On witnessing a collision

Tonight I witnessed what looked like a pretty bad collision between a cyclist and a car. Thankfully, the cyclist was OK.

I was riding down a pretty busy street in a residential neighborhood here in Boston, and the car traffic was slow-to-stopped for several hundred feet before an intersection. It’s an intersection that cars from the oncoming lane frequently make left-hand turns onto.

As I was riding, a young woman sped by me on her bike, very close, and I muttered under my breath “thanks for the heads up.” I thought to myself that she was riding awfully fast, given that there was not a lot of room between the stopped cars on one side and the parked cars on the other.

As I was completing this thought, she passed through the intersection and a car making the turn hit her full on, sending her flying off her bike.

Cars & pedestrians immediately stopped to help her and see if she was hurt, and she stood up right away and said she was OK. The driver of the car got out and was extremely apologetic and said he didn’t see her coming.  She was understandably angry and said he should have been more careful, that there are a lot of bikes in the area.

I’m not sure he could have been more careful — maybe he took the turn too quickly, but maybe he didn’t — I couldn’t see how fast he was going.

But he was absolutely right that he didn’t see her coming — there was no way that a car in the oncoming lane making that left turn could have seen her behind the other cars stopped in our lane. Had she been going more slowly, the collision probably could have been avoided. Had she stopped at the intersection, even for a moment, she definitely wouldn’t have gotten hit.

Had I been going a little bit faster, or left 5 seconds earlier, it could easily have been me.

For me, the moral of the story is a boring one: Ride defensively. Expect cars to make sudden, and often stupid, moves. Don’t zip through stopped traffic unless you want to get doored or hit a pedestrian. And don’t barrel through intersections when there’s even a slight chance that a car will be making a turn! The experience of seeing this has certainly made me more likely to ride with traffic, as opposed to riding past it, and to stop at intersections and red lights.

There are plenty of situations in which riding fast is fine and even necessary — but zipping through stopped traffic is a recipe for disaster. This young woman is very lucky she wasn’t seriously hurt, or killed. And yes, she was wearing a helmet.

Be careful out there!

Published in: |on July 27th, 2010 |Comments Off on On witnessing a collision

Pet peeve: Inaccurate weather reports. Plus: Sweet old school Schwinn

How could one complain about a beautiful sunny Summer day in Boston? Well, I can, but only when the weather report calls for rain and thus causes me not to bike to work.

On the plus side, I saw this sweet Schwinn 3-speed on my walk to the T. Anyone know anything about this model?

sweet Schwinn 3 speed

Another shot of the sweeet Schwinn 3 speed

Published in: |on June 23rd, 2010 |Comments Off on Pet peeve: Inaccurate weather reports. Plus: Sweet old school Schwinn

Did you know that bike commuters have 9 different words for “asshole?”

(photo by Salim Vijri, via flickr)

My language has become, shall we say, “saltier,” since I took up commuting by bike. I like to think that I am expanding my literary horizons by thinking up new things to call the lesser attentive users of Our Fair Streets.

How have I gone for years referring to those lost souls who ride the wrong way down one way streets (usually helmetless and frequently with headphones or earbuds) as mere “assholes,” “morons,” “douchebags,” and the like.

Well, Hallelujah, I have finally learned the term “bike salmon,” thanks to another erstwhile denizen of these here fair Boston Biker parts, 100 psi. A further procrastinatory search led me to a hi-larious post by the notorious Bike Snob, which may have caused to me Literally* LOL**.


*I weep bitter tears anytime the word “literally” is misused, as it is so often today.

** I have many times chortled, guffawed, spit milk out my nose in laughter, and even, dare I say, laughed out loud, but I have never and shall never LOL. Nor ROTFLMAO.  I say F that S.

UPDATE 6/9/10: Dumbfuckery exemplified!

This morning I had occasion to be driving (which i do occasionally!) along a busy two-way road here in Boston, and I encountered a unique variation on the bike salmon — a helmetless rider riding against traffic in the middle of the road, i.e. between the two directions of traffic. So I guess you could say he was both riding with AND against traffic.  I would call this not a bike salmon but a Bike Schrodinger’s Cat.

I had the temerity to beep my horn (note: “beep,” not “lean on in an assholish manner) to alert him to the questionable wisdom of his choice of travel path. He then did something amazing — pretended to swerve into the path of my car with a quick swerve. Wow.

Published in: |on June 8th, 2010 |Comments Off on Did you know that bike commuters have 9 different words for “asshole?”

Downed trees along Charles River Bike Path`

Whew! That wind & rain yesterday did a number on the trees along the Charles River Bike Path. Lots of downed branches and some very large trees as well. Kudos to the crews who were already out there working on the cleanup before 9 AM this morning (Are they part of Dept of Conservation & Recreation?). Didn’t see a single branch on any of the path itself.

Published in: |on June 7th, 2010 |1 Comment »

Rant #1: Cyclists who don’t give a heads up when passing

I originally felt I should reserve my first rant for evil drivers who engage in various forms of dumbfuckery, but having sat with it for several days, I am forced to inveigh against discourteousness by my fellow two-wheelers.

Being the relative slowpoke that I am, I am at times passed by other cyclists faster than myself.

In my informal estimation, I’d venture that fewer than 15%, and probably fewer than 10%, of said passing cyclists give me any form of heads-up or warning that they intend to pass.

No “on your left.” No “passing.” No delightful “ting a ling” of a bicycle bell, just full on throttle past me. Now, I try to stay to the right of the path, and am not weaving back and forth, but I still feel that common cyclist courtesy warrants a warning.

How do others feel? Do other cyclists owe you a heads-up in all instances of passing? Only when the cyclist you’re passing is not hewing closely to the right of the path? Only when the slower cyclist seems not to be paying attention? When?

And don’t get me started on clueless runners who insist on wearing headphones turned up so loud they don’t hear ME when I warn them that I’m passing — that’s Rant #2, for another day.

Published in: |on June 4th, 2010 |2 Comments »

Rants and raves from a testy bike commuter

Howdy. I’m Geeky Bike Dad, a mostly mild-mannered Boston bicycle commuter and father of two future cyclists.  I bike to work on most days, except when it’s precipitating in any form or below 25 degrees. My commute is about 6 miles each way, mostly on bike paths (i.e. the Charles River).

I have a love-hate relationship with bicycle commuting. I love the exercise, and the smug sense of self-righteous satisfaction I get from zipping past carbon-spewing cars, but I hate riding in traffic, hate idiotic motorists, get quickly impatient with clueless pedestrians, and can’t abide fellow cyclists who act stupidly. (In my book, you get an automatic Stupid mark if you ride helmet-less.  Extra Stupid points for wearing headphones and riding the wrong way on one way streets.)

I am neither the decked-out bike racer with all the fanciest gear nor the nonchalant irony-laden fixie-riding hipster, but rather am a strictly utilitarian cyclist with a 10 year old hybrid bike and a modicum of gear.  I thus no doubt earn the disdain of both ends of the cycling community spectrum.  I care not a whit!

With Bike Week just having concluded, I am more committed to my bike commute than… well, than I was a week ago.  But I need an opportunity to vent, and share the (way too) occasional moments of grace and transcendence that occur on my rides.  Posts will be very occasional and mostly uninformed.

Published in: |on May 25th, 2010 |6 Comments »