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My bad


The other night I was riding back to work after dinner and approached an intersection where I needed to turn left.

I glanced back and saw two cars behind me, one close and one seemingly several car-lengths back.

I let the first car pass, gave another quick glance back, signaled, then eased left, insinuating myself between the two cars.

The car behind immediately hit his “high beams,” and I could tell by the size of my ginormous shadow that the car’s grille was awfully close to my rear tire.

My first feeling was one of annoyance. But as I pedaled to the intersection, it dawned on me that I must have misjudged how far back that car really was and essentially cut him off.

We both turned left, and as he passed, the passenger leaned out the window and said something that sounded a little like, “Mrhsmflh flmmphgh, umgnhf!” I shrugged, put on my sheepish face and replied, “Sorry.”

What else are you going to do?

I certainly didn’t mean to cut him off. I thought I did everything right: look, signal, look again, move left. He must have been moving much faster than I anticipated, or maybe I just blew it.

It happens, daily.

That relatively close call got me thinking about other near misses I instigated.

I’m quick to call out drivers who, intentionally or un, almost make mincemeat out of me. But I’ll admit I’ve almost caused a wreck or two, too.

Honestly, I had to rack my brains to think of cycling mea culpas, not because I’m such a good, law-abiding cyclist that I’m above such things, but because I’m such a defensive cyclist I try darned hard to avoid such situations.

But a couple of doozies stand out.

Once, a couple of years ago, I was riding on the Clinton Parkway multi-use trail (don’t get me started) and approached a red light on a cross street. Seeing that the light was about to change, I slowed ever so slightly and tried to time the change. The light went green and I accelerated … just as a car running parallel and in the same direction was turning left — with the green arrow — right where I was accelerating.

Fortunately, the driver saw what a bonehead I was in time, jumped on the brakes and leaned on the horn. Shrug. Sheepish. Sorry.

Then last year, I was stopped at the bottom of a hill, waiting to turn left onto a pretty fast (40 mph) through street. To my left, the driver of a pickup heading down the hill toward me put on his right-turn signal to turn onto the cross street where I was waiting. I looked right, then left again. Seeing no other cars, I started to cross in front of the turning pickup … right in the path of a coupe in the inside lane that had been “covered up” by the truck.

The driver slammed on her brakes. She locked ’em up good, and as she slid my way I remember trying to hurry across the intersection but thinking, “Oh, this is going to hurt. A lot.”

Luckily for me, the truck turned and the woman managed to steer into the outside lane before taking me out. She came to a complete stop and waited a minute or two, no doubt shaken at having to take evasive action because of the stupid cyclist who had materialized in her field of view.

I thought about riding over and apologizing and thanking her for her quick reflexes, but by the time I managed a safer turnaround, she had gone on her way.

The moral of the blog, I guess, is we all screw up from time to time. I try to keep that in mind whenever a car comes too close for comfort — whether it’s my fault or the driver’s.


Eric Neuteboom 9 years ago

This is a great blog, Andrew. I wish more cyclists and especially motorists would look out for each other more. My father was an avid cyclist, so maybe I'm more sympathetic to cyclists than some other drivers, but some drivers are just jerks.

And not just to cyclists.

Like the lady who - with her four or five year-old son in the backseat - was going the wrong way in the parking lot at the "ghetto Dillon's," and loudly called me an "a - - - - - e" for not moving immediately out of her way, even though she was going the wrong way down a one-way part of the lot!

I guess the only downside to reading your blog is that it stirs up my road rage when it makes me remember other close calls I've had, even in the relative safety of my car. Small price to pay though for an enjoyable read!

MeAndFannieLou 9 years ago

It would help if drivers would observe the speed limit.

Leslie Swearingen 9 years ago

People do really stupid things and then yell at everybody else. As a pedestrian I hate it when I don't see the car coming up behind another one. Sometimes they seem to sneak up on me however much I look. Drivers, if you see me trying to cross a street, like over to the bus shelter at the old Walmart, and there is heavy traffic from both ways, please don't stop and wave me over, with the sweet faith that traffic coming from the other direction is also wanting to stop for me.

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