ChainLinker Has Near Miss…

Annoyed at myself for getting into an accident with a car today…

Posted by Morgan on October 25, 2012

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So, I was riding southbound on Wells, near Chicago and am minding my business in the bike lane. Light countdown signal shows 5 seconds so I start to hammer to get through intersection before it hits yellow. I was focused on that and didn’t keep my wits about me.

You guessed it, a car also wanted to get through the light and decided that the car in front of them was slowing them up. So, they did what came natural and pulled right, into the bike lane and my path.

I was lucky as I saw the movement and veered very wide; still the fender and bumper lifted my rear wheel and swung me around. Luckily, I stayed vertical and was able to cruise to the curb without eating pavement. The car had a pretty good scrape from my skewer/hub.

I guess what really annoyed me was that it was a really, really dumb situation. Me, I should have expected that action in that situation (only because I have a very low expectation of drivers – I am one, too). I was also very annoyed, angry even at the driver. She kept asking me if I was okay (nice, I admit) but all I could say was that I was angry because it didn’t need to happen – that all she had to do was notice myself and half a dozen other bikers that she had passed on her way to this stoplight.

I called the police immediately to file a report. I felt being less than a 1/4 mile from where a fellow Chainlinker lost his life less than a month ago was ominous. I just sat there taking it all in. The police failed to show after thirty minutes; I told her I was fine and I was going to work. But, in a stern old-man voice, I told her she needs to be aware of her surroundings and that it could have been worse. (I told myself that I was a knucklehead for not expecting something like that.)

I am sitting here trying to rationalize continuing my commute via this route or at all. I commute year round and really enjoy it, but man, this was a bit close for comfort.

TakeAways

No one has currently responded to this thread but I can already guess what those responses will be:

  • Motorists are stupid really need to notice bicyclists
  • We need stricter enforcement of laws where bike lanes are concerned
  • blah, blah, blah…

Yep, the driver screwed up. But so did the biker. Why? You never ever race for an intersection when you are the guy on the 40 lbs. vehicle without benefit of a steel cage. You slow down and wait for the next light change. I am going to guess that this rider reacted out of a sense of urgency that is more like that learned behind a wheel in a vehicle.

She too was behaving in an impatient manner. But unlike the cyclist when she screws up there are steel bars surrounding her that will make it possible for her to walk away more often than the cyclist.

What always amazes me about cyclists is that they know the physics of the situation and yet do some really stupid things around cars and buses. I routinely watch as cyclists hitch rides on buses by grabbing the rear wheel well at the light and then use the bus to propel them down the roadway. What if the bike slips and you find yourself under the wheels?

But like motorists, cyclists get blinders on when they deal with one another in traffic. I always watch in horror as a cyclist weaves in between cars in traffic and sometimes rides between two buses trying to get through an intersection before they do. And then suddenly the bus on the right begins a righthand turn and the spacing between the two mammoth vehicles narrows even further and I wait to hear the sound of the rider screaming as he is crushed. Why do we always ignore the obvious dangers and act as if things like this are normal?

My guess is that riding in the city is a bit like being a squirrel on the bike path. Eventually the increased stress of facing danger on a regular basis lowers your awareness of that danger. You have tried something stupid like racing for an intersection so often that eventually you stop making the necessary calculations that a “country mouse” might be making and blast through a crowded intersection just so that you can save a minute during your commute. But what if somebody else intent on making a light in a 2,000 lbs. Hummer is attempting the same maneuver and darts into your lane. You lose.

Cyclists have to relearn fear in order to survive on the “mean streets” of any city. They need to have the crap literally scared out of them to reset their nervous systems to something more reasonable. I think this gentleman has just had the luxury of this reset experience. It just might save his life going forward.

Beware of getting comfortable when riding in traffic. Bike lanes are never going to resolve all of the conflict issues we face in traffic. Any time you approach an intersection you should be sensing danger on every side. Stay scared witless and you might live to enjoy old age.

A Tomcat Among Cyclists, An Alley Cat Racer in New York City, By Christine Streich from CUNY J-School Video Storytelling on Vimeo.