Splat! – Well, Almost

Just picture this, a 300lb guy on a bike going about 30 mph down a very steep hill through an intersection, when a car in the right hand lane makes a right hand turn right in front of the 300lb guy on a bike going 30 mph…

Today was an amazing weather day for riding.  The high today was somewhere around 95 degrees, there was a cool breeze in the air, and many clouds for shade.  I was running too late this morning to make the entire trip to work in time, so I had to hop on the bus at Union Hills and 51st Av (about 5 miles from the house).  After work, I was looking forward to my trip home.  I left work around 5pm and headed for Union Hills.  Everything was going very well; my speed was great, I’d only caught a few red lights, the breeze was perfect.  I was really enjoying the ride.  When I got to the hill at Cave Creek Rd, I was feeling great.  I climbed that hill with conviction!  I wasn’t panting, and slowing down to 6 mph like I have in the past.  No, I stood up on my bike and powered through at 14-15 mph. Then, as I crested the hill, I saw The Light.  No, not The Light, the 12th St stop light… I hate the 12th St light. 

Its at the bottom of the hill, and it stays green until a car comes to the cross street (12th St).  Then you can see the cross walk sign begin to flash with the Don’t Walk sign (which means the light is about to change).  The cross walk stops flashing and turns solid when my light turns yellow.  Then I get the red light, 12th St gets the green and I have to stop.  Its always green when I’m at the top of the hill – Always.  And there are never any cars waiting on 12th St when I’m at the top of the hill.  No, they creep up just as I reach terminal velocity traveling down that hill.  So I have learned to adapt – when I get to the top of the hill, I just stop.  That’s right, I stop. I wait at the top of the hill for the green light to turn red.  It happens everyday.  Then when the light turns green, I know I have enough time to power down the hill without worrying that the light will turn on me at the last minute causing me to screech my bike to a halt.  You know that objects in motion tend to stay in motion – and force equals mass times acceleration (F = ma), right?  There is a lot of force behind this big guy headed down that hill at 30 mph!  So, I learned to avoid having to stop by a preemptive stop at the top of the hill. 

But this day, I was feeling great and didn’t want to stop for too long – I did stop at the top, but instead of waiting for the light to turn green, I started down the hill while it was still red.  I knew the light would turn green before I reached the intersection, and it did.  What I didn’t account for is traffic. You see, when I start down the hill after the light turns green, the traffic that builds at the light moves through the intersection.  On this trip, I got there while the traffic was still backed up.  I saw the midsized four door white vechile with its right turn signal on.  I had already read on Phoenix’s safety on the road website that most bicycle / auto accidents happen this way.  Why would the car check his mirror before making a right hand turn in the far right hand lane?  BECAUSE THERE IS A BIKE LANE!!! 

I thought, I could attempt a stop… hmmm, F = ma, that’s Force = 300lbs * (0 to 30 in one downhill trip)… OK, stopping isn’t going to happen.  I thought, I could hit the car and safely float over the top of the car landing on the other side using the drop and roll method… hmmm, 300lbs and float… OK, that’s a bad option.  What if I could get the driver to see me before she was in front of me?  The drive would stop and I would safely pass through the intersection – Bingo! So I started ringing my bike bell… ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding – my left hand pointer finger was ringing that bell as fast as I could ring it!  Stop laughing… 

Out of options – I jeer to the right, barely missing the bumper of the car, I jeer to the left because of the whole F=ma thing (if I stay pointing to the right while my force has me going straight, I’m going to tumble right over the hood of this car), bearly clear the car with my rear tire (and my rear for that matter).  I’m not sure what’s going through the head of this woman driver at this point, but I’m guessing that seeing a very blurry large guy scrap by in front of her at 30 mph was quite shocking.  At this point in the incident, there’s nothing left to do but let the events unfold… 

I speed past the car, through the intersection and start up the next hill praying, thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus…    

5 Replies to “Splat! – Well, Almost”

  1. Whoa, Dale! Take it easy out there!

    We who ride bicycles have to watch out for ourselves — it’s the rare motorist who keeps us in mind. In your quest to conserve the kinetic energy you have at the bottom of a hill you have assigned a responsibility to motorists that they are not going to accept.

    Here in my part of Virginia we have a wonderful 45 mile long biking/jogging/skating/horse trail enjoyed by thousands of people each week. Last summer, two bicyclists died in collisions with automobiles at places where the trail crosses little used two lane country roads. The signage makes it clear that that bikers are supposed to stop, but you know how it is — you get a head of steam and hate to let your breaks use up all that energy. Result: two dead.

    I had been sort of cheating on those very intersections earlier in the summer. After that week in which two fellow bikers died I decided that stopping means stopping. After all, exercise is a big part of the reason I’m one two wheels, so why not get a little more exercise starting from a stop. And dying is not part of the reason I’m on two wheels.

    I understand that your situation has been a bit different — timing yourself and the traffic signal so that you have the green light. But you still have to have some concern for the occassional driver on the cross street who is willing to run a red light because there are no cars visible. And don’t forget that firetrucks and ambulances can completely undo the benefit of a traffic signal. Please be careful.

    Gee, Dale, if something happened to you, who would write this blog?

  2. In the event of my death, I hereby bequeath my blog space to David Sackrider – so long as he agrees to write about my weight loss, cycling, and bus rides – No politics or religion :)

    I know, I know, you are right about drivers…I have never checked the bike lane before making a right hand turn before. I will now, but I don’t expect others will be.

    I will continue to time my travel down Union Hill, but I will be more cautious when on two wheels. :)

  3. Wow, I am sure glad you made it, apart from losing my best friend I would have hated to have wasted the money on those tickets, or worse used them to attend your funeral.

  4. I think your the bomb bro, and guys, he’s safe, if he was gonna die, God would have taken him up the first time he fell asleep at the wheel of his volkswagon!!! But he’s here, and it makes me smile.

    Love ya Big Brother,

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