I hit a car

Mea culpa. What can I say? I was in a hurry.

I don’t normally split the lane on Middlefield Road — the lanes are very narrow, traffic is heavy, and the vehicles are huge. Construction resulted in cars and trucks backed up for several blocks west of Oregon Expressway, however. The traffic light ahead was red, and the gap between the two eastbound lanes looked just wide enough to fit my skinny backside through. Several cyclists filter through on the far right or even use the sidewalk, but this is dangerous because several people turn right onto Oregon.

I normally queue up behind the other traffic in the right lane, and I usually need to creep up with the other traffic through a couple of traffic light signal red-green phases. Today, though, I was running late.

The narrowest gap was between the side mirrors on a white Ford F250 and a red Hummer H2, so I scrunched in my shoulders and slid right through, yee haw! then *thwack*thump*.

My messenger bag struck the Ford’s mirror and knocked my Princeton Tec Swerve taillight clean off. The light flew up and bounced against the Hummer’s fender.

And by this time the light had turned green and traffic started moving, so I couldn’t exactly stop to exchange drivers licenses and insurance information. I looked left — the Ford had a landscape company logo on the door, and the Latinos inside were laughing at me. I looked back right to see the Hummer driver on the phone and oblivious — I’m not sure he even noticed my bike light skittering off of his vehicle.

All’s well that ends well, I guess — I just lost a tail light this time. Still, splitting the lane is sketchy at best, even if you’re in a hurry. Experto crede.

And quando omni flunkus moritati.

16 Comments

  1. Ugh… When cyclists do this next to my bus it can be quite startling. When stopped, we typically scan our mirrors to maintain “situational awareness”. Every once in a while I’ll look in the mirror where I expect there to be nobody and FLASH! a cyclist comes out of nowhere to fly past, and sometimes in front of, my bus.

    For what it’s worth, I could not care less that you have gotten in front of me. It’s the whole, “Damn! If I didn’t see him I could have killed him and been out of a job” thought process that gets us in a tizzy over errant cyclists.

    At least you weren’t splitting lanes while traffic was moving. I guess I can thank you for that.

  2. Has there ever been a case of a bus driver losing their job because a cyclist flew by/around the bus, the bus driver didn’t see the cyclist, hit and/or ran the cyclist over? Has that ever happened in the history of the world? No? OK. So now we can talk about things which actually happen in the real world — the ‘reality-based community’ if you will.

    Palo Alto is one of those towns like Berkeley — they were early to the bike-friendly game, and then they just quit. Lots of towns out there like that.

  3. In the Seattle area bus drivers are judged based on the “preventability” of an accident, not fault. So, if you illegally split lanes, and cut in front of my bus right as I move it, I *should* have been able to prevent that accident. (ie. Don’t start moving the bus until I have checked *all* my mirrors) While I can’t recall such an incident, it is entirely possible. I’m simply providing a window into what goes through our minds when we almost hit a “crazy cyclist”.

    Perhaps you are reacting to my use of the term “errant cyclists”. Just to be clear, I’m referring to the dive bombers who fly in and out of traffic seemingly without a care for their own safety. As for the majority of cyclists I come across who ride in a reasonable and safe manner, I’m perfectly happy to share the road with them. I frequently end up running interference with a 60′ bus since passing them, just to stop in front of them, is kind of silly. (Especially when you realize that the cyclist will eventually get to his destination faster than your bus will)

  4. Efforts ebb and flow with the administrations. A lot happened under Ellen Fletcher when she was mayor, and the bike boulevard is named in her honor. The current mayor, Yoriko Kishimoto, talks the talk and shows up at bike promotion events, but she’s not as assertive as Fletcher was in promoting bike use.

  5. We’ve talked about cycling around buses before, and I’m always courteous and careful around bus drivers. I queue up behind buses — there’s a lot of momentum in a large vehicle, and passing a 60′ bus takes too long; it’s impossible to just swerve around if something unexpected happens. If I pass a stopped bus, I move left early and move far to the left to ensure there are no surprises for the driver or for me.

  6. Glad you’re ok!

    Middlefield kinda bites for biking. And it’s tricky–long stretches have decent bike lanes, or at least shoulders, then all of the sudden they disappear and you find yourself in a sketchy situation.

    I’m not clear on whether lane-splitting on a bike is legal or not. I believe it’s allowed for motorcycles on the freeway, but with various limitations. Don’t know what the law is for “real bikes”.

  7. Hi Nick. In California, lane splitting is legal because it’s not expressly prohibited. CVC 21200 is the bicyclists’ get out of jail free card for lane splitting. It says, “Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle.” Anything legal for a motorcycle is legal for a bicycle.

    I should shoot video of my Middlefield commute some time 🙂

  8. Interesting day, huh? Good to hear you were able to take on a Hummer and come out okay.

    I saw a guy on a bmx today and for some reason he reminded me of you…..still hoping to hook up with you if you come to the NAHBS this year.

    Darryl

  9. My New Year’s resolution was to stop doing this. I’m going straight at an intersection and get in a a hurry and pass between the right turn lane and the people waiting in line in the straight lane. A number of times while doing this my bar-end mirror smacks the right-hand mirror of people’s cars in the straight lane. While never doing any damage, I’ve had to apologize profusely a few times.

  10. My New Year’s resolution was to stop doing this. I’m going straight at an intersection and get in a a hurry and pass between the right turn lane and the people waiting in line in the straight lane. A number of times while doing this my bar-end mirror smacks the right-hand mirror of people’s cars in the straight lane. While never doing any damage, I’ve had to apologize profusely a few times.

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