Keep your eyes open – your life depends on it

It is true that I nearly killed myself last Saturday.  Well, not really, but I felt like I was going to die.  Most likely you aren’t going to die from riding your bike.  However, it pays to keep your eyes open or you might die while riding your bike.  I was reminded of this Monday evening.

The desire to ride certainly wasn’t there, but I knew if I didn’t get back on the bike it would take even longer to recover from Saturday’s ride.  My muscles were sore and stiff.  They needed some spinning to help get them limbered up.

It worked.  I went out for a very easy spin that ended up leading me to Cleveland Park.  I finished up an easy 20 mile ride just doing laps before heading home.  By the time I was finishing I was in a much better frame of mind and my body was actually feeling pretty good.

It was on the final lap of the park that I had an experience that left me shaking.  Now, I don’t think it typically would have, but I have had so much trouble on the bike this season that I had an interesting reaction.  I started shaking and had trouble catching my breathe.

The scene of my near miss

The scene of my near miss

I was coming from left to right on Cleveland Park Drive.  As I approached this traffic configuration, I had a car coming toward me as well as a car coming toward the intersection on Richland Way (the road running from top to bottom).  Actually, Cleveland Park Drive ends here and turns into Richland Way.

I was in the lane with the right-of-way.  The car coming on Richand Way has a yield sign at the intersection.  You can see the dotted white line on the road indicates this.

The car caught my attention for two reasons.  One – it looked like my in-law’s car, and two – he was coming with a bit of speed and wasn’t slowing very quickly.  That really got my attention!

My brain did the calculations and it was clear that we would probably reach the intersection at the same time.  I assessed what was happening around me – a car coming toward me in the opposite lane, a car behind me, and this car.  I then put all my focus on this vehicle.

First, I tried to get eye contact with the driver.  He wasn’t looking at me.  That was not a good sign.  Second, I checked to see what type of route I could take by making sure where I could go to avoid any other vehicles while avoiding him.  Last, I bored in on him with my focus.

Sure enough we reached the intersection at the same time.  I could tell what he was doing.  He had focused on the car in front of me and was timing his arrival at the yield sign so that he could step on it once the car passed.  He wasn’t seeing me at all.

I started an evasive maneuver to my left as he encroached on my lane.  All this time I was looking him in the eye – or trying to catch his eye.  Then he saw me and I saw the look of surprise in his eyes.  He put on brakes and turned his wheel to the right.  Thankfully, this kept me from having to swerve into the oncoming lane.  I was able to adjust my line to avoid him without crossing the yellow line.

It all happened in a matter of seconds.  I kept going and he came up beside me.  He rolled his window down and apologized.  I just waved my hand and let him go.  It was right after that I started shaking.  I was definitely time to go home.

Bottom line is he would not have hit me.  I was more than prepared to avoid him.  However, what if I had not been paying attention?  What if I had assumed that the guy driving the car saw me and would stop at the yield sign?  There is no doubt in my mind he would have hit me.

We as cyclists must be always aware of what is happening around us.  We can never assume we know what a driver is going to do.  We can never trust in the laws of the road to keep us safe.  All it takes is that one person not obeying the laws to cause us injury.

Now, having said all that… I have ridden thousands and thousands of miles.  This is the second time in all of those miles that I have had this happen.  There have been many more near misses in a car.  So, before you tell me to get off the bike because it is too dangerous, consider that it is dangerous any time we go on the road – bike, car, motorcycle, or what have you.

Be safe out there! Be aware!