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Old 11-19-10, 10:56 PM   #1
lesiz
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Freak accident near-miss

On Pacific Coast Highway here in SoCal we lose maybe an average of one cyclist per year. So it's with some care that I ride PCH.

The first half of my weekend ride is going westward for 30 miles through the mountains, mostly on Mulholland. Then I return home via PCH. PCH is tricky because there are beachgoers' cars parked along a lot of the way. The auto traffic whizzes by at 40-60 mph. I always watch for cars pulling out, people or surfboards popping out from between cars, dogs running out, doors opening. PCH is not the mountains, but still a hilly route.

So I was doing a descent on a ~4% grade on PCH at about 30mph, watching for the aforementioned hazards when this unexpected situation suddenly presented itself:

A Prius passed me then suddenly pulled over and stopped beside the row of parked cars. In a moment I had to decide whether to brake hard (probably couldn't have come to a full stop in time), try to squeeze between the Prius and the parked car, or swerve out into traffic lane.

First of all I did hit the brakes to get some decision time. I hit the front brake too hard, causing the back of my bike to go airborne. I regained control, but with a reduced impact distance now. I still had that decision to make in a few milliseconds.

Then -- the Prius took off! Whew!

Whenever I travel PCH I have a 180 limen white flasher going on the front, even in broad daylight. Maybe the driver saw my blinker closing in in him. Maybe that saved me.

What could I have done to better prepare for or handle this situation?

For one thing: Ideally (stress that word) every roadie should be an experienced mountian biker. Mountain bikers are skilled at modulating the brakes to obtain maximum stopping power. I don't have that experience but a friend of mine who was confronted with a similar situation when a motorcycle crashed and skidded in front of him was able to stop in time to save his butt only because he was an experienced mountain biker and was able to skillfully bring himself to a fast stop without losing traction.

And of course there's the element of speed. "Speed Kills". There are plenty of stats to support that slogan. Of course a cyclist hates to slow down on a descent when that descent is the payback for grinding up the darn hill. But, I gotta admit, I have somewhat tempered my speed on PCH descents with parked cars.
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Old 11-19-10, 11:10 PM   #2
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Get a mirror, then you will know if the lane next to you is open for you to move into.
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Old 11-20-10, 01:14 AM   #3
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Get a mirror, then you will know if the lane next to you is open for you to move into.
While I refuse to use a mirror, due to balance reasons, I wholeheartedly agree with the poster above. While mirrors are distracting to me(I use my peripheral vision to compensate), I do agree that they are beneficial to the average cyclist.
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Old 11-20-10, 01:30 AM   #4
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For one thing: Ideally (stress that word) every roadie should be an experienced mountian biker. Mountain bikers are skilled at modulating the brakes to obtain maximum stopping power.
I hate to burst your bubble but:

a) skinny tires on pavement do not equal fat tires on the dirt

b) the average SoCal "mountain biker" is a hack, as evidenced by trail damage out here

c) in reference to "b", the trails are beat and crowded enough out here without adding to it

d) it's just riding a bicycle
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Old 11-20-10, 11:01 AM   #5
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Get a mirror, .

+1
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Old 11-20-10, 12:45 PM   #6
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Get a mirror, then you will know if the lane next to you is open for you to move into.
+1... in fact, then you will know when one of those silent diablos is coming alongside you. I recommend a glasses/helmet mounted mirror.

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While I refuse to use a mirror, due to balance reasons, I wholeheartedly agree with the poster above. While mirrors are distracting to me(I use my peripheral vision to compensate), I do agree that they are beneficial to the average cyclist.
Balance reasons? wut? And peripheral vision will never compensate for the view you get with a mirror.
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Old 11-20-10, 01:09 PM   #7
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Yep, I repeat what the others said: Get A Mirror.

I don't know what the Prius driver was thinking, maybe he was smoking cannabis and dropped his joint on the upholstery.

I think all Electric Cars should have a bell that dings, just like a bicycle bell, because, like bicycles, they are silent.

Your light may have saved your life! Keep using it!
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Old 11-20-10, 01:30 PM   #8
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A mirror isn't a bad idea-especially on a high speed highway.
At 30 mph your braking distance is going to be significant.

You can probably brake at about .5g(at best) on a 4% grade with typical road brakes and tires.
This means you can lose about 15fps every second.
You are going about 45 fps, so you'll need at least 3 seconds to stop(ignoring reaction time)
In the 3 seconds you'll travel about 65 feet.
Add about .5 seconds reaction time-another 23 feet-
It will take you almost 90 feet- 30 yards-to stop.

The obvious answer is to slow down- bikes don't have great brakes-adequate, but not great. Get a mirror so you have some warning,and can bail left if needed.

At 20 mph- 30 fps- stopping distance is 30 feet+ 15 feet- 45 feet instead of 90 feet.Slow down and assume cars will do dangerous things-cause they will!
Mirror-slow down.
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Old 11-20-10, 02:43 PM   #9
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. . . But, I gotta admit, I have somewhat tempered my speed on PCH descents with parked cars.
Makes sense to me.

You might also want to practice some downhill panic stops. Though you can't quite replicate the true panic of a suddenly stopped care at 30 MPH, some practice can help.

