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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well I've read a bunch of threads like this, and now I'm one of them. So here's the scenario. I was finishing up a 25mile ride last evening. About 2 miles from home I have to use a moderatly busy 45mph road with a shoulder that is not in too good shape and small. However, it is passable with extra care and attention. I use this road probably 4-5 time a week and never had any incidents. Plus I'm only on the road for about 3/4 of a mile. While on this road, I notice about 500ft ahead, a construction crew is replacing a driveway, so there are two large dump-trucks that are parked partially on the grass, partially on the shoulder and partially into the road. I realized that it would be necessary for me to take the lane to aviod the trucks, so I turned to look behind me and there was a pickup truck pulling a trailer that wanted to trun right on a side street just before the dump trucks. This seemed the perfect scenario, as the pickup would slow traffic enough to allow me to safely estabilsh myself in the lane with out startling traffic so I could get past the obstruction created by the dump-trucks, or so I thought.

Two individuals were too impatient to wait for the truck to complete its turn and so entered the OTHER lane to get around him. Upon clearing the truck, the two of them, now going much faster than 45mph see me in the lane. The first car was able to get past me before on coming traffice got too close. The second was not. At this point I was up to the dump trucks and had no where to go. The driver of the second car cliped my handlebars with his side view mirror at what I would estimate to be 40mph.

Somehow, and I'm still not quite sure how, but I maintained controll after the impact and was able to slow to a stop. The drive that hit me also stopped and proceeded to scream at me for being in the road. Now I'm familiar with the traffic laws in New York, and very calmly I explained to him why it was that I took the lane, and how I am allowed to do so when the lane is of substandard width, a circumstance that was created by the presence of the dump-trucks. Well he didn't want to hear anything about it and wasn't calming down, so I said told him that he tried to pass me illegally when I had the right to take the lane, and if he didn't believe me then he could speak with the police. A little shocked that I said this he screamed back, "fine if you don't call the cops I will" as if I was just blowing hot air at him. Well with out a moments hesitation I pulled out the cell phone and dialed 911. He started to get a little nervous at this moment and went back and sat in his car.

The police showed up about 20 min later and we explained our situation to them. I was more than a bit annoyed when the Deputy told me that neither one of us were at fault. He confirmed my belief that I was in the right to take the lane to get around the obstruction and I did so in a safe fashion by using the slower moving traffic behind me to my advantage. If this were the case then, it would appear that the driver that hit me atempted to pass me when it was unsafe to do so, i.e. he could not pass me with out entering the other lane to give me the State required 3 feet of clearance. The police officer said that was true, but with out actually seeing it, it would be hard for him to issue a ticket. I asked why the missing side view mirror on the drivers convertable Benz wasn't enough proof but his opinion didn't change.

My biggest problem with the whole situation is that the driver that hit me walked away from this situation not knowing that he had done something wrong. I'm thankfully that I'm ok and that on first inspection my bike is also ok. But I also wanted the driver to know that he has to be more careful. Trying to pass illegally in a situation where the cyclist, or any other slow moving vehicle has the right to use the lane is insane. When I asked the driver this he told me "what am I suposed to do? I couldn't get around you with out hitting the cars going in the other direction". That statement alone told me that he just didn't get it. In a calm voice I told him, "then you have to be more careful and SLOW DOWN. Your impatience to pass the car behind me put you in a situation where you had to hit me to get around me and that is not acceptable. Your first reaction should have been I have to stop before I hit someone, not hit the cyclist because he shouldn't even be there anyway." Him being in a hurry and feeling privleged to the road nearly cost me my life, and the police didn't even issue a warning to him. An inch more to the right and I'd be in the hospital right now. I'm more than a little shaken up by the whole account, but I'm so thankful to be ok.

I have to say though, the accounts that others have posted and the Legally Speaking column written by Bob Mionske over on velonews.com has provided me with all the information I needed to be able to explaing my presence and has shown me how to ride safely and within the constraints of the law so that when something like this happens, I know that I was doing the right thing. That obviously doesn't stop a driver from doing something stupid, but it has certaintly helped. You all sharing your stories and Bob's column have provided me with knowledge that has already saved my life once, so thanks everyone, and safe riding.
 

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Please file a complaint with the police department in this case. Although the deputy had the right to decide whether to issue a ticket or warning or not, it would be good for the PD to know that this was an issue they need to look at and possibly investigate their policies internally. You might not get anything out of it except an opportunity to tell your story again, but perhaps the next cyclist hit (and if they are lucky not injured like you) will benefit. Your calm tone in explaining the issue will go a long ways as well.

