Whalon Lake Loop Ride

Background Reading


Whalon Lake

Whalon Lake

The weather today was supposed to be in the mid 60s and perhaps higher. It was partially cloudy for most of the day. Late in the afternoon it because to look as if it might rain, but the rain never came.

The ride was interesting. It began with us attempting to circumnavigate Whalon Lake in a clockwise motion. But about half way around we were stopped by a collapse in the pavement due to the recent heavy rains. So we turned around and headed out onto the remainder of the DuPage River Trail as it winds its way up to downtown Naperville.

The GoPro Hero 3 was performing well today. I will be testing out different settings going forward to try and minimize the file size and the amount of compression required to get the images to view well in YouTube.

The trail was in great form to day with lots of traffic. We saw children with parents and joggers, cyclists and even dog walkers. By the time we reached the end of the trail section I was out of video memory. So we finished the last mile or so into the downtown area without recording any more video.

We grabbed luncheon at the local Chipotle and enjoyed the three taco combo and a Nantucket Nectar to wash it all down.

After luncheon we headed back along the trail and made good time. A few lady riders in the late 40s were quite curious about our recumbents. We gave them a suggestion to check with the Bike Rack in St.Charles. But there are other dealers in the Chicagoland area. I really need to print out a short “cheat sheet” to pass out to those who make inquiries. It should contain the known addresses and phone numbers of dealers that carry recumbents.

Back at Whalon Lake we enjoyed the last mile or so to the car and then packed up to leave. Just as we were circling the parking lot I noticed that a tree had been sunk in the lake no doubt to serve as a fish hotel. I grabbed a quick picture before we packed up the bikes and headed off in search of coffee.

Got A New Case

Connie suggested that the GoPro Hero 3 and its accessories might be happier in a small case. So we drove over to REI in Oakbrook and she found a dandy of a case. Ironically it is made for the biggest competitor to the Hero 3 the Contour. So I have now packed up the video camera in that new case and will use it while riding around to stow the camera once the video memory card has been filled and I can then remove the camera from my helmet.

Analyzing A ‘Near Miss’

Even before the ride began however there was an incident which got me to thinking about the dangers of entering intersections controlled by STOP signs without actually stopping. A cyclist in Naperville nearly “bought the farm” today. The culprits in this instance are ‘yours truly‘ and the ‘size and placement of the rear view mirror‘ as well as the fact that the cyclist decided to “roll through a 4-way stop intersection“.

There is a similar situation that prevails with semi trucks where the driver cannot see a bicyclist sitting in the Protected Bike Lane (PBL) simply because the cyclist is hidden by the hood of the truck. Believe it or not rear view mirrors in cars can have the same effect. Here is a typical intersection:

Normal Intersection (red car can be 'invisible' to driver in the white car.

Normal Intersection (red car can be ‘invisible’ to driver in the white car.

Depending on the circumstances the driver of the white car can arrive at the intersection and then scan left to see if traffic is approaching. This by the way is a 4-Way stop intersection. Now if the driver of the red car arrives as the driver is looking left and lands just behind the rear view mirror of the driver in the white car, he is “invisible” until either he begins to move or in this case the white car decides that the intersection is “clear“. Note that scanning to his right the driver in the white car may still not see the red car hidden behind his rear view mirror.

In Years Past

This is not a new problem. Everyone in the automotive industry know about. For a while manufacturers were lowering the mirror until it sat on the dashboard hoping to allow the driver to see “over” the mirror. Some abandoned this approach because anyone whose head it tall enough in the rear seat blocks the vision of the driver during transit. So most of the manufacturers have gone back to a mirror posted high enough to block out another car at the intersection.

An Impatient Cyclist

A-pillar blind-spots

A-pillar blind-spots

So today a cyclist in Naperville on a hybrid bike is heading east as I am sitting scanning left to check for traffic coming from that direction. He arrives at the point behind my mirror just as I am beginning to scan right for traffic from that direction. But he is planning to “roll through” the stop sign. So why would he take that chance?

Cyclists whether they admit it or not count on motorists to have good driving etiquette and assume that they will stop at an intersection rather than roll through (as a cyclist might). But in this case I was about to enter the intersection because I saw it to be cleared from the left and right (there was no traffic coming towards me).

As I began to roll forward I suddenly realized that he was present and entering the intersection and was in fact startled at his presence. He however clearly saw me and simply did an evasive maneuver to bring himself to the left crosswalk (the one I was rolling across) and then did something of a J-turn to go from that crosswalk to the section of the street opposite where he had been.

It took a few seconds to puzzle out how he had gotten where he was and he realized that I had the right-of-way and yielded. Whatever we cyclists think is nifty about crossing intersections where stop signs are present (along with cars) please, please understand that you may not be visible to the driver to your left. Stop and wait before entering that intersection. And always assume that unless you have eye contact with him, he cannot see you.

The same is true if you are riding alongside a semi-truck. If you cannot see his eyes, he may not at all be able to see you. There are several notable deaths that have occurred when both the cyclist and the trucker were doing the right thing, but simply were not mutually aware of one another’s presence.

This Problem Exists Even Between Cars

Never Roll Through A Stop Sign Intersection With Any Cars Present

Never Roll Through A Stop Sign Intersection With Any Cars Present

It is difficult to believe this if you are not a frequent driver, but a minivan positioned just right and approaching at the exact moment the driver begins to scan right can have the same effect. Why? Because at a given distance the size of the van shrinks enough to be behind the mirror and thus “invisible“. The trick is for the driver to be aware of this problem, but frankly if you are driving around all day long, you eventually forget to check (behind the mirror). That is not an excuse but rather a fact. It would be great if cars of the future had a means of allowing you to “see directly behind their rear view mirror” for a second. That would be long enough to allow you to note whether anyone has moved into that blind spot.

The problem is exacerbated by the trend towards “No Blind Spot Rear View Mirrors” like those sold for use by highway patrolmen. Hammacher-Schlemmer sells one that is wider yet than your standard rear view mirror. What is difficult to tell is whether anyone is selling something that will allow you to quickly and effortlessly tell if a car or a bicycle-sized object is lurking in front of you but obscured by the very mirror designed to help you safely navigate the roadways.

For cyclists this means that it is always imperative that you come to a complete and utter stop when approaching an intersection where a car is crossing to your left. There is a very good chance that the motorist cannot see you, especially if you arrived in his blind spot just after he scanned to his left and is now scanning right.

Cyclometer Information

Distance: 19.0 miles
Time: 2h 00m 01s