Saturday, September 25, 2010

Expecting the Spanish Inquisition

So, there's a thought in my head as I lay here trying to sleep.

There was a bike vs. car collision last week in an intersection near work that I pass through on a nearly daily basis, which turned out to be fatal for the cyclist involved. It's made me sort of hyper aware of the goings on around me while I'm riding, moreso than usual, as well as it's got me thinking, which is never a good thing.

Today I was browsing the bike forums and blogs, reading about other riders accidents, near misses, and other run-ins with cars on the road, and realized, that most (not all) of the incidents people post and rant about could be avoided if the cyclist rode more defensively, expecting the driver of the offending vehicle to do something stupid/illegal. In a perfect world, yes, everyone would obey the laws, and there would be no accidents of any sort, with the exception of those caused by mechanical failures or freak accidents due to any number of environmental variables.

But, we don't live in a perfect world, and with the ever increasing number of in-cab distractions, impatience, and generalized I-don't-give-a-fudge attitudes, the roads can be a dangerous and scary place to be. One way to deal with this is to stay at home, inside, as much as possible, never leaving except to take out the trash. But let's face it. That's no fun. And there's only so many places that deliver.

The other option is to expect the Spanish Inquisition.

See the car rolling down the street perpendicular to yours, and ask yourself if they're going to actually stop at the intersection before they turn right on red, or just roll it, and broadside you.

Don't go speeding along in the bike lane passing that backed up line of cars snickering to yourself about traffic. One may get sick of waiting and right-hook you as they decide to cut through a parking lot.

Even though you might legally have the right of way given to you by a green light, don't expect anyone else to respect that, especially police cars.

Bicycles are small vehicles, that are hard to see in a passing glance. So are motorcycles. I ride both. I ride like I'm invisible, as though other drivers can't see me. This makes me prepared, it helps me expect the unexpected. The vast majority of the time, it's unnecessary. People see me, yield to my right of way, and we all go on our way without incident and a minimal amount of annoyance.

But there's always that one time, when I think to myself "I bet they're not going to stop." So, like always, I back off, I cover the brakes, I check my escape routes. They blow the stop sign in front of me, nearly take someone else's front end off, and I'm left shaking my head, and glad that I anticipated it.

Some accidents are unavoidable. But I think if we all drive a little more defensively, and look out for ourselves, instead of counting on everyone else on the road to be responsible, we'll be a little safer. We just can't rely on the other guy.

Tonight, I rode home after midnight. There weren't many cars out on the road, and those that were out gave me plenty of space. Everyone saw me. I didn't need to be ready to try to avoid a run-in with a car.

But I was still ready.
Mileage: 10.4

1 comment:

DH said...

well that's fucked. :( My noodle-legs and I aren't even an iota as cycling-saavy as you are, but I know there have been some issues with the same thing here in IA too. (You tend to see little crosses + memorial flowers alongside the road, and for the longest time i couldnt figure out why. turns out its where people died in a cycling accident, thats where the memorials go up.) The whole "look at me and my big ass SUV, fuck off you bike-ridin' hippies" mindset really rubs me wrong. 'Sharing the road' seems not to be in certain people's vocabulary.

DSM Bike Club has some neat plate holders with 'share the road' if you submit membership. i think the window has passed though. (that and i am way to chubtastic right now to start training in winter. hooo-ee.)

I hope you + the FP bloggers' all the best in your travels, fatality free especially.