You could have been killed by this guy just because he was in too big a hurry. What a shame people are more interested in feeling right instead of having compassion for their fellow human beings. It's amazing you were so calm, I'da been screaming bloody murder at the a hole.

Good luck and glad you are ok.
 

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I'm with gobike on this one... I'd write what you just wrote to the police dept. They're going to be seeing even more bicycle related incidents in the future. It behooves them to know the laws involved. (not that they've always been so tip top with motorist issues already...)

I think your outrage that there was no ticketing is very understandable. But I think the guy in question will know in the future to look out. Just because he didn't get a ticket doesn't mean he couldn't have. And people (to borrow from a book on urban cycling) only build up anti bodies to this sort of behavior when they have an incident. I'm sure he'll be looking for cycles in the future. As for whether or not he thinks he was in the wrong... well, most people get defensive when they find themselves in any kind of conflict. He might decide he really doesn't like cyclists, but he'll know to look for them. I have a feeling that just like anyone else who's ever been in any kind of accident, his pulse was up, and he was nervous. So you get bonus points for being calm, staying calm, and calling the cops, instead of wedging the guy's neck between his car door and door frame.

Legally speaking, you were clearly in the right. And it sounds like your strategy was sound. I wish lawful riding and good strategy worked 100% of the time.

I think the concern for feeling right instead of being careful goes both ways though... for myself, I know for a fact that there are times when I'm not entirely careful when I'm driving. I always look out for cyclists, and pedestrians, but I'm only human, and sometimes I catch myself being less than 100% perfect behind the wheel. I think that on some side roads, there are times when I'd pass a truck that was slowing down, if I was in a real hurry. I know that when I'm on my bike it's a different story. I'm a lot more careful, I try to be a lot more observant. So when I get cars and trucks and whoever else doing things that are clearly stupid, I chalk it up to simple humanity. I'll fault people for specific actions. But I try not to concern myself with whether or not they've learned anything from it. That's too much baggage for me to bring all the way home. Worrying about whether or not they learned is baby steps away from being mad that they don't understand that you're in the right.

People are people. I'm sure the guy will remember you, and be more aware as a result. And that may save someone else's life in the future. But very few people concern themselves with the cycling laws before they get behind the wheel. Few of them have reason to, and most of them don't even remember all the rules of the road that they were tested on as teenagers. So I doubt that the legal issues involved will stick with him.

Most people get angry in confrontations, and only bother to do the retrospective, introspective stuff when they don't have someone in their face. Trust me. He learned something... you just don't get to see it. At the end of the day, you're still alive, and in one piece. You're mad, of course. He's still alive, but he'll have to replace his rear view mirror, so I'm sure he's mad, too. Maybe not exactly an even score, but whatever. And while he gets no quarter for hitting a cyclist, the simple truth may be that he didn't see you on the other side of the pickup truck and trailer. He probably figured he had a clear lane. He probably also hadn't seen the dump trucks, either, or he'd have stayed in the other lane.

Visibility is everything, and if you're ever in doubt about whether or not you can be seen, you really have to play it safe, and not take the lane. Legally, yes, you can take it. The law provides for that. Practically speaking, you could have waited until you were a lot closer to the dump trucks, because people have to go around that anyway, and a dump truck in front of you, practically speaking, is as good a blocker as a pickup truck behind you... with the added benefit of visibility. Sorry if this makes me sound like a prick.

Big Kudos for not blowing your cool. Mad props for maintaining control of the bike, too. Don't carry this around with you, or you'll vent your anger over this guy the next time you're involved in an incident, and that won't help anyone. Motorists already have built up, incident by incident, an unreasonable anger at cyclists. Be the guy who's aware. Hold your ground when you can, and give them slack when you can. People are people, and they're all only human. Maybe that philosophy doesn't jibe with the vehicular cycling paradigm. But I'm ok with that... I'll switch to the moral high ground when it's high enough to keep me from getting run over.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the kind words everyone. I'm looking into whom to speak with at the Sheriffs department to discuss the Deputy's assesment and conclusions of the situation.

I think I was able to keep my cool because 1. I wasn't hurt, and 2. my bike wasn't in 3 pieces. But I've also learned (the hard way) that the best way to make things happen is by keeping calm, not matter what the situation. Every time I've lost my cool in any kind of confrontational situation, I always regretted not holding it together to get something accomplished. However I did get some satisfaction at how frustrated the driver was that I wasn't yelling and screaming, but rather speaking calmly about his ignorance of the rules of the road and poor decision that nearly killed me.

