So, for two years in a row now… No. Wait, let me start this with saying I was almost hit by a white SUV this weekend. And when I say ‘almost’ hit, I’m not exaggerating – it was close. This in itself wouldn’t be that noteworthy, in that near misses happen all the time in traffic whether you’re in a car or on a bike, but this was different. I really feel that this time the driver swerved into me.
Right or wrong, smart or not, I don’t have any fear of riding in traffic, at least not emotionally. Logically I get it. I understand the risk of riding my little bike on the road with cars and trucks that weigh in the thousands of pounds. The potential consequences aren’t hard to imagine. But, for whatever reason I ride with a detached sense of security and well being; that was until yesterday.
So, back to my story. For two years my buddy Jonny ‘Spaghetti Legs’ Hagan and I have done a ride out to the cabin at Pigeon lake. It’s a nice ride. 112 km past farmers fields and through rural Alberta towns. This year the weather was stupendous, if not a little too hot. We made some record time had a great bbq feast with bevies when we got there – good times. The next morning, I rode back solo and all the while as I spun my way down the highways, the traffic really did seem to give me some extra room as they blew by. For the most part I think people take extra care when they see a cyclist and that’s a good thing, a courteous thing. Back in the city though, things are bit more snarly. The traffic is a lot heavier for sure and the shoulders don’t really exist. As a rider you really are riding right in traffic. I was stopped at a four-way intersection waiting for the light. I glanced around me, surveying the situation. I made note of the white SUV idling next to me. When the light went green, I clipped in the pedaled out into the intersection. The SUV was slow off the line and was behind me as I came to the curb on the other side. Just as got to the other side the white SUV nearly squeezed me right into the square curb and off the road. I let out a yell, something like “HEY! HEY!! HEY!!!!” It was one of those moments when you realize what’s happening and your eyes get big and everything seems to slow down just a little bit as you focus completely on the task at had. In this case, the task was like threading a needle as my front tire just fit into the narrow space between the concrete curb and the running rails of the SUV. The whole thing lasted only a second or two, but I was shaken enough to role off the road at the next sidewalk ramp.
I asked myself, “did they do that on purpose? Did they swerve at me?” I don’t know for sure but I can’t imagine anyone coming that close to a rider and not knowing it. I was angry. I watched as the white SUV drove away and I took off after it, hoping to catch it at the next light, but there was no such luck. Nor do I really know what I was going to do if I caught up to them anyway. I think I mainly just wanted to see who the driver was. Was it a punk kid in parent’s Acura, a suite texting on his Blackberry, or a lady doing her make-up, or what?
Anyway, no harm no foul I guess. It was close, but in the end everyone (me) is fine so there you go. It did make me start to think more about the mentality where I live. I have had friends of mine who commute tell me drivers swerve at them. I always found this insane to think about, but now it’s happened to me I see why so many riders get their nose out of joint. We have a cycling group here in Edmonton, and other cities have similar groups as well. It’s called Critical Mass, and it meets on Fridays once a month to sort of take over the roads for a few hours during rush hour as a kind of protest. At least that’s how I’ve had it explained to me. This is also the reason I haven’t ever gone down and taken part. Blocking Friday rush hour traffic doesn’t seem like a great way to endear cyclists to motorists, but I do understand the desire to want to make a point. We can’t ride on the sidewalks so we have to ride on the roads. Cyclists are part of road traffic. Motorist and cyclist need to figure out a way to get along.
Here is a news article from Aug 1st on a new tack some riders are taking on the issue.