Driving canyon roads for pleasure inherently involves risk. That risk becomes a lot higher when some asshat comes barreling around a corner re-living their finest “Hans Joachim-Stuck at the Nürburgring” in your lane. Avoiding debris, cyclists, and the odd nudist in the picturesque California canyons is one thing; I’m prepared for it. We are not prepared for chrome-wrapped M4s owned by the bank zooming into oncoming traffic.

Over the New-Years-2021 weekend I became acutely aware of this danger again. I couldn’t drive more than five minutes on my favorite roads in the Angeles Forest without someone dipping two wheels into my lane, doing some pretty high speeds. I’d had enough on my way down Upper Big Tujunga, stuck behind someone is a Porsche 911 Cabriolet doing 55, crossing over the double yellows. I actually took the opportunity to talk to the guy at the bottom of the hill, and I hope he takes my advice.

The list of unwritten rules in the canyons is short, but the collagen that holds it together is common sense and courtesy. It’s real simple: Don’t cross the double yellow. Don’t go “ten tenths.” Don’t drive like a lunatic. Really don’t drive fast near traffic. Finally, don’t ruin it for the rest of us. 

It always bears repeating: The canyons are not the track. By a vast majority, those of us who frequent twisty roads do like a good spirited drive and a place to enjoy our cars. But it is not the place to explore the stopwatch, or the outer nebulae of your personal limits. Canyon culture has deep roots in Los Angeles, and even still, we have plenty of evolution to do. The roads and people on them are changing, growing. Our old stomping grounds are becoming commuter roads, and we simply have to deal with it.

long exposure of godde hill road in palmdale ca
Peaceful night on a mountain, somewhere. – Image: Chris Rosales

Drivers who tend to drive spiritedly love to take agency of the road in front of them. The depressing truth is, these roads are too busy to even think of that anymore.

If we want to keep spirited corner-carving alive well into the enforcement nightmare we’re marching into, we need to be prudent, we need to protect what precious little we have. Driving safely is the anchor we need to moor ourselves with. Knowing when and where to drive quickly is crucial.

I say we take our inspiration from Japan (go figure). In Japan, from top to bottom in their motoring culture, are expressly concerned with the well-being of the non-enthusiast motorist. Even notorious street racing club Mid Night made a pact to disband if they brought any harm to a bystander. Unfortunately, this was enacted in 1999 after a large crash that hospitalized six bystanders. Today, road deaths in America are only trending upwards.

Even a semblance of dedication to safety in street driving is, at best, tertiary in American driving culture. Just take a look around at sideshows. Me, personally, I’ve experienced far too many moments where I think “this dude is gonna bin it” pushing themselves too hard. Too many times I’ve witnessed double-yellow crossings. It cannot continue. If we don’t want the police coming in and blanketing us with those same people who pose a danger to us all, we have to police it ourselves. We have to talk to these people, state our case, and hope they listen.