Tag Archives: Bicycle Safety

You are an idiot, Wheelie-man.

When I ride my bicycle on the road, as much as possible I try to ride from the perspective of the drivers around me. My philosophy is that if I show I am making a conscious effort to ride in a way that minimizes disruptions in their movement, they will recognize that effort and work with me as we travel the road together.

I understand that many of my cycling friends disagree. Some would make the point that you must assert your right to the road to protect yourself. Well, so far my way has worked out pretty well. In 7 years of riding on the road, I can only think of two times when I have had a “run in” with a driver. Well, make that three.

Yesterday I headed out for a quick one hour ride. My plan was to head out to the Vulcan quarry out near the Greenville/Anderson County line. I knew that it would be an interesting traffic situation because of the time of day. However, I planned my ride out so that there would be only one problematic stretch of road. The rest were either less traveled or the lanes allowed for easy coexistence between me as a cyclist and the other traffic around me.

The questionable stretch of road would be Augusta Street between Jones Avenue and Grove Road. I had been on bike lanes, in the park and in neighborhoods up to that point. Once I got on Grove Road, I knew that there wouldn’t be as much traffic.

I waited for a break in the traffic and turned right into the near lane. The road in front of me was pretty open. There were a couple of cars in the left lane that were signaling that they were turning left across the oncoming traffic. I knew that if I could get past those vehicles I would have the left lane to myself to prepare for my own left turn at the traffic light.

The entire length of this section could not be more than 100 yards. It is also slightly downhill. Knowing that I would have to “own the road” in order to make a safe transition to the left lane, I punched it. In front of me was an ambulance about 20 yards ahead. I was gaining on him and passing the cars to my left.

Looking back I see I averaged over 30 mph with a peak of 35 mph. About halfway, I came around the left-turning cars and had no near traffic behind me until I slowed to approach the traffic light which was now red. I reached the light alone. Then a single car pulled up beside me. I was congratulating myself on a successful execution of my plan.

Wheelie-manThen I heard the down shifting of a motorcycle to my right rear. I then heard a voice from that direction, “Hey, use the sidewalk.” I turned and looked to see a black leather clad, full-faced helmet wearing guy on a crotch rocket. I just glanced at him. He repeated, “Use the sidewalk. You don’t have a motor.”

Well, several things swirled in my mind… 1) should I point at my legs and say, “Here’s my motor, punk.” 2) should I just ask, “Why don’t YOU use the sidewalk?” 3) should I point out that I wasn’t supposed to be on the sidewalk? I figured none of those would help matters.

I simply replied, “Cyclist have the same rights as cars.” He quickly replied, “No, you don’t. Get on the sidewalk.” I stated again, “We have the same rights as cars.” He was a little exasperated at this, “You need to get off the road. Cars can’t get around you.”

Now, I have explained to you how we arrived at this spot. I can assure you that I was NOT holding up traffic. Even if there was a vehicle behind me, I was traveling within a reasonable range of the speed of the limit on that road. It was pretty obvious that his issue was that he was not able to travel at a speed above the limit. I can also assume that I was getting blamed for some of the bottle neck being caused by the turning traffic behind me.

I wanted to get smart again and say something like, “Dude, you need to go back to drivers ed.”  Instead, I once again repeated, “We have the same rights as cars.” He replied as the light turned green, “Well, **** you.” I ignored him and got my shoe on the pedal. He flipped his visor down and rolled forward as the car in front of him left the line.

As I was turning left, I heard his engine rev and caught out of the corner of my eye the biker popping a wheelie as he headed toward downtown. I could be wrong, but had a policeman observed between the actions of the two of us, I don’t think I would be the one ticketed. I know for certain I would not have. As for wheelie-man, I guess it would depend on the policeman. I’m guessing a wheelie in traffic could be considered reckless driving.

Even so, on my way back, I looked to see if there was a way to cut through neighborhoods to avoid this section. I didn’t find it then. However, looking at a map afterward, I can see that it would be possible to take a turn earlier on McDaniel and avoid that section. I’ll be doing that on my next ride out that way.

Sure, I was within my rights. However, just because you are right doesn’t mean it is the smart thing to do. There are always idiots like Mr. Wheelie-man. I don’t mind finding a secondary route to avoid them.

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!

Newspaper and updates

My letter to the editor appeared today in The Greenville News. If you read it, you may recognize it as an earlier entry on lowcadence.com. You can check it out at the following link: Greenville needs to be more bike-friendly.

More importantly, I want to give you an update on my friend Mike. He had an MRI last week and the final report was that the tumor was slightly smaller. This is good news in that it isn’t bad, however the doctor would have liked to have seen it shrink more. There is also no bleeds from the tumor and it does not appear to be growing.

There are complications. Mike is having trouble swallowing. He hasn’t been talking, but does nod or smile to conversation. Of more concern is that he has started having seizures earlier this week. They had to take him to Duke Hospital where he had two more seizures in the ER and then two more later in the day. They were pretty bad.

He is currently under sedation and is being feed through a tube. The doctors seem to be stumped why the seizure medicine is not working. This prayer request comes from Mike’s church family, “Please pray that the seizures would be controlled, if they do not get better, they may have to induce a coma like state again. Last time they did that it took months for Mike to come out of it. Please pray for strength and God’s sustaining grace for all.”

Amen.

My Ride for Mike 2007 seems so insignificant right now. Still, I am glad that I can be an encouragement in this very small way. The donations have reached $1090. Things have slowed down somewhat, but I hope to find other ways to increase the amount. Would you consider giving?

