What’s worse than being hollered at for pedaling on the street? Not being seen at all.
Last night I was pedaling three blocks to a friend’s place. I was stopped at a red light at the end of our block. The sensor didn’t notice me so I was waiting for a car to come up behind me or for a break in traffic.
As I waited I watched a family leaving what I imagined to be their mother’s home after an early dinner. They got into three cars and waved goodbye. The third car headed my way then turned left onto my street. Rather than turn into his right lane, he cut the corner and very nearly plowed into me (into the left hand lane for oncoming traffic).
I was standing over my bike. Could not have moved fast enough. For a moment I was sure he saw me. It was broad daylight! Then it was clear he didn’t see me. I hollered “HEY!” as he was within 10 or 15 feet. He heard me and swerved. Phew!
His mother was standing in the drive and heard me shout. She was looking right at me from half a block away. She must have seen her, I’ll guess, son swerve to avoid running me down. She turned and walked inside. I was still there waiting for the light. I pedaled to the corner and pushed the cross walk button, traffic stopped, and I pedaled the last two blocks to my friend’s place where I played two reasonably strong games of Scrabble (came in second in both).
I am very used to close passes and getting hollered at. So common that I am not really afraid. More frustrated, usually. It is rare that I feel seriously threatened. Last night was one of those times. I am 100% sure that if I hadn’t yelled I would have been hit. He was going slow. Maybe 10 or 15 mph. I probably would have been ok (assuming he stopped as soon as he hit me rather than continuing over me).
I am glad I was watching out. Folks in cars often check their phones at lights. I learned in motorcycle safety classes to sit with the bike in gear and to be looking all directions including behind. I do that when I pedal. My helmet mirror really helps.
I wonder what impact the near collision had on the driver? How about his mom? Will it ever be mentioned again? Will he be more careful in the future?
I am now, for a time anyway, more scared to do something that in theory could be a wonderful and relaxing way to move around the city. I’ll still do it. I’ll be even more vigilant. But I can’t help but think there may come a time when I grow tired of assuming the risk presented by inattentive motorists.
I really believe in bicycles. They’re good for me. They’re good for everyone. Imagine half the cars on any street being replaced by bicycles. Quiet. The air smells better. You can say hi to travelers and they’ll hear you–maybe say hi back. Every outing a little more like a Sunday morning. Seems nice to me, anyway.
We can do this. All it takes is that we all watch out. As we should even if no one walked or biked. That’s the thing–I don’t expect special treatment. I don’t need special lanes. I just ask that you really look when you motor. No auto pilot. No texting. No drinking. Driving is serious business. Imagine how the mom would have felt to watch her son drive over me. Imagine the son. A nice dinner. Headed home. Then you kill someone. Serious stuff.
Too heavy? I hope this makes you laugh as much as it did I.
Over and out.