Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Motorists and Cyclists, ch. 2

Wow! I thought it would be a while before my next installment, but no... Another driver today made one of those choices I just don't understand.

Same stretch of road.. which isn't a surprise, as it's the only non-residential road I travel most days. Morning again... it seems most of my negative encounters happen in the morning, oddly enough. Maybe it's because I ride home late enough in the evening to avoid the worst of people hurrying.

Anyway, on my 1/2 mile stretch of less-than-ideal road, there's a blind curve... a gentle curve to the right, with trees at the side, making it impossible to see oncoming traffic. Today, I was rolling along, having waited, as usual, for a longish gap in traffic, to reduce my interaction with the cars, rounding that curve, out in the lane. As I said in my earlier post, the traffic lane is so narrow that a bike and a car CANNOT safely occupy the lane at the same time... a classic example of when it is both legal and appropriate and safest for a cyclist to "take the lane". Basically, it forces the motorists to see me, then think about how best to safely get around me, rather than just zoom on by without thought, passing me dangerously closely or even hitting me.

Well, most of the time it works out just fine... drivers see me, recognize that sight lines are limited, and wait until they are sure it's clear before they pull into the opposite lane to pass me. Today, one driver just couldn't wait... he pulled into the opposing lane while still in the blind part of the curve... only to discover an oncoming minivan. He ducked in just in front of me (of course, he wouldn't slow back down and tuck in behind me until it was safe... but truthfully he might not have seen the van in time to do that), but the minivan had to brake to avoid a collision, and rightfully honked their horn.

Aside from the potential of an ugly accident barely avoided, what bothers me about such situations is that I'm pretty sure one or both of the drivers thought "that damned cyclist, look what he nearly caused." The fact of the matter is, it was the overtaking driver's fault, as it was THEIR responsibility to make sure it was safe and clear to pass me. I was where I was supposed to be, and am legally allowed to be, riding as I am supposed to. Yet dollars to donuts, somebody in one of those cars saw it all as my fault.

So folks... when you drive, THINK before you pass a slower vehicle.. whether it's another car or a bicycle or an Amish buggy or a tractor. Is it really safe to pass? Can I see oncoming traffic? Should I wait the 10 seconds, 15 seconds, even 30 seconds, just to make sure no one gets hurt? Seriously... the driver today could have waited about 10 seconds to get where sight lines were clear, and avoided the whole thing. If things had gone a tiny bit differently, they could have ended up with a wrecked car, and a number of injured folks, if not an outright fatality (most likely me). Is it worth the 10 seconds? I humbly submit that it's not.

2 comments:

beth h said...

There are numerous studies coming to light about how driving a car changes the thinking processes of people, and MAKES them go faster and behave more aggressively. The best and truest cure for this would be for us to redesign our cities so that people don't have to drive everywhere anymore. Failing that, there is no real solution that will make a significant dent in the way things are right now.

So you and I and other bike-riders will just have to ride defensively and pick our routes very carefully -- and accept the reality that, in a car-centric landscape, the burden of Just About Everything falls on us.

..::shrugs::..

beth h said...

There are numerous studies coming to light about how driving a car changes the thinking processes of people, and MAKES them go faster and behave more aggressively. The best and truest cure for this would be for us to redesign our cities so that people don't have to drive everywhere anymore. Failing that, there is no real solution that will make a significant dent in the way things are right now.

So you and I and other bike-riders will just have to ride defensively and pick our routes very carefully -- and accept the reality that, in a car-centric landscape, the burden of Just About Everything falls on us.

..::shrugs::..