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Cycling Safety – Here’s a new one…

June 2013
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I was almost run into on my usual Saturday ride… Don’t know what it is with Chevy Cobalt drivers lately but they’ve really got it in for me…

Must be a Government Motors thing – somebody read some of my posts and they’re sending Chevy Cobalts after me instead of the IRS! (This is a joke. Sarcasm. Of course you know what they say about sarcasm).

All joking aside, I damn near got T-boned – and I have a small bit of the blame in this little dealio, so please allow me to share the experience with you.

I was about 14 miles into my 45 mile day, heading south out of downtown Fenton. I was preparing to make a right turn from the right turn lane. I was in the middle of the lane and had a clear lane to the turn. The cars waiting to go straight through the light were stopped for a red. There was a truck coming up behind me so I turned around to make sure he saw me (he did). When I turned back I noticed a hole in the thru lane traffic, and the red Chevy trying to make a left from the northbound lane into a strip mall parking lot through that hole. She almost squeaked the tires and stopped within three feet of me. Parts of me would have ended up as a hood ornament had she not hit the brakes. It happened so fast I didn’t even have time to tense up.

So here’s where I screwed up – and this matters because even though an accident would have clearly been her fault, the bike rider is always the loser in a crash, so culpability means nothing if I end up in a bag with a toe-tag… First, when I saw the truck coming in my Roadie mirror, I looked back – and I looked back over my right shoulder – away from traffic – that’s number one. I was trying to keep tabs on the traffic around me but I should have looked over my left and scanned the thru lane stopped traffic as I did. Second, and most importantly, I didn’t see the hole or the red Chevy making the left through it before I turned around to check my six. I should have seen the hole and the Chevy waiting to make the left. Now this gets tricky because had I seen that unfolding and stopped, I’d have ended up with a permanent Dodge Ram grille imprint on my ass.

Ultimately, I put myself in a very bad no-win situation and I didn’t even see it coming. That’s where I messed up. If that had turned out just a little differently I’d have been a grease spot and a cop would be using a couple of 2-liters of Coke to get my blood off of the pavement.

I choose to see this as God looking out for me in a second of stupidity. I followed the letter of the law and was riding my bike legally and responsibly – except for that perfect storm of a situation. I will certainly remember this.

Now, here’s how I should have handled this: I should have swept left with my vision to check behind me – I’d have seen the hole in the stopped traffic and the left turning Chevy. Then I could have signaled a slow-down to the truck behind me and let her complete the left. This isn’t exactly the best idea either, call it the lesser of two evils, but often that’s what road safety boils down to on a bike.

In this situation, the best way to have avoided a potential accident would have been to see it coming – or more to the point, to read the situation as if I were driving my truck instead of a bike… Had I been in my truck, I’d have had different priorities. I’d have kept a passive eye on the truck behind me with my mirror. My priority would have been to the traffic waiting to go through the light and I’d have seen that one coming.

UPDATE: Cycling Dayton brought up a great point, in a different way than I’d written… As road cyclists we are required to be hyper-vigilant about our surroundings. We’re doubly responsible for our safety because we have no protection from mistakes – we’re exposed and vulnerable. I ride with this in mind and at the forefront and I still got myself into an ugly situation.


10 Comments

  1. On a bike you are 200% responsible for your safety – you can never trust what any given driver will do. But I suppose I’m preaching to the choir here huh?

    • bgddyjim says:

      Amen brother…. Doe, Rey, Me. The purpose of the post, and I allowed too much to question, was to point out how situations can pop up that we’re not prepared for – even for the hyper-vigilant, a group that I include myself in.

      • Understood – and my reply, having been hit myself, was as much to remind me as anything – you cannot be too careful when drivers are in your vicinity. When I was hit, I knew the sun was in the guy’s eyes but it just didn’t reach my conscious level until impact.

      • bgddyjim says:

        I remember you writing about that – think about it every time I’m out at an odd hour. You really reached me on that count.

  2. elisariva says:

    Glad you made it through okay. Yes – better to be safe than correct!

  3. Sandra says:

    Ugh. Thank goodness you’re okay!

  4. kruzmeister says:

    Glad you are okay Bro!

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