learn from the experience and stay focused on the positives of cycling. In minutes I’m on the Balboa Island ferry and soon we arrive at the well-attended Huntington Beach Bike Festival. Only 1 minute later I’m being video-interviewed by OCTA’s bike czar Wes Parsel and it’s all a happy occasion, on a gorgeous day and I’m surrounded by all my bike advocate pals. After the brief interview the cameraman returns, looking for more footage, “Tell me about that bike?” I feel like royalty for a few minutes more.