I thought I'd share the two worst things that ever happened to me while riding a bike. If planners want to increase bike ridership, they have to have a sense of the kinds of things that can happen out there.
1) One day I was biking home from Middle School. I biked out into a crosswalk at a T intersection. A minivan plowed into me. Luckily, it had just come off of a stop sign, so it wasn't going too fast. I was knocked to the ground, but not run over. The lady got out: "are you okay?! are you okay?!". I couldn't even think of anything to say. Somebody called 911. A fire truck came and firemen took my pulse. I was physically fine, but really shaken up. So much for safe routes to school . . .
2) Much later, only a few years ago in fact, I was biking up the San Gabriel River channel from Long Beach, where I grew up. It's a route that stretches for miles and miles from the beach to the mountains in eastern LA County. You can tell how far you've gone by the highways you pass: 91, 105, 5. Tired, I stopped in Pico Rivera, got out of the bike path and started heading west in search of a place to buy a drink. Suddenly from behind I hear sounds: "thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk". Next thing I know my back is stinging and a big black SUV whizzes by, a young man sticking out the window with a paintball gun. The bikes ahead of me get it too. It left a bloody welt and a bruise that lasted for weeks. The cowards didn't stop. The only thing inside of me was rage, but it was no use. I just had to head home and feel my bloody wound.
Everybody forms opinions based on personal experiences. We have a lot of work to do to make cycling feel safe for people. I'm starting to bike again, but I'm under no illusions about all the crazy shit that can happen out there in the streets of greater LA.