Car dodging

Not much to report on now days. Between the weather and sick children, I haven’t been able to do much riding. Monday night I went out and only managed one lap before rain started coming down and on top of that, I just didn’t seem to have it in my legs.

The weather also kept me off the bike until last night. I went out to Cleveland Park and was supposed to meet a friend for a ride. I think our wires got crossed because he wasn’t there – at least I didn’t see him there. I went ahead and started lapping the route. I actually felt pretty good. I was averaging 19.7 mph after riding for nearly 40 minutes.

About that time, it started to rain pretty well. It was just cool enough for me to decide not to end up getting soaked. So, I started to pull into the parking lot. I signaled to the car coming out the lot that I would going to turn left. However, the guy decides to just go ahead and start pulling out – as though he was trying to time my passing him as I went straight. I had to put on the brakes and because of the water, my rear tire fishtailed. Thankfully, he stopped and I was able to get around him.

This is the second time in three rides where people driving cars have ignored my hand signals. I make sure I use the signals that you learn in drivers ed and you have to know in order to pass your driver’s test, but man, you start to wonder how many people actually remember them!

Thankfully, I have learned to be alert and defensive. I simply ride as though they don’t see me and anticipate those kind of bone-head moves that I saw last night.

Sharing takes two

From today’s Greenville News letters to the editor:

Cyclists must obey the rules of the road

I would like to comment on the increasing number of bicycle riders in the Greenville area. I think it’s great that this sport is being taken up by so many people. However, there are problems with some of the cyclists. On numerous occasions I have encountered cyclists hindering traffic. From what I have observed, not all bicyclists are careful and some are very rude. I’ve had cyclists show me “obscene hand gestures” when I tried to pass them.

The latest incident in my neighborhood prompted me to write. I live in the Pebble Creek area and the roads in my area are narrow and well traveled. Especially in the mornings. Two days ago around 6:30 a.m. I was on the road and barely noticed a cyclist was on the road. This person was not wearing any reflective gear and also the bicycle did not have any lights. He was coming around a curve and causing issues for all drivers.

What bothers me is that if something should happen to one of these cyclists the driver(s) will be blamed. However, the roads in most areas in Greenville are not intended for cyclists. I grew up in Europe where parts of the sidewalk are dedicated for cyclists. This is not the case in South Carolina.

If cyclists are going to be on the road, they have to obey the rules of traffic. Also, it would be nice of them not to get mad at drivers and make obscene gestures.

Sezi F. Demirkilic, Greenville

I am afraid he has a point. There are two things in play here. 1. There is some ignorance on the part of many new riders who have started riding because of the growing popularity of cycling in Greenville. 2. There are some attitudes among riders who have been cycling for years. I believe there is more of number 1 than 2.

It should be pointed out though that there are many many riders out there who obey the traffic laws and do everything they can to fit in with other traffic on the road. Besides, while we’re pointing fingers… how many riders who have been obeying the law, are wearing reflective clothing, and have lighting on their bikes can tell stories of obscene gestures, horns right as the car is about to pass, various discouraging phrases being yelled at them, or/and objects thrown at them.

Helmets are dangerous?

I found this story from across the pond to be interesting. This researcher put a sensor on his bike that would measure the distance drivers would give him based on whether he had his helmet on and several other factors.

Cyclists wearing helmets ‘more likely to be hit’
Telegraph, UK

I’m still wearing my helmet. I have “used” my helmet before and I would hate to think what would have happened to me without it. Ride safe!

Today I should be getting my bottom bracket replaced. Hopefully, I’ll get it back today so I can ride this evening. Sometimes it takes a while for Sunshine to get to the project because of all the work coming in. I should definitely have it before this weekend when I am planning on a longer ride. More on that later…

When not to ride

Somehow, I don’t think this was a recreational rider. Why would you be riding your bike at 4:30 in the morning unless it was your primary means of transportation? Not wise.

Bicyclist hit by car as he waits for an ambulance
The Greenville News

I won’t be able to ride today — or perhaps a couple of days. Ever since I got my bike, I have had issues with the bottom bracket. There is a lot of play when you put pressure on the pedals. Thankfully, it is still under warranty and I am supposed to take it by Sunshine Cycle Shop and they are going to replace it.

Here is the next item I’ve collected to help me in my training. It is a Sports Instruments ECG Pro 7. I’ll admit that I haven’t learned how to take full advantage of the computer.

“Based on your Threshold Heart Rate or your Maximum Heart Rate the Pro 7 automatically calculates 5-training levels based on contemporary training philosophy. The Pro 7 then automatically tracks the amount and percentage of time you spend in each training zone during your workout.” Now, what that means I’m not sure. I primarily focus on the time spent in the fifth zone, the average heart rate, and the workload.

There are lots of ways to use the computer that I have not even tried yet. However, just being able to see my heartrate during a ride has been a help. It causes me to focus on recovery between periods of intense output. I’m learning to control my system through breathing and altering my output.

A sober reminder

The following is a link to a story about the husband of the cousin of a cousin of mine. It is a reminder that riding a bicycle requires constant vigilance. I’ve had my share of horns and crass calls from drivers and passengers of passing cars. Thankfully, I have never had even a near miss. Too bad the same could not be the case for Todd.A sober reminder that the fun of riding must be tempered with caution.

Cyclist dies in collision with off-duty city bus