Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Interpreting Thereabouts: Bike Safety

Politics and law are not my forte, but when a motorized vehicle strikes a cyclist how does punishment not ensue?

Oh, the morning had started so well. Donuts, beachside breakfast, and a soft pedal to spin out the legs.

However, this morning, while pedaling with roommate Ryan, I was hit by a car... I can report that it was not joyous. 

Recently, the cycling industry has been promoting increased safety. Cars are supposed to provide a minimum of three feet when passing cyclists. While all of this is good and well, it sure hits closer to home now (no pun intended).

During the accident, I was traveling along a four-lane road that was headed towards San Luis Obispo, California. Two lanes were traveling in my direction. Beside the two lanes was an adequate bike lane, which Ryan and I occupied in a single-file manner.

Then, everything began to happen rapidly and instinct took over. Quickly, a minivan pulled alongside me without completely passing. Slowly but surely, the minivan began veering right. It now occupied a portion of the bike lane. "HEY, HEY, HEY," was all I could think to yell, but that did little to slow the vehicle, as it was now attempting a right-hand turn into a driveway and through me.

It was like the driver never saw me...

In the word of Alex Howes, as quoted in a recent VeloNews article, it pays "to be a very capable bike driver."

As the car began its right-hand turn, I was pinched and began leaning on the car. For the first time in my 10ish years as a cyclist, I made contact with a car when my left shoulder, elbow, forearm, and hand touched. All the while, I kept on yelling and leaning, yelling and leaning. Eventually, the driver completed her right-hand turn and I rode away from the incident. Fortunately, I never hit the ground and I was not injured.

While my mates won't call me a fearless descender, I like to think that I can handle my bike. Mom, thank you for driving me to all of those early-morning criteriums. Jozef, thank you for teaching me how to tap, lean, and be comfortable on narrow Belgian roads, while riding in a peloton of 100+ antsy cyclists.

This isn't my first rodeo, folks. Fight, don't freeze, and ride it out. 

After having a swell discussion with the driver, Elizabeth, a witness suggested that I call the police and file a report.

For those that know me well, I tend to have a mellow personality. I do not blow things out of proportion and I keep my cool.

Keeping this in mind, I calmly spoke with local law enforcement about the incident. However, according to the officer, because I had no serious injuries and financial damage did not exist, he could not intervene in the situation. If we wished, the driver and I could exchange information.

What about that law that requires drivers to pass cyclists by a minimum of three feet? Must injury and financial damage occur for a report to be filed, or for punishment to take place? More than anything, I am concerned about the next cyclist that this woman is going to pass.

After reflecting on the incident, I am grateful to not be injured. I look forward to playing my part in attaining increased bicycle safety measures and you should too. Unfortunately, cyclists are still second class, but I know the day will come when justice is fair.  

As a side note, how does this relate to Thereabouts? Well, that sure was one hell of an adventure and Elizabeth, oh Elizabeth, she was quite the character. Haha.

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