Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Close Calls

I have had two extremely freaky close calls in the last two days.

On Tuesday night I had to go through the horrible North/Clyborn yuppie big-box shopping mecca in order pick up supplies to fix my bikes. I was past the Home Depot heading west. The road is two lanes each direction, with no shoulder and a tall curb – no room to manuever. Traffic was lumbering along, bumper to bumper and pretty slow – they type of traffic where keeping pace on a bike isn’t at all hard, but it is still moving along fast enough that you don’t bother trying to slip past the cars.

All of a sudden, something happened that jerked my attention to the area around my left foot. There was a cab, completely up in my space. I think my foot or pant leg made contact with his bumper. It was the most freaky, shocking sight to see a car where it simply should never be. I am used to getting ‘spooked’ by cars buzzing by too close or making sudden turns. My heart leaps and races for a few seconds, I get angry, but it isn’t really a big deal. This was different. This car was less than two inches from my rear wheel. If our paths would have continued, he was on course to hit my pedal and leg with the bumper/hood of his car and there is no way he could have cleared my hips and handlebars with his windshield, much less his side mirror.
A few yards later traffic stopped for a red light and I shakingly started a conversation with him.

This is my half-assed try at a visual of the crazy situation:

He didn’t care at all and suggested that if I didn’t want to get hit I should get off his road. Besides the disgusting lack of concern for my well-being, I want to make it clear, that he had nothing to gain by passing me ( hitting someone to force them off the road and out of your way isn’t really ‘passing’ them, though). I was riding the Julep at the same speed as the cars ahead of me, and we were coming up to a red light.

Anyway, talking to him was pointless, so I turned my attention to the middle-aged woman passenger who looked nervous in the back seat. I said, "don’t you dare tip him and reward his behavior." This got the cabby's attention and he started asking, "why you have to mess with my business?" I replied, "because you are messing with my life," and again looked the woman square in the eye and told her not to tip him.

I wish I knew whether she tipped him. I let him pass me because I didn’t want him behind or next to me. For several blocks I rode behind him, as the passenger craned to see me through the mirrors. When I got to the bike shop I was still shaking from the incident.

This morning I rode the Breeze to Old Town to meet friends for coffee before work. Again I was on North Avenue, this time headed East. As I was crossing the right side on-ramp to the highway, some jagoff whipped around me to cut me off by turning right onto the ramp. I avoided getting hit by swinging my bike as far to the right, while hitting the brakes hard.

Once again, I am completely furious about this. I was mostly across the on-ramp when this
happened. The car had the choice of turning onto the ramp behind me, or racing ahead of me to make a tight turn. I just don’t understand this behavior. This driver could have safely gotten on the ramp quicker instead of jack rabbiting around me like a jack ass.

Unfortunately, North Avenue, or other streets just as obnoxious, are basically unavoidable to get East from my neighborhood. The highway and river cut off most of the streets, funneling all traffic onto a few big, fast, through streets. Ugh. Also, every option (besides going at least a mile out of the way, each direction) involves going over a metal grate bridge. Ugh. Ugh.
In happier news, I got a ton of work done on the Breeze and the Julep last night. Both now have shiny new chains. I gave the Julep a good, all-over, deap-clean scrubbing, including removing the chainring to really scour the winter gunk off of her parts; her front wheel is finally trued, and most importantly, I finally replaced her pathetic, ratty streamers with luxurious, fluffy new ones.

The Breeze is also prettied up. Besides her new chain, I adjusted and tightened her seat/handlebars, added a basket, bell and installed tiny windchimes for streamers. The basket is removable for shopping. Super-duper cute. She makes tinkling music as I ride her. At coffee this morning, the gang fell in love with her cuteness – and giggled at me sitting upright and riding slow instead of down in the Julep’s drops.

