Thursday, July 10, 2008

Close Encounters

On my ride in this morning, I had just crossed a bridge on the Tomahawk Creek Bike/Hike Trail when I was almost taken out by another cyclist coming from the other direction. I was as far right as was safe to ride (the side of the path at that point is large rocks) when this guy on his road bike, in full cycling kit, came blowing around a blind curve to his right … all the way over on my side of the path. He slammed on his breaks, we brushed shoulders and I continued on my way.

Every July, for about three weeks during the Tour de France, I see more guys decked out in racing spandex out riding on road bikes. The guy this morning had “I’m playing Tour de France” written all over him. Idiot.

Flash back 10 minutes; I was riding south on the MUP that runs parallel to Nall this morning to get a change of scenery. Taking Nall from 103 to 127th cut 3 miles off my normal ride, but it’s just been way too routine the last few days. I had stopped and gotten off my bike at the entrance to the Sprint campus. Having pushed the crosswalk button, I waited for the crosswalk light while the cars in the right turn lane took their chances turning on the red in front of me. As the traffic light and crosswalk light both turned green I started across as a guy in a red SUV decided not to yield to the pedestrian in the crosswalk. I stopped. He stopped in front of me. I started to walk. He started to drive. I stopped. He stopped … and threw his hands up in frustration. I’m not a fan of crosswalks.

Every other cyclist and pedestrian I encountered this morning was cheerful and polite. Had it not been for all of those people, I might have regretted riding my bike today. You see, yesterday morning’s ride was fraught with peril as well. There were four thundering herds of teenage girls out on a training run more interested in chatting amongst themselves than they are of the cyclist heading their direction ringing his bell and calling out “GOOD MORNING!!!” There were two thundering herds of teenage boys out on their training runs trying to act cool and like they own and are blockading the path. I couldn’t for the life of me get the attention of the two gals jogging in place talking to each other. I saw several folk who were new to cycling and were having a lot of difficulties focusing on trying to stay upright and completely ignoring my bell and voice. Perhaps the closest call yesterday came as I was riding down the path next to Quivera where I normally reach 36 MPH. I had already had to pull off into the grass to avoid three golf carts that were coming towards me, when I saw the crew working with weed eaters. One guy had moved from the curb and was walking onto the path while facing away from me. The guy never looked around and I’d run my bell and shouted “HEADS UP!” at the top of my voice twice. Finally, as I was almost on top of him, he starts to turn to look … so, of course, the business end of the weed eater is now swinging into what little room there was left of the path. Made it past with no ill effects, although I’m not quite sure how.

Most of these near misses have had one thing in common, these folk weren’t watching where they were going, they were focused on where they were at. That is not a good idea. I’m tossing around an idea for an article on “Target Fixation” for CommuteByBike wherein I’ll expound on that a bit. It all boils down to the need to keep looking ahead while you’re riding… Now, where’s my coffee?


Mark Studnicki said...

I hear ya about the bike-path Tour de France hero's blasting around blind turns on the wrong side. Fortunately for me, after riding these things for years, I've learned where all the potential death spots are and always expect an idiot to be coming the other way.

Tom said...

Great description... write the article. I thin it will be a good read.

John said...

That stretch from 103 to 115th is my commute. Every street with a signal consists of "right-on-red"ers. I've take to walking it across 435 exit and college...just plain crazy.

As for alerting blind-spot riders...a good 'ol "cooommmminn thruuuuu" nice and loud (use screaming at the kids/dogs/etc volume). Works about every time...bells? I don't need no stinkin bells.

BTW...hurt my back again (not from the yardwork, either), so I'm out for another week or so :(

Warren T said...

Yeah, one of the reasons I rode it was to see what you were up against. Manic, dude.

Feel better, and we'll miss you at the Lenexa Midnight Bike Ride. Peter and I will eat a couple Chris Cakes for ya.