Hot on the back tire of my post Friday gushing with unbridled joy at finding a photo-op of our up-to-now notoriously bike-blind mayor actually riding an actual bicycle, comes news that Villaraigosa apparently liked it so much (and perhaps the positive reaction it engendered) that he ventured forth on two wheels again this Saturday evening, this time on an actual Mid-City street in the form of Venice Boulevard, whereupon at some point the driver of a taxi put an end to the enjoyment by reportedly cutting in front of him across the bike lane, causing Villaraigosa to brake hard, lose control, fall and break his elbow.
Lest I be slammed for callousness, of course I am relieved the mayor did not suffer greater injuries and certainly I wish for his speedy recovery. But upon hearing the news I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and plant my face in my hands at such a laughably ludicrous lightning-fast reversal of fortune. Not even two days after the mayor gleefully surprises me by doing what I long considered unfathomable, the unfathomable happens.
I hope hard that the mayor will get well and get on his bike and on the street again — and maybe he will — but I can see that not happening. While opportunity exists for Villaraigosa to turn this negative into a positive campaign to increase motorist awareness, I get the feeling in the interim we’ll just hear the usual suspects step out of their cars and up to microphones bemoaning this incident as being further proof that one takes one’s life in their hands biking this city.
With the thousands of miles of success I’ve had bike commuting all over this city — not without the occasional crash — I obviously disagree.
Falling on a bike whether it results in a broken elbow or a bruised ego can certainly shake the confidence and motivation of even the most seasoned urban cyclist. It’s easy to take for granted the omni-precariousness of the activity: we’re balanced on two strips of rubber and rolling fully exposed alongside thousands of pounds of powerful steel boxes a percentage of which are operated by distracted and/or disrespectful drivers and we do so across debris-strewn city streets in various states of increasing disrepair most of which are designed to exclude us. When any of those myriad things that can go wrong do, that delicate balance is broken and it’s a rude awakening to the ever-inherent risks and dangers involved. I defy anyone who has fallen to get back up in the saddle without feeling a sense of hesitation or fear. For some it’s momentary. For some — especially those just starting out — that hesitation can fast-track into “what the fuck was I thinking!?” and it’ll be a looooong time before they ride the streets again.
That’s what might happen with the mayor, not because he’s unwilling, but because he’s the leader of the fifth largest economy in the world, and there are going to be a lot of official people in his official ear and on his official Blackberry telling him that whole bicycling thing was cute and nice while it barely lasted, but if he wants to officially keep that hobby up it’s time to strap the Schwinn to the back of the mayoral SUV, hop in the back seat and get on over to the LA River or Ballona Creek bikeways or the Marvin Braude beach bikepath or the Sepulveda Basin — anyplace where some motherfucking cab driver can’t pick the wrong time to be inattentive and nearly ruin everything.
Don’t listen to them Mr. Mayor. Get well. Get back on the bike, and get back on the streets.