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.