Mirrors are great, but maybe not relevant here. I ride with a great mirror (Take-A-Look) and am generally aware of traffic behind me, the awareness is too general to be much help in an emergency. Unless I were planning a turn, I'd likely not have been sure enough to swerve left, wouldn't have had time for a check, and would likely have relied on brakes just as you did.
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Old 11-21-10, 06:06 AM   #10
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Some of those rollers on PCH in Malibu let me attain the speed limit (even on a fixed gear), so I just take the lane. Going 30 down them would be ridiculous.
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Old 11-21-10, 09:04 AM   #11
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Much as we try to be in control of every situation, sometimes there just isn't a solid, correct answer. I hate that. :-) Yes, I recommend a mirror too. It's saved my hide many times. It may not have helped you make a decision in this instance, but then again, it certainly may have.

I'll stay out of the mountain vs road bike skills debate. It's hard to quantify and prove such. (I personally have no qualms about my lack of mountain biking experience, but then maybe my winter road biking in Minnesota on snow and ice more than makes up for it. :-)
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Old 11-21-10, 06:53 PM   #12
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The safest thing to do would have been to not waste the millisecond of decision time and just start breaking. Anytime you change lanes you are putting yourself at some risk, even with a good mirror. Instead of thinking about it just start braking. Its inconvenient but it has to be done. You are responsible for having enough room in front of you that you can come to a stop should the driver ahead do the same, even if you are cut off.
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Old 11-21-10, 08:11 PM   #13
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While I refuse to use a mirror, due to balance reasons, I wholeheartedly agree with the poster above. While mirrors are distracting to me(I use my peripheral vision to compensate), I do agree that they are beneficial to the average cyclist.
Balance reasons? I call BS. Did you remove all the mirrors from your car and house too...ya know for balance reasons?
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Old 11-21-10, 08:20 PM   #14
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Get a mirror, then you will know if the lane next to you is open for you to move into.
Sounds like there wasn't time for looking in the mirror.

I don't use them either. In most situations my ears do that job for me.
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Old 11-21-10, 08:40 PM   #15
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Sounds like there wasn't time for looking in the mirror.

I don't use them either. In most situations my ears do that job for me.
So you blindly change lanes, hoping a Prius or other cyclist are making enough noise for you to hear. If you check the mirror at reasonable intervals (just like they teach in drivers ed), then you have a good idea if anything is at all close, long before you can hear them. A final safety check only takes a fraction of a second which can been done while also braking.
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Old 11-21-10, 08:58 PM   #16
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So you blindly change lanes, hoping a Prius or other cyclist are making enough noise for you to hear. If you check the mirror at reasonable intervals (just like they teach in drivers ed), then you have a good idea if anything is at all close, long before you can hear them. A final safety check only takes a fraction of a second which can been done while also braking.
Touché. No, in that situation I would have been f**ked without a mirror, though I really can't imagine taking my eyes off the emergency happening directly in front of me. I'll relax my stiff standards against them as a result of this conversation. My issue with mirrors though, is that I check them too often, and it becomes very distracting. Like when there is a tv in the room, where are your eyes going to go? I tend to stay off busy highways, for exactly this reason.
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Old 11-21-10, 09:31 PM   #17
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If buddy had a mirror he wouldn't have hit the brakes and would have been creamed by the car moving back into the lane without warning.

Stopping was the correct manouver, it almost always is.
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Old 11-21-10, 09:34 PM   #18
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Touché. No, in that situation I would have been f**ked without a mirror, though I really can't imagine taking my eyes off the emergency happening directly in front of me. I'll relax my stiff standards against them as a result of this conversation. My issue with mirrors though, is that I check them too often, and it becomes very distracting. Like when there is a tv in the room, where are your eyes going to go? I tend to stay off busy highways, for exactly this reason.
You look where you go, if you're looking to the right into a mirror, where are you going? what is happening ahead of you?
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Old 11-21-10, 09:40 PM   #19
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No mirror? No braking skills? No problem, just bunny hop the Pious. Of course, with it taking off as you land you might pick up a bit more speed.
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Old 11-21-10, 09:42 PM   #20
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You look where you go, if you're looking to the right into a mirror, where are you going? what is happening ahead of you?
Sounds like you need to practice holding your line, no matter where you are looking.
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Old 11-21-10, 09:43 PM   #21
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You can look in a mirror in a millisecond while still seeing what is in front of you with your peripheral vision. I have done it myself in emergency situations where a car pulled in front of me and my only option was to swerve. Being able to see in a split second that I could in fact swerve with no risk of being hit from behind saved my butt on more than one occasion. When you have a mirror you tend to glance back very, very often. You are likely to know at any given time where all the traffic is behind you.

Stopping dead in your tracks isn't always possible and isn't always the safest move.
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Old 11-21-10, 09:55 PM   #22
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You can look in a mirror in a millisecond while still seeing what is in front of you with your peripheral vision. I have done it myself in emergency situations where a car pulled in front of me and my only option was to swerve. Being able to see in a split second that I could in fact swerve with no risk of being hit from behind saved my butt on more than one occasion. When you have a mirror you tend to glance back very, very often. You are likely to know at any given time where all the traffic is behind you.

Stopping dead in your tracks isn't always possible and isn't always the safest move.
It is almost always the safest move... it was 100% the safe move in that situation! Hit those brakes, release and swerve or ditch it at the VERY last second.
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Old 11-21-10, 10:04 PM   #23
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It is almost always the safest move... it was 100% the safe move in that situation! Hit those brakes, release and swerve or ditch it at the VERY last second.
Not if there is no way to stop in time....
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