I got clocked by a radar on Damen Avenue this morning – 13mph. Faster than I thought. I even passed another biker this morning on the way back from coffee. Two other bikers on road bikes passed our group, though. Chris and Dan bust out laughing when I got passed. Without me saying a word, they knew my ego was getting bruised at being passed. Anyway, here is the new and improved Breeze:

"I love my Bike" bell, and windchime "streamer"

Cute. Cute. Cute.


At 2:32 PM, Blogger Nathan said...

OMG - that Breeze is awesome! :D

Holy bi-polar post, though. Just reading about those incidents had me shaking and my blood boiling.


At 3:33 PM, Blogger Tincéir said...

Two comments about the cabbie incident. First... I take the whole lane when I can keep up with traffic reliably. Nobody is tempted to try to squeeze by me that way.

Second... the cabbie was clearly in the wrong, and was menacing you with words and actions. I'd have responded not by talking to the fare, but by calling the police and / or the cab company the driver works for. I've whipped out my cell phone on two occasions when drivers were menacing me intentionally, and both times they sped away. These incidents were reported to the police... although to be honest there's little they could (or would) do either time. The cab company though might have done something significant!

*sigh* I'm saddened by the state of affairs with bicycling in most areas of the US. It should be one of the safest activities you can do, and some statistics show it to be quite safe indeed... but personal experience and anecdotes like yours indicate otherwise. It's truly disheartening that bicycling- a form of personal transportation that causes little harm environmentally and socially- is dangerous simply because automobile drivers don't accept our right to be on the road.

To be clear- I've been car-free for many years and I've biked up to 10,000 miles a year in the past. 2 incidents that warranted a telephone call to the police... well... I guess it happens pretty infrequently. Nevertheless it's frightening to realize that your life is worthless to some of these jerks driving 2+ ton vehicles.

At 3:49 PM, Anonymous vic said...

i would have let him have it across the bumper with the spd cleats. i kicked another car last week, and i dont worry about the repurcussions bc any time a body contacts a car the car is in the wrong. my field is medicolegal and rehab, so i know exactly how to play the game punitively if need be.

At 4:31 PM, Anonymous michael said...

I think I'd love getting passed by the Breeze. Those windchimes are definitely one of the cooler bike decorations I've seen.

At 6:31 PM, Blogger jojo said...

Thanks for the concern. I have been tense all day from these close calls.

I'm going to take the side streets home tonight and have a leisurely ride. The weather is gorgeous.

Last night at West Town, I was the only girl there. The guys there didn't seem to approve of the Breeze, or her cute accessories. Good to know some people recognize style! (silly, ridiculous, dorky style)

At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Randy said...

Oh, I can see you will be having some trepidations in the future...Julep or Breeze?
Can you accept being passed?
You sound pretty competitive, I dunno.
At least you have a real utilitarian bike, no cleats, just jean and t-shirt for coffee runs.

I like it.


At 7:28 AM, Blogger George said...

Do you have one of those cells with a camera?

If you do, it would be worth it to take the cabbies picture and his license plate number and call his company up. He probably won't get in much trouble, but you'll at least make someone aware of his behavior.

Those chimes on your bike are really neat.

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous andy said...

sorry to hear about the idiot cabbie. Had it been me... well, let's just say I have a shorter temper and he likely would have had to explain a dented quarterpanel to his boss after his shift. carbon soled road shoes with speedplay cleats on the bottom can do quite a bit of damage.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Tanya said...

Take the lane! Take the lane! Sorry most drivers pay far too little attention to what they are doing so you have to make it clear to them where not to go. Easy to do if you are keeping up with traffic, and not a bad idea at intersections (so nobody is tempted to do the right hook). If traffic is moving faster than I am I will still take the lane on a 4-lane road with a narrow curb lane, as it is not safe to share safely and I want to let cars know they should change lanes to pass. Some people will be assholes still and honk or split the lanes to try to intimidate you but the assholes are far less in number than the inattentive which can really be scary. Also assholes tend to give warning like gunning their engine, the clueless can come out of nowhere. (though the cab driver was clueless and an asshole. perhaps worth reporting to his cab company if you have any way of identifying him)


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