Had a VERY close call this morning. Rural highway, 55mph speed limit, three way intersection (one of just a few in several miles), still dark. I'm riding eastbound on the highway, on fairly wide shoulder. Not many cars going eastbound as is typical. Just purchased a new 135 lumen blowtorch of a headlamp and feeling fairly noticeable. I combine that with a Dual Cross with around that much light out the front and one of those cheap flashing .5 watt led's for added visibility (the flash is noticeable at various angles). I also have three different led blinkies at various levels in back, a reflective vest, those green reflective armbands, and several strategically placed reflective stickers on the bike. People have commented many times on how lit up I am. The problem is......people still have to LOOK.
I rode up to the intersection.....saw someone driving up to the stop sign on the perpendicular street and instinctively slowed. I gave him two quick flashes with the headlamp and he stopped. Seeing there were many cars coming westbound on the highway (they were at the stop sign with vehicle facing north), I felt as if he was going to wait for them EVEN if hadn't seen me (though the darkness makes it difficult to tell whether he had), so I cautiously kept going even though it always makes me nervous at that hour. All of a sudden the guy guns his SUV from the intersection and is heading right for me. I'm not sure how I had enough time to stop, then back up just before he buzzed just a couple of feet from my front tire. If I hadn't backed up, he would have hit me without a doubt. And I thought, had I tried to go forward he would have hit me too. And had I not been keeping my eye on him the entire time (instead of assuming the right of way and his visual accounting of my bike) I think he would have hit me. The scariest thing was how fast he gunned it.....because he was trying to get into a SMALL gap between two cars in the long line of cars he would otherwise have to wait for. His tires were peeling the entire time and I know I had just a fraction of time to react.
Optimistically, I certainly thought it was because he DIDN'T see me (which is bad enough). Cynically, I wondered if he saw me all along and perhaps that was his way of "buzzing" me.....or that he did not like being flashed with the headlamp. I'll never know for sure because he didn't stop (though I think he did see me as he went past). I think some of it could have been that he was so predisposed to NOT seeing any vehicles coming from that direction that he NEVER looks more than just a quick glance. Perhaps he did not notice me because I was a bike, regardless of my vivid illumination.
The point here is not the incident itself. I know there are numerous accounts of that same scenario all the time, most esp. in urban setting where there are more vehicles and more intersections. No, the relevance is in how it relates to the sometimes cavalier attitude I pick up on from riders who are in rural areas and don't feel safety is as important. In this case it was almost more relevant because of the infrequency. Perhaps I could have done something different in that situation. Stopped and waited. But then you would always think you would have to stop at every intersection. At least I was wary enough to have time to react because I thought it COULD have happened.
The other point is you can NEVER be lit up enough. I have multiple lights shining in many directions, but it still wasn't enough (at least if he did look my direction). If I did look my direction and didn't notice me it could have been because he was looking much further down the highway for CARS. I get that. But that's the point. Maybe if I had been even more lit up he might have noticed me.....you never know. But beyond that it's hard to reconcile. I didn't legally do anything wrong, but maybe practically I should have just stopped and waited because of the time of day and the rural setting??? But, then do you do that every time at every intersection every morning?
I think I might....at least for awhile. Comments, criticism welcome.