Friday, September 16, 2011

Car & Driver Thoughts

I usually have an excellent relationship with cars.  In fact, I really enjoy cars.  In fact, I have owned more cars than bicycles over the years and for people that know my fascination with bikes, this will be a hard fact to believe.  Also, as my piece de resistance fact, Top Gear is my favorite television program.  Sure, I wouldn't trade Paris-Roubaix coverage for it, but still, the point is, I like cars.

Except today.  When many of them were trying to kill me.

I am quite comfortable on roads with cars.  I am used to being passed on narrow roads or roads with no shoulders.  It doesn't bother me to mix it up with vehicles on busy streets or in downtowns.  I start almost every ride I take by hitting Highway 195 for a stretch, so really, I'm good with cars and bikes.

Except today.  When many cars were trying to kill me.

When I am on my bike (or motorcycle) I try to assume responsibility for my safety.  I don't assume that people will see me or respect my space and, as a result, I am very wary.  I try to act in predictable manner and keep an eye on what is going on around me.  I didn't, however, anticipate what happened first on my ride today.  As I was approaching one of the intersections on Highway 195, I was intended to proceed past the intersection.  I started to look over my shoulder to see if anyone was approaching when a vehicle came around me very fast, started pulling over, hesitated just a fraction of a second, then finished pulling right in front of me and slammed on the brakes.  This driver was getting off of the road and had a decision to make.  How do I use the tools at my disposal to navigate this bike/car situation?  Do I 1) use my accelerator to go around the cyclist, pull over into/onto/in front of him and make my turn; or 2) do I slow down a fraction, pull over on the wide median and make my turn behind the cyclist approximately 2-4 seconds later?  Clearly this driver decided that the accelerator was the only tool at his disposal.  Call me crazy, but I happen to think that my life and safety are worth the 4 seconds of delay for the motorist.

Here is the thing that drives me most crazy about the situation.  If I make a mistake on my bike in a bike/car situation, it can cost me lost skin, broken bones, a concussion or even death.  If the car makes a mistake in a bike/car situation, it can cost the driver some time.  Maybe a few seconds or maybe longer while they have to wait for an ambulance to come and get me off of the road, but no matter how inconvenient, the driver gets to walk away.  They still get to go to work, have dinner with their family, whatever.  Shouldn't that count for something?

I am mystified about the thought process and still wonder why that driver decided that the right sequence was accelerator, turn (the hesitation clearly indicating that he knew exactly what he was doing) and then  brake hard with me only avoiding the accident by braking hard myself.

And, as if that wasn't enough, I was later threatened by a guy doing a U-turn in an intersection that was using his mirrors only - not moving his head - and therefore didn't see me.  Thankfully the guy in the truck with him noticed me and yelled, causing the driver to stop and avoided hitting me (or at least, oddly for the second time, me running into a car due to the car's actions).  Next up, I had two drivers in Brownes Addition ignore "Yield" signs and cut in front of me.  And last, and way up on my list of things I didn't think I would see, I had what I assume is a Spokane City Fire Department employee cut across a double yellow line on First Avenue to make the turn into his parking lot.  Remember when I said I try to be "predictable" in my driving?  That way motorists can count on my actions.  Cutting across the double yellow for a fireman was not on my list of predictable actions.  But thankfully his EMT buddies would have been right there to get me to the hospital, right?  At least I had that going for me.

I think I'll walk to work next time.

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