Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hit by a car

I got hit by a car last Friday on the way to work, just a couple blocks south of the house.

I was riding my scooter and not my bicycle, but I intend to make a few bicycle related comments by the time I’m done.

First of all, I’m okay. Couple scratches, scrapes and bruises. I’m pretty stiff and sore, but uninjured.

Secondly, this was my first accident. As a rider of a scooter and a rider of a bicycle, I considered it largely inevitable that I would eventually encounter traffic, that I would at some point gain corporal knowledge of it. And with that in mind, assuming that it is something that had to have happened at some point, it really happened the best of all possible ways it could have.

I was going down a little two-lane residential street, and a big Mitsubishi SUV started pulling out of an alley to my right. (I can’t be positive about this, but I am of the impression that she was on her cell phone. I seem to recall her hand up by her face, and seeing her mouth moving.) She appeared to slow down. I really thought we had made eye contact, and that sh was stopping so I could pass. So I thought she had seen me and I kept going, but then she started inching out. She wasn’t inching out in an aggressive kind of way, but more in a manner that said she anxious to get out on the road once I had passed. Nonetheless, I noted that she was inching out, and I moved over to the middle of the road and kept an eye on her. And then she lurched forward.

I honked at her and swerved farther away, but couldn’t swerve too far out because a big Toyota Tacoma was parked on the other side of the road. At this point, I had almost cleared the length of the front of her SUV, gotten all the way passed and around her. But then she swerved, and unfortunately, she swerved right into me. Her passenger side headlight connected with the paneling over my rear wheel and engine. That panel flew off, and the rear of my scooter bounced off the car, knocking me over onto my right side and flinging me across the road.

The scooter continued to slide across the road until it slid underneath the Tacoma. (Good clearance on that truck.) The front of the scooter stopped against the rear drivers side wheel, shattering the front of the scoot and cracking the column almost clear around. I rolled off before that impact, skidded out into the street, away from both the Mitsubishi and the Tacoma.

The point at which I might have been seriously injured, and my most lucid memory of the whole event, is the moment when my head bounced off the ground. There are a couple good dents in my helmet. There are so my cyclists who don’t wear helmets, and even more scooterists who don’t wear helmets. Those dents and punctures on my helmet would be in my head right now had I not been wearing mine.

Please, everybody, please wear your helmet.

Total damages to my person:
  • Scrape on my right ankle, sprained right foot.
  • Small road rash across my left thigh.
  • Small hole in my right pants leg, and tearing in my jacket along the right arm and on the back of my right shoulder.
  • Cracked camera lens on my cell phone. (I think it rubbed on the ground, making the hole in my pants leg.)
The damages to myself were pretty superficial. The collision took place at very low speeds. All in all, I’m very lucky. The scooter will likely total out, which is fine; I’ll just get a new one.

I got on my bicycle and rode to work the next day, which is something that was very important to me; I wanted badly to be able to get back out on the road right away.

In the time that has elapsed since the accident, I’ve come to believe that it wouldn’t have happened if I was on my bike. There is of course the fact that had I been on my bike, I would have left 20 minutes earlier, and there is the fact that I can stop quicker on my bike, and so would have avoided her in that regard. But I’m also toying with the idea that cyclists (at least in Denver) are more visible than scooterists.

Well, maybe not more visible. In fact, they are probably just as equally visible, but cycles are arguably more appropriately visible.

During the six months that I have been biking in Denver, and during the three months that I have been scooting in Denver, I have had more conflicts with traffic on my scooter than on my bike.

Despite many cyclists’ objections, most drivers view bicycles as inferior vehicles, and to varying degrees they treat them accordingly. They’ll leave the shoulder for them, give them passing room, and otherwise tolerate them for the few moments that they interact with them, or for as long as it takes to pass them.

I believe that many drivers also view scooters as inferior vehicles, and mentally ascribe to them the qualities — speed and size — of a bicycle. I have had cars box me out of lanes, pass me in inappropriate lanes (crossing the double yellow line into the other lane), and otherwise resent my presence on the roar, all while on the scooter. Many drivers, if they see two wheels and it doesn’t look like a Harley or a Japanese crotch rocket, then it is a bicycle. And that is what, perhaps, happened.

