Monday, May 21, 2007

Bike to Work Day - Close Calls

Bike to Work Day was May 18, followed by our regular Saturday ride on May 19. In the span of those two days, I was reminded once again of my need to be a vigilant and defensive cyclist if I want to keep riding into the years ahead.

My morning ride to work was uneventful. It was the afternoon's return that shook me up. I was riding from the Lynnwood Convention Center to my home near Thrasher's Corner east along 196th in Lynnwood. I was coming fast downhill into an intersection and saw the light ahead was green. I was prepared to cruise through the light, passing on the inside right of a small sedan that also was entering the intersection.

What I completely missed, IF it was there to be seen, was the driver's right turn signal. Just as I came up on her right rear side of her car, she began turning right. I saw that I was going to hit and began shouting--actually it was more of an extended yell--something like, "AHHhHHHhhhhhh Nooooooooooooooo!" I think that scared her far more than the slight bounce she heard as I ricocheted off the corner of her car and turned with her around the corner.

Fortunately--very fortunately--I stayed upright and never hit the pavement. She pulled alongside of me, realizing that I had hit her car, to confirm I was alright. My first word to her were, "Did you have your turn signal on? Did you??" She said she did and I apologized for not seeing it. I assured her I was fine and she drove on, probably as shaken up as me. Mark that one "Close Call #1."

I prayed a prayer of thanks for the angels around me and gingerly passed throught the intersection to head home.

Saturday's Ride:

I'll elaborate more about Saturday's ride in the next blog, but I want to relate two more "close call" incidents that built on my experience Friday.

We were heading south along Bellevue Way near the Mercer Slough and had just crossed the street to ride the sidewalk along the Park and Ride to reach the I-90 trail. At one of the exits to the Park and Ride, a SUV pulled up and looked south at the oncoming traffic. He has in our line as we rode south down the sidewalk. As I rode in front of him to cross the Park and Ride exit, I noticed he was only looking south and hadn't turned his head in our direction--in front and to the north of him. "He's going to pull out and hit us," I thought.

By now, I was right in front of his rig when he moved his head and appeared to begin his turn. Just then he saw me in front of him and realized--I hope--how close he was to crunching a biker under his wheels. I glowered at him as we rode past. Mark that one "Close Call #2."

Later in the morning, our group was at Harbor Island between SoDo and Alki attempting to cross Sw Spokane Street to get on the bike path on the south side of the street. We had pressed the crosswalk button and patiently waited for the street light to turn red and our crosswalk light to give us permission to cross safely. A good full second or two after the street light was red and we had the crossing light in our favor, an 18-wheeler came barrelling down the bridge and flew through the red light. I recall Jim N. saying, "Looks like this guy's not gonna stop." No way could he. And if we had already started across that street, we would have been toast. Or at the very least, our ride would have been rerouted to Harborview ER. Mark that one "Close Call #3."

Suffice it to say, these three instances reminded me how dangerous cycling can be if I'm not completely alert and mindful of where I am and what's around me. As much as I desire to trust drivers to be intelligent, aware, and respectful of my rights, I still realize that I can't. Not yet. And it reminds me, as a driver, to keep my eyes open and "share the road." I hope you'll do the same. I've got a lot of riding still left to do!

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