Also knowing my rights as a cyclist I feel gave me the confidence to stand my ground and not be swayed by an impulsive driver, or police officer.

Thanks everyone, safe riding...
 

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My Own Private Idaho said:
It sounds to me like you handled the situation in an exemplary manner. I would complain about the officer though. It is apparent that he doesn't know the law, and should be instructed better.
What the officer did (or didn't do) was not necessarily wrong. While in this instance I'm not questioning batman's version of the incident, keep in mind that there are going to be 2 sides to every story. The guy in the Mercedes may have told the officer that he was driving along in his lane of travel and a guy on a bicycle just pulled out in front of him in order to get around the dump trucks. It was only due to his lightning quick reflexes that he was able to swerve to his left to keep from plowing right over batman. If there were no impartial witnesses to the incident and there's no evidence on the roadway to indicate excessive speed, unsafe maneuvering, etc, the officer would be hard pressed to issue a ticket.

As the officer said, he wasn't there and didn't see the incident. He is only able to go by what is told to him. In this instance it may have been 2 opposite, yet equally plausible versions of what happened. Without additional evidence, the officer would have been wrong to issue a citation to either party.
 

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Hard as I try to see the good in all people, anyone who would either
not be concious of or not care about the consequences of a two ton vehicle's contact
with a human being on a bicycle is guilty of the most heinous
murderous instinct, especially in the context of merely being in a
hurry. Obviously they were not rushing to the ER with
a life-threatening situation. I am very troubled by this callous inhumanity.
Yeah, I know, get over it. But, really.
 

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I can see the cops point of view... somewhat...
The Benz owner needs to try that with a group of cyclists, and get his butt kicked a bit.
Maybe then he'll realize how painful it would be to be hit by a car, at 45 mph. when compared to a bunch of guys in lycra smackin' him around a little.

But the fact that you're alive today is far more valuable.
 

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Your experience gives me the willies. I'm glad to read that you are OK. I'm sure the hassle the driver went through and the cost of his mirror will give him pause next time.

I also hope this reminds everyone that while we must assert our rights to the road, we're not match for a 4,500-pound car. I deal with this type of situation every day riding in a city. I'm riding to the far right on a multi-lane street. Ahead of me, cars stop because a car is turning right. I'm always tempted to just scoot to my left, take the lane and go around the stopped cars, as I have a right to do. But I also know it's dangerous.

If it looks clear behind me, I'll usually do it. But if it's not, I'll slow down or even stop behind the line of cars and wait until it's clear. Not saying you did anything wrong, batman, but let's just all be careful out there.
 

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uber-stupid said:
Visibility is everything, and if you're ever in doubt about whether or not you can be seen, you really have to play it safe, and not take the lane. Legally, yes, you can take it. The law provides for that. Practically speaking, you could have waited until you were a lot closer to the dump trucks, because people have to go around that anyway, and a dump truck in front of you, practically speaking, is as good a blocker as a pickup truck behind you... with the added benefit of visibility.
I think uber-stupid said it best... yes, it is legally for you to take the lane but it would have been practical or safer if you waited until you are closer to the dump truck. Cars going 45 mph can cover distances much quicker than you think and if one hits you I wouldn't be surprised if its fatal or life threatening injuries.

This also made me think about the T-intersection between Sand Hill Rd and Portola Rd in Woodside, North California. Both roads are single lane one direction. Cyclists coming down Sand Hill Rd normally like to make a left into Portola Rd so they can head into Woodside. I find it dangerous that cyclists stop in the middle of the road on Sand Hill until on-coming traffic is clear so they can make a left in Portola. It's dangerous because a car going the same way on Sand Hill Rd may not see the cyclist waiting for traffic to clear. Usually the first driver will avoid it by cutting into the bike lane on the right, but normally its the drivers behind him/her that couldn't see what's in front of them because of the vehicle in front. Yes, it's legal to take the lane to make a left hand turn. But I don't find it practical because someday some distracted driver will run someone over like that. I strongly think this is one case where the city ought to have a three way stop intersection.

Think I will post this in the NorCal section also.
 

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You were in the wrong here. Roads are made for cars not bikes. You're lucky he didn't really hit you. This time was just a warning. You're lucky the cop didn't ticket you for damaging his mirror.
:p
 

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bauerb said:
man, how'd you knock the mirror off a car going 50mph without falling or damage to your bike? that couldn't be performed by stunt men. its a freak occurrance
LOL! For the $$ that a Benz costs you'd think they'd have better quality.
 
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