Friday, January 24, 2014

Too Close for Comfort - vol 1


-Wearing mostly dark colors with accents of lime green
-Wearing a helmet

My Bike:
-Minimal required gear for biking at night including rear, front, pedal and wheel reflectors and a bright white headlight
-a second blinking white head light, a red rear blinking light, a strand of Christmas lights and additional reflective material on my bike. I also have reflective material on my backpack.

I usually try to bike during quiet times of the day or on residential streets. I like to avoid car traffic if at all possible.

So this evening I was biking in a residential area on a newly paved street. The houses in the area are generally pretty expensive and nice, but the street has known speeding issues. Sidewalks are only located on one side of the street and I've seen many other bicyclists, runners, people walking their dogs and strollers (you know, normal residential stuff) on this street over the years. There's only 1 lane in each direction with some extra room for street parking with a speed limit of 25mph. Until the street I was biking on was recently repaved, it had speed bumps on it and "Slow down: We love our children" signs.

I'm biking along, on the right side of the lane, with traffic, just outside of the door zone of the nearby parked cars. Suddenly a car comes flying down a perpendicular (also residential) side street, nearly running down a pedestrian crossing the street as well as myself. He turns right and continues on ahead of me.

A few hundred yards ahead of the first incident, I start moving towards the left side of the lane in preperation to turn left at the next stop sign. There are no cars immediately around me. About 15 feet from the stop sign, a car that was speeding way too fast behind me in the same direction pulls up on my left side to pass me. I scream at the car driver "STOP". He rolls down his window.

"Why did you do that?"
"What? Pass you?"
"Yeah, I'm turning left, we're super close to the stop sign and you're passing me on my left"
The driver rolled up his window and sped off, going straight.

I often find myself frustrated when (angry) car drivers declare that all bicyclist are nothing but scofflaws, blowing through stop signs, not using lights at night or not using enough/bright lights at night, not riding on the correct side of the road, not wearing helmets (which aren't always legally required for adults.) I know I am not that bicyclist and I'm left wondering if they like to pretend they've never seen a bicyclist like me or they just don't see us. By riding with traffic do I become invisible? Does their frustration towards others come spewing out on me despite me not having done anything wrong? I'm left wondering why the drivers couldn't wait 5 or 10 seconds for a more vunerable user of the road to just get out of their way. Would it take hitting someone to understand the gravity of the situation & why the speed limit was low near houses? Would they try to pass a car turning left on the left at a stop sign with only one lane of traffic in each direction? Would it really be worth seriously hurting someone to save a matter of seconds on your commute?

At least Steve Carell is on my side.....

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