Sunday, June 8, 2014

a mean right hook

Part I

My daily commute almost always takes me along this small portion of 16th Ave on my way to cutting across Civic Center park.

It’s a weird block because, as you can see, there is a bike lane and sharrows side-by-side on the road, coexisting happily, naturally as you please, as though this weren't an utter abomination.

What you cannot see in this picture is that one block back, there is a sign that says BIKE LANE ENDS.

That’s why the sharrows are there. The bike lane is a Shouldn't Be. And yet it persists. Cyclists are supposed to take the lane as the signage and the sharrows imply. And yet. That bike lane.

In direct contradiction of the signage, confoundingly, frustratingly, incomprehensibly, the bike lane doesn’t end at all. Like the cake, the end of the bike lane is a lie. It just stubbornly continues to exist. It hangs around like an unwelcome guest.

So this block is unique in that respect. Also of note is the vehicular traffic at this particular intersection. Coming from this direction, cars cannot go straight. (That direction is reserved for bikes and bus traffic.) The crossroad traffic is one-way, from the left to the right. The only thing a car can do is turn right.

You can see in the picture above the almost gravitational pull to the right that motorists experience. They want nothing but to turn right. Seriously, 100% of the cars here are turning right. And so, a cyclist camped out at the front of this Shouldn't-Be, Why-Is-It-Still-Here? bike lane is preventing the cars from proceeding.

This is doing it the wrong way. If you're on a bike in the bike lane here, you are doing it wrong, and are practically inviting the right hook.

Contrariwise, a cyclist positioned respectfully in the middle of the traffic lane, over the sharrows, creates enough space to the right of him for cars to continue on their merry way. This is doing it the right way.

99% of the cyclists I see at this intersection do it wrong.

99% of the cyclists at this intersection are both blocking traffic and putting themselves in danger.

One day I should say something to one of that 99%. (I'm an assertive rider, an angry blogger, but a timid person face-to-face.)

Part II

On 16th Ave, several blocks west of the intersection described in Part I. 
A couple of B-Cycle Bozos are tootling down the road in the bike lane. They, and me, and a car all come to a stop at a light.
The car has its right turn signal on. I'm right behind it. (Not in the bike lane because I'm turning left here.) I observe the bozos not observing the car to their immediate left.
The light turns green and the bozos are gabbing and gossiping, not paying attention, and not moving.
The car inches out and creeps forward. The bozos don't move, still gabbing.
The car honks its horn a few times to announce its presence and continues across the path of the bozos, executing a right-hand turn. The bozos never move. They don't even look up.
Those cyclists were oblivious to the other vehicles around them. That motorist was very aware of the bikes around it.
I think that was the most respectful right hook I've seen, and I can't think of a way I'd have done it better.
Good on ya, car.
Get your heads outta your asses, bike bozos.


Cyclists, myself included, rave about the treacherous right hook, about how they're avoidable if only cars would pay attention and be mindful of their surroundings.
But many times these situations are created by cyclists themselves through incorrect lane positioning, not paying attention, and dallying in bike lanes.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

bikes make for agile first responders

So I was riding my bike.

I stopped at a red light, a block from the library, behind a taxi cab.

The lights ahead of us turned green. The cab hesitated a moment, and then started crawling forward, the kind of particular combination of response time and slow acceleration that can indicate a driver being on their phone, or fiddling with their GPS.

But that's not fair. I don't know what the driver was doing.

I do know that he was turning left, from one one-way street to another one-way street. I had expected this because he had had his turn signal on while we were stopped.

I had also expected, based on the slow speed at which he was cruising through the intersection, that he saw the pedestrian in the crosswalk directly in his trajectory.

I was half able to form a "I hope he sees--" thought before the cab continued sailing right through and under the man, who thud rolled up onto the hood, curling his arms and legs into his body so that he looked like a beetle on its back, then stopped just short of the windshield before rolling off to the passenger side of the car and onto the road.

The cab took a moment to pull over and park, and I was at the man's side and calling 911 as the driver was getting out of the car.

The dispatcher asked me dispatcher questions, in answer to which I struggled for an embarrassingly long time (Seconds, probably. Hopefully.) to figure out whether I was on 13th or 14th, and then to understand that I hadn't even then communicated that I wasn't at an address but was outside. "We're in the middle of the street!"

The driver moped around ineffectively. The victim was awake, with no obvious injuries. Breathing, looking around, talking, and doing people things despite--good for him--having moved not one inch since settling onto the ground.

Traffic had cycled once, and I was positioning myself while still on the phone to obstruct the lane so cars would go around when two beat cops showed. Probably three or four minutes had elapsed.

One of the cops addressed the victim and the other addressed traffic. I disconnected with 911 and gave a statement, first verbally then written, to the cop who was now addressing me.

The ambulance arrived promptly, and things proceeded business-like.

The victim continued to appear just fine and the driver just distraught.

He certainly wasn't getting any sympathy from anybody, and was in fact admonished by at least one motorist as she drove by, rolling down her window and telling him he, "needs to be careful!" (I did note the absurdity in that while she was delivering this scolding, she was in the very same crosswalk and her eyes were on us, not the road.)

I was eventually gathering myself up to leave and saw him by standing by himself, leaning against his car, hands on his face. He looked alone and miserable, and I decided to offer him some comfort if he'd have it.

I offered my hand and he took it in both of his. I asked him if he was okay, and told him I was sorry that this had happened. He kind of shrug-nodded and said, "It happened." I gave him another couple seconds, and then left.

I still can't decipher his response. I don't think that, as it may appear, that he meant, "Hey, shit happens. If you're gonna drive an omelette, you're gonna run over a few eggs." Rather, I hope that it's not taken as an inevitability that cabbies are going to hit people, other cars, or other things. I think that instead he was trying to accept what he had just done, and was grappling with what comes next. Which is something for which I have no frame of reference. Can you even still drive a taxi after hitting somebody? Did this guy just lose his job?

In the end, I don't know what he meant, or what became of him or the victim.

The rest of the way home, though, I knew for damn sure exactly where each and every car around me was.