No matter what existential crisis I am facing – be it finding the magic in everyday life or tackling the “why” behind depression-fueled Buffy marathons – I do have one amazing constant in my life: Artemis.
Nothing cures existential crises better than a bike ride, and I did take one last night when I got home. I needed some solid Artemis time since I was such a sloth this past weekend. And what a beautiful, glorious, amazing ride. Sure it was hot – LA is currently getting roasted alive – but it was a sunny and gorgeous evening. At one point I was riding through the charming West Hollywood area, and many of the houses have jasmine planted in their yards. Hmmmm…. love that smell! And the moon was full last night; I watched it rise right in front of me as I pedaled along. It was a perfect ride.
Until some toolbox honked at me because I didn’t take off like a bullet when a stop light turned green.
Didn’t let it ruin the ride, but it made me realize that it is time yet again for another Bicycle Bitchin’s. I already covered the rude drivers that cut you off in the first post. But as all of us cyclists know: there are many types of rude drivers.
This is Type # 2: The Honkers.
Now, as is very commonly associated with LA: we have lots of traffic. Lots of bad traffic. Lots of stopped traffic. And consequently, there are lots of honkers here. I don’t know what it is about traffic and car horns but there seems to be a direct correlation between the two: the worse the traffic, the louder, longer, and more obnoxious the car horns.
I know sitting in traffic sucks. We all hate it. But when there are 27 million other cars around you, what in the hey-yo do you think laying on your horn is going to do?? Make them all disappear?
That’s what some drivers seem to think.
Cue the chanting: ommmmmmmmmm……… ommmmmmmmmmm……. many cars herrrreeeeee….. let me honk my horrrrnnnnnn……. cars go awayyyyyyy………….. ommmmmmmm………
Let me clue you in, Drivers: honking your horn does not make the traffic go away. All it does is annoy everyone within a 10 mile radius of you. Including the cyclists. Who, coincidentally, are often more affected by the obnoxious horns because we are not ensconced in the comfort of our vehicles. We are right there beside you when you’re laying on that horn, so we get the full force of the blast.
What is it the experts say about exposure to loud noises and deafness?
And that goes double for other obnoxious honking situations. Not just bad traffic, but things like a driver trying to break a traffic law, such as making an illegal left turn, and the driver behind this aspiring criminal deciding the way to deal is to lay on the horn. I recently witnessed a driver in this exact scenario: laid on his horn for at least 1 full minute, if not longer, because the driver in front of him was making an illegal left turn. I always ask myself when I witness this idiocy: okayyyy, a) what makes you think that Bob Brainstem there in front of you is paying any attention anyway, and b) is there a reason why everyone in that 10-mile radius has to listen to your horn because you’re pissed at the driver in front of you???
But all that said, it is even worse, in my opinion, when drivers honk at bicyclists. It is one thing if some Road Rage Robert is laying on his horn because he hasn’t moved more than 2 feet in the past hour, and he thinks, miraculously, the cars will actually start going if he blasts his horn non-stop for 34 seconds. It is another thing entirely when a car honks at a cyclist.
And here is why: it’s dangerous. Horns are loud, abrupt, and sudden. If a cyclist isn’t prepared to have a horn sound off in their ear, it can cause a startled reaction, which can lead to swerving, falling, etc… If a honk blasts behind me, I almost always jump a mile off my seat, and I have lost count of how many times I nearly ended up in the gutter trying to correct myself and my balance when that happens.
It is also, in a word, obnoxious. Car horns, in general, are obnoxious. I know there are some positive uses for them – a light tap to let another car know you are in their blind spot as they drift over into your lane, or even a light tap when the stop light turns green, and it’s obvious the driver in front of you is distracted. I can get behind those … a little. But only a little. I often tell J: what would it be like if, for one day, one beautiful, glorious, wonderful day, there were no car horns at all? What would traffic be like? The commute? I believe it would make for happier drivers… for the most part. Because I am willing to bet that 99.9999 times out of 100, horns are used when they aren’t needed. Horns are being honked when there is no real reason to honk. The driver is not in danger. The other driver is not in danger. People are just impatient.
And I am not sorry to say that impatience is not a reason to use a horn.
But that is what happened to me last night. I pulled up at a stop light that was red. I waited, like the good, law-abiding, respectful cyclist that I am, for the light to turn green. It did. In the time it took me to lift my right foot off the curb and place it on the pedal to push off, the screaming banshee behind me was laying on her horn. Seriously?!?! The light hasn’t been green for 3 seconds yet!!
And I am on a BICYCLE!! I am not going to shoot away from the curb like Wile E. Coyote after he accidentally shot himself with the cannon.
And I am on a BICYCLE!! You can’t go around me??
I also ask this: in the end – what did that honk achieve? Anything? Of course not! All it did was delay Ms. Tolerant even more because I swiveled my head around, gave her an evil glare, and then took off. She lost another 8 or 9 seconds there. So, the honk didn’t solve any real problem. It just pissed me off. And my added delay pissed off The Honker even more, I’m sure.
Therefore, I ask again: what is the point?