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Commuter Story: Two days, two close calls

by Commute by Bike

On a good portion of my ride home there’s a large turn lane that runs the entire expanse of the road… even when there aren’t places to turn into. I stay in this lane whenever possible so I’m completely out of traffic and out of the way.

Yesterday on my way home, I turned right out of a parking lot into this extra lane while other people were turning left from across the intersection so we would both be going the same direction. As I made my turn into the empty lane, I made sure to give the oncoming truck plenty of room as he turned into his lane. I glanced back at the truck several times during the turn to make sure I was keeping plenty of space between him and me. It was at this point that the driver saw me and then swerved way over into my lane, at least half the width of his truck, in order to scare me. He did an obvious swerve out of his previous path to come within a couple feet of me.

I’ve had plenty of people honk and rev their engines as they pass, however this is the first time I’ve had somebody actually come after me. It was pretty unnerving.

Then this morning on the ride in it was about 6am so I was about the only vehicle on the road. As I was approaching an intersection I saw a car coming up to the light from the right and as I got closer I started thinking he was going to run his red light and take the right turn into my path since he didn’t see any cars coming. I started slowing down and, sure enough, he barely slowed down as he started into the intersection and then he saw me and slammed on his brakes in time to stop the car so the entire front end of his car was in my path. If I hadn’t seen him coming and slowed down he would have smacked right into me.

A reminder for me, and hopefully you, to ride defensively and be ever vigilant while you’re on your commute.

 
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11 Responses to “Commuter Story: Two days, two close calls”

  1. On-your-right, dude! says:

    Once option I’ve heard discussed as effective, but I’ve never tried, is to make a flag that hangs on the left side of the bike. The tip of the flag is painted silver and looks sharp.

    Since it sticks out beyond the rider, and looks sharps, people think twice about coming close to you and scratching their car. Plus it’s got a flag, so you can be seen better.

    It’s low-tech and easy to make. Anyone have experience with this?

  2. Drew says:

    The Invisible Man was a cyclist…

  3. Josh says:

    That’s a good reminder that you can do everything right and still get into trouble.
    This morning, I was thinking about a recent article about getting hit when trucks were coming from opposite directions on a narrow road. It became clear that they were going to pass each other at the same time that they passed me, so I dropped off the road in to the gravel shoulder. I’m glad I did because there was a pickup tailgating the truck traveling in my direction that would have certainly hit me because he didn’t move at all. He was obviously concerned with being further right because of the oncoming truck, and never saw me because he couldn’t see around the truck in front of him.
    I’m glad that you are OK. These are really good reminders to be defensive!
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Larry says:

    I have had a couple of incidents at intersections where cars were stopped; looking to their left to clear one-way traffic, they would proceed without even checking for a pedestrian. I have done the following to combat this: I took a water bottle cage, modified it for mounting to my handlebar, and zip tied it just to the left of my right grip shift. I then zip tied a little emergency air horn for boating to the bottle cage. I blast each time that I am likely to encounter traffic at an intersection. It really gets the attention of drivers at crossings. It scares the **** out of them as well.

  5. Fritz says:

    One-yer-right’s flags are called flash flags. And yeah, defensive cycling is as more important (or more so) than defensive driving.

    The bozo in the truck who swerved into you is just an idiot. When people do that to me I swerve toward them. You won’t believe how much that freaks them out, especially if I make contact *boom* and I yell like a crazy man with my eyes wide and spittle coming from my mouth. I don’t recommend this, though — this move takes finesse and timing and if you bump too hard it kind of hurts. DO NOT try to bump with your handlebar or pedals — it’s a guaranteed way to lose control.

    Speaking of inattentive drivers hitting pedestrians, did you see this story about the guy in the wheelchair who was pushed five miles by a truck?

  6. Logan says:

    lol @ Fritz.

    This last winter I had the same driver try to hit me on my 5am commute to work two days in a row. Didn’t get the plate number and couldn’t find the car when I rode around looking for it later in the day, never saw the person again. Probably for the better that I didn’t find him or his car. Wouldn’t want to damage my lock bashing his car.

  7. Jez says:

    Four out of ten cyclists’ deaths in London, England are caused by left turning lorries – I guess that’s your US equivalent of right turning lorries because we ride on different sides of the road. I’ve been knocked off by a left turning lorry myself – nothing broken, but a massive bruise to show off. Cyclists’ pressure groups here are lobbying for lorries to use wing mirrors which allow them to see around their vehicles more clearly. It seems a pretty obvious solution, but cyclists are treated as second class citizens here and it can be difficult getting our voices heard.

  8. Fritz says:

    Here in the U.S. we call Jez’s scenario a “right hook.” We educate cyclists to stay out of this suicide zone.

  9. Jez says:

    Fritz – that’s good to hear. There are efforts to educate cyclists here about the ‘suicide zone’ too (as a novice, I learned the hard way) but I guess my concern is that they don’t seem to educate lorry drivers about it. The grandly named Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association issue lots of information and guidelines to lorry drivers – that’s their job – but, alas, they don’t give any advice to their drivers about cyclists. The number of cyclists killed in London each year is on the decrease, but the number killed by lorries is going up. I totally agree with you about defensive cycling being more important than defensive driving. Happy biking.

  10. ohio biker says:

    By the way … when I first read this article,
    I was under the mistaken impression that the
    turning lane in question, was a left-turning
    lane in the middle of the road. Fortunately
    I figured out what was meant before I made a
    complete fool of myself.

    I spent several years after 9/11 riding with a
    flag sticking out to my left, mounted on a rear rack.
    There were times when I considered super-gluing some
    red or yellow paint-balls to the end of the pole.
    If anyone DID hit me, there would be some obvious
    trace of it on their vehicle, at least until they
    might wash it off. Fortunately, no vehicle
    ever hit the pole, although there were plenty that
    came close. The only reason I don’t have a flag now,
    is that I am riding a different bike, and I’ve not
    yet installed any bike rack on it.

    Drivers deliberately threatening you, seems like
    the sort of behaviour that might warrant a police
    report.

    Come to think of it, I was ‘squeezed’ by a city
    bus when I rode to work two weeks ago. The bus
    was not able to pass me completely but pulled over
    to the right anyway. We were coming to a stop
    light, so it was trivial for me to avoid being
    creamed. I was pretty ticked off at the time,
    so to make a point, I walked my bike to right
    in FRONT of the bus at the light and waited
    there to continue. My zero to 20 mph acceleration
    is quite good, so I had absolutely no trouble
    when the light turned green. I swore to myself
    that if that ever happened again, I would take
    bus-numbers or license plate numbers and make
    a report. Actually, that bus never passed me
    again in the remaining 4-5 miles of that leg
    of my ride, what with stop-lights and bus-stops.
    I’ve considered a mixed commute, part bus and
    part bike, but when I ride faster than the bus
    that I would be on … it seems pointless to
    take that bus!

    I guess that was notable, because usually I’ve
    not had any problems with buses.

    There have been times when I’ve been tempted
    to make a T-shirt with something like ….

    “Not as fast
    as you’d like

    But Faster than
    you think”

    on its back.

    Maybe its time for me to mount that bike rack,
    and resurrect my USA Flag. Hmmmm … paintballs.

  11. [...] Slow down – Assume the driver is not going to see you and slow down. Don’t cross their path until you have eye contact. This saved my ass one time. [...]

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