I don’t know. It’s a half baked notion. But I am of the impression that motorists react more appropriately to seeing a bicycle than a scooter. I’ll keep thinking on it.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bike Gear

There are a few things that I never go out on a ride without.

  1. My riding jacket.

    I practically always wear it on my bicycle, and I usually wear it on my scooter. It is uber-reflective. I consider it to be the opposite of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. I think it actually has wattage. It also has two side pockets, a breast pocket, a long pouch along the back, and lots of pouches on the interior; it can hold a ton. The sleeves a zipper all the way off if it is really warm, or just partially, to create more air flow in case it’s just a little warm. It is an awesome jacket.

  2. My helmet. Duh.

  3. A bandanna.

    I usually wear it pirate style under my helmet, which has excellent ventilation, and which would otherwise leave me with irreparable helmet hair. It can also serve as a thin but precious layer between my ears the cold wind in the mornings and evenings. Besides that, there are infinite uses for a bandanna; it is, along with a good pocket knife and an ink pen, a thing that I consider it mandatory for me to have on my person at all times. This morning, I was far enough ahead of schedule that I stopped to pick up some fast food breakfast, which I was able to strap under my saddle using my bandanna.

  4. Safety glasses.

    They cost about eight dollars at Ace Hardware, and I wear them every time I ride. It is against the law to ride your scooter or motorcycle without eye protection in Colorado, and the same concerns apply directly to cyclists. A bug or rock in the eye sucks at any speed, and can be deadly at 12 - 18 MPH when in traffic and trying to keep your balance.

That’s it on my mandatory apparel. Sometimes I bring gloves. This morning I rode with my wool gloves even though it was over 50 degrees and not really cold, because my hands have been so dry and cracked lately. I blame it on the wind exposure on my rides.

The other thing I always carry on my rides is what I think of as my bike bag: an old bum bag (fanny pack) filled with wrenches, a patch kit, a spare tube, a small air pump, and my “clean up” kit which consists of deodorant, antiperspirant, talcum powder, and baby wipes.

That’s about it. I do have precautions I take, and things I consider necessary that a lot of people do without, but I don’t consider any of it superfluous or ridiculous. I don’t wear spandex or bike shorts or tights, and I don’t have any of those neon colored bike jerseys. I don’t have special socks or shoes. My bike process is very reasonable.

I'm the dude in khakis and a t-shirt, enjoying the hell out of his 40 mile ride.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Worksman bicycles: Bikes That Work

There was a story on NPR this morning about Worksman, the oldest bicycle manufacterer in the nation. I didn't know about them before today, and now I seriously want one.


I love hearing about this kind of stuff, and I get really excited about Bikes That Work.  It's not common to see people moving oversized cargo on bikes here in Denver, but in San Diego, it seemed that one for every two surfers had a bicycle with a side loader for their boards.


I use a trailer on my bicycle for my grocery shopping, and I carry my dog around town in the Lady's tricycle. This week, the Lady came home from a jog through the neighborhood with a trunk full of firewood that somebody had left curbside.  I used the tricycle to carry the logs across the yard and into the back to the woodpile.


Bikes aren't toys, folks. And if you need proof, check out some of the heavy duty work some people do on their xtracycles.

Wisdom from Old Schoolers

There was this free fitness magazine published in San Diego that I would pick up at the smoothie shop or the sandwich shop when I saw it or when I thought about it.  It usually focussed on 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, etc, but every once in a while there were some articles and interviews about and with cyclists.

An article in one issue talked about an old timer who used to race around New York and Nre Jersey.  I don't remember his name, but he was full of adages like, "Once you learn to rest while going up hill, then you'll be an effective cyclist." (Meditating on that quote lead me to change my jogging style.)

He also refused to wear synthetic materials and modern racing jerseys. In perfect contrast to fanatics today who are adamant about not letting cotton or wool be the layer against their skin, this guy said he always wore two long-sleeved cotton t-shirts. Once he sweat through the first one, then it would sweat through the second one. The layer against his skin was dry, and the outter layer kept him cool. He recommended this setup for both warm and cool weather.

