I’ve had three close encounters of the car kind in a lifetime of cycling. I present them for your education, enjoyment and evaluation.
1. G.I. Jane in Tokyo. This was around 1981 when I was 15 years old and riding my dad’s Japanese custom hand built touring bike to meet a friend at the Yokota Air Base (Japan) air terminal. I was keeping up in heavy traffic. As I crossed an intersection *Ker-blam! — A1C G.I. Jane in a Datsun 280z saw an opening behind the truck I was following, gunned it to cross the intersection and hit me with a classic left-cross, except it was a right-cross because we drive and ride on the left side of the road in Japan.
My dad’s custom built bike went under the car while I went up over the hood, into the windshield, rolled and landed on my feet. It probably looked awesome, but I was shaking from my overworked adrenals. The bike — did I mention it was hand built? — was toast. I was uninjured, though my dad totally freaked out when I called him from the hospital. Umm, of course I’m okay Dad — I’m the one who called you, remember?
Lesson: Dads can get pretty upset when their children are involved in car accidents.
2. Station Wagon Mom. Us oldtimers remember the predecessor to the SUV and Minivan — the venerable Station Wagon, complete with faux wood paneling and three rows of seating. It was dusk and I was zooming across Wichita Falls, Texas to my night job at TU Electric in 1987. I had a big 6 volt lantern secured to my handlebar in addition to a generator light at the fork crown, along with a small red tail light mounted to the seat stay. Station Wagon Mom blew right through her stop sign without even slowing through the intersection that I was entering at speed. I did a “quick turn” maneuver to the right to avoid death but still got sideswiped and knocked to the ground. I got up and gave chase; Station Wagon Mom went two more blocks before she stopped.
She got out, apologized profusely and told me she had no idea she hit somebody until her children said something. I received some minor abrasions; my bike’s crank and derailleus hanger were both bent.
Lesson: File the police report, and don’t believe them when they say they’ll pay for the damage.
3. Cute young thing in a little car. This happened this year. I was on my normal commute route in Menlo Park, California, riding in the bike lane at the 25 mph speed limit. A maniac in a Dodge Neon passed me at probably 40 mph with the right turn signal blinking then slammed on her brakes directly in front of me while veering to the right. I had just a split second to react and slammed into the back of her car and flipped over her trunk.
Lesson: The older you get, the more it hurts.
What lessons have you learned in car vs bike interactions? Does the bike ever win?