I was thinking about him last night as I was riding home in mid-20 degree weather. I had been seeing people during the day walking around in huge winter coats, gloves and hats, and here I was, comfy and cozy in two long-sleeved t-shirts and a windbreaker.

This morning, I decided to test my fortitude and venture out with only one t-shirt and only one pair of socks.  I made it, but sure wasn't comfortable at the other end of my 8 mile commute.

The main point here, though, is that you don't need a ton of fancy equipment or clothing in order to ride, or even to ride through the winter. Just layer up a couple of cotton t-shirts, and get out there on the road.

Friday, November 14, 2008

First snow of the season.

First snow commute! It was like riding in a snow globe.

I gunned for ever puddle, because that's exactly why I put those fenders on.

I was impressed by how not-cold I was. I'm encouraged by this, and think that I might survive the winter commutes. The temperature was in the high 20s, and I was fairly warm in two long sleeve t-shirts, a windbreaker, and a balaclava.

It also makes me marvel at this machine, how perfect a means of transportation it is. The engine, me, has a pretty efficient cooling system. If I get cold, I pedal harder. If I get hot, I ease up.

And so I stay pretty comfortable, even in the wind and snow.

On the way home though, I passed a ninja in City Park. No lights, no helmet, no hands. Sitting straight up and wishing for disaster.

Folks, it's winter now. It's going to be dark pretty much all the time. I feel like my commute rides now only take place in Nearly Dark, Mostly Dark, and All Dark. If you're going to be a ninja (and you shouldn't, because it's dumb), then for crissake wear an ever-lovin' helmet.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One less car.

I sold my car.

Holy crap.

One less car. Bring on the winter bike commutes.

The wind was blowing so hard last night. I was doing 12 mph forward and 6 mph sideways all at the same time. Spent most of the time down in the drops just trying to keep a low profile.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Enter the Ninja

Summary: Carry lots of cheapo little lights to give away to people who don't have them. In doing so you will be making the streets safer, one bike at a time.

As defined in the Velosopedia
bike ninja: noun. A scofflaw cyclist that wears dark clothing at night with no reflectors or lights. They tend to ride erratically and in a way that they suppose avoids getting in the way of automobiles. By being unable or unwilling to put lights on their bicycle, they enshroud themselves in a ninja-like shroud of invisibility, endangering themselves and everybody around them.

Bike Ninjas are the natural enemy of the Bike Pirates.

Bike ninjas are obviously awful and dangerous. I saw at least two this evening, and it was way dark, and it aggravates the ble-blu-bah-jesus out of me. You can get your basic blinking safety light for less than five dollars. My new non-profit is going to be called Bike Pirates. (Pirates because of their natural aversion to ninjas.) The aim of this project/group will be to obtain cheap lights and distribute them freely to cyclists who obviously need them.

Kind of like that student organization that handed out free condoms at the senior prom, except it will be easier to tell which bikers are not lit up than it is to tell which teenagers are probably going to be giving it up.

Park Hill's own bicycle collective, the Bike Depot, purportedly keeps boxes of red blinky lights to give away for cheap or for free.

Truly, they are kindred spirits, and honorary Pirates.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Winter time perma-dusk

The days are getting shorter.

I think every commute I've made recently has been either in Near Dark, Mostly Dark, or All Dark.

The abundance of this inky black cover, of course, means plenty more ninjas. I saw one tonight cruising through City Park: no lights, no helmet, no hands. Sitting straight up, looking the world straight in the eye, and just begging to be mowed down.

What a maroon.

On a different note, but related to lighting, when I see another well-lit cyclist (read: fellow pirate) coming at me down the path, I usually slip a few fingers over my lamp so I don't blind the poor guy. Not enough to douse the thing, rendering me invisible (read: dirty ninja), but enough so that he isn't shocked and awed by my passing.

I have yet to have this courtesy extended to me in return.

It's like driving down the road with your high-beams on, folks. Dim your lights for oncoming cyclists on those narrow bike paths. It's just the nice thing to do.