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Old 04-30-12, 07:37 PM   #1
mjw16
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Close Call Today

On my way home, at 14th and Constitution, I had a pretty close call. I had ridden down the sidewalk to the intersection where I typically cross 14th Street when I ran into a couple of co-workers. They were walking to their car and I rode up behind them. We started talking/goofing around. As I approached I noticed the crossing light's timer was at about 17 seconds, usually more than enough time for me to safely make it across, even with a crosswalk full of tourists/pedestrians. Well, I guess I lost track of the time after getting distracted. I said I'd see them later and looked to my left, no approaching traffic so, I darted across. By the time I was halfway across I heard the horns and screeching brakes/tires. I think I heard someone yell as well The car in the lane nearest me stopped just before the crosswalk then, I noticed another coming, in the middle lane. At this point I felt committed and stood up, hammering on the pedals-I didn't think I could have stopped in time. Luckily this car skidded to a stop just short of hitting me. I don't believe there was a car in the next (turn) lane-thankfully. Once safely on the curb I looked back in disbelief. I didn't really understand what just happened, I'm usually very cautious in the city. Everyone kept going so, I did too. Then the fear/realization of what could have just happened, the embarrassment/humiliation of making such a public mistake started to set in. I shook my head in disbelief and slowly kept riding. I wasn't thinking so much about what would have happened to me but, my 4 year old son. I'd hate to think about not being around for him. I was then embarrassed thinking about how my 2 co-workers would later harass me, my riding and attire is always a matter of fascination/playful teasing. I later thought, so what if they tease me, I'll just blow it off-the important thing to take from this is: 1) you can never be too careful, 2) always wear your helmet, 3) do not allow yourself to become distracted/complacent, always take city riding seriously, 4) get right back on the horse, 5) continue to improve all aspects of your commute's safety.

I'm ok now, was a little shaken earlier, I also decided not to tell my wife-she'd understand but worry. No sense scaring her, I've had nearly ten years of incredibly safe, efficient commuting and plan to use this as a lesson and continue my streak. I'll be back on the bike tomorrow but, will make playing it a little more conservatively a priority. Everyone continue to be safe out there.
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Old 04-30-12, 08:06 PM   #2
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All of us are capable of a mistake and we're kidding ourselves if we think otherwise. I don't make many...but I once blew through a stop sign and came awfully close.

I haven't mentioned it on this forum yet, but I was hit by a car two weeks ago. My leg is broken and I think there may also be ligament damage. I was stopped at a red and a woman cut her turn short. She plowed into me head going east in my westbound lane. She said she was distracted and didn't see me. As you can imagine, it's hard not to be angry...but we all do dumb things. I was lucky and could have been hit when I was at fault.
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Old 04-30-12, 08:37 PM   #3
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Am I right in thinking that you were at a ped crossing riding you bike? I know quite a few cyclists do ride crosswalks, but --after learning the hard way-- I dismount and walk across. Reason is that at a ped crossing traffic is expecting objects moving at ped speed. My recommendation would be to either ride in the lane or walk through the crosswalk.

Whatever you do, you still need to remember that the intersection is the most dangerous part of your ride. It's full of lethal objects just rarin' to get moving and sometimes they aren't too wide awake.

Anyway... good luck with it!
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Old 04-30-12, 09:25 PM   #4
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It doesn't help that 14th is basically an urban freeway for Maryland commuters. Maybe one day they'll extend the 15th st cycletrack across the Mall to provide a better N-S route and help reduce these types of situations, but I'm not holding my breath.

Anyway, were you heading east or west?

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Old 04-30-12, 09:26 PM   #5
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I've made mistakes too, glad to hear the others were paying attention (maybe give 'cagers' a little credit) and be vigilant.

KonAaron hope you heal up well, glad you made it through with non life threatening issues.
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Old 04-30-12, 10:36 PM   #6
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I too do not tell the wife about my dumarse mistakes. I try to avoid them altogether since I don't want her to get "the call".
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Old 05-01-12, 06:47 AM   #7
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I was heading West, across 14th Street. And, I've seen so many cars racing to catch the light or, simply blowing through it without regard for whomever may be in the cross walk that I'm usually extremely careful. I thought I had allowed myself to become distracted, running out of time on the light, however, that may not have been the case. Even if I cut it closer than usual, the light still affords crossers a short "grace period" before the traffic is given the green light and I believe I still had 5 or 7 seconds left. In addition, my co-workers (who witnessed the whole scene) said that they thought one of the cars actually sped up as it approached the intersection. Either way, I'm just glad that nothing happened. I wasn't afraid to ride in today but, took a much safer route sticking to sidewalks once in D.C. It's slower but, feels much safer. That's not really a great option, though, in the afternoon as so many toursists take over. I was also extra vigilant at this intersection this morning.
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Old 05-01-12, 07:47 AM   #8
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Had a "dumb out" close call just last week. I was the only person on my side of the street waiting to go straight at a stop light. In the opposite direction, there were a few cars in the left turn lane, but no cars in the straight lane. The green turn arrow appeared and the cars opposite of me all turned left. When the light turned to a yellow arrow, I proceeded to prepare to cross on the green. I was halfway across the street when I suddenly realized that no green appeared for me; my light had turned red and now traffic on either side of me was entering the intersection on their green. No screeching of tires, but a lot of people had to slow down suddenly for the idiot on the bike in the middle of the intersection.

I've gone through that intersection plenty of times, but apparently never noticed it had the mass sensors to trigger the lights. I guess there's always been at least one car to trigger the light for me.

We all do dumb things on occasion. The key is to learn from them so we don't repeat the same dumb thing over and over.
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Old 05-01-12, 07:59 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by mjw16 View Post
1) you can never be too careful, 2) always wear your helmet, 3) do not allow yourself to become distracted/complacent, always take city riding seriously, 4) get right back on the horse, 5) continue to improve all aspects of your commute's safety.
Make number 3 on your list number 1 and you’re on to something. Maintaining situational awareness and being prepared for issues is the key to safety.

I take issue with “you can never be too careful”. One can follow this mantra while still not behaving in the safest manner. For example, many riders seem to do everything they can in an effort to “stay out of the way of cars”, yet this often puts them in more danger, not less. Curb huggers and sidewalk riders clearly believe they are being as safe as possible, yet statistics and experience often prove otherwise.


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Am I right in thinking that you were at a ped crossing riding you bike? I know quite a few cyclists do ride crosswalks, but --after learning the hard way-- I dismount and walk across. Reason is that at a ped crossing traffic is expecting objects moving at ped speed. My recommendation would be to either ride in the lane or walk through the crosswalk.
I'd say gerv has it right. I almost never ride through crosswalks, yet the only time I was hit by a car that’s exactly what I was doing.
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Old 05-01-12, 08:42 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
All of us are capable of a mistake and we're kidding ourselves if we think otherwise. I don't make many...but I once blew through a stop sign and came awfully close.

I haven't mentioned it on this forum yet, but I was hit by a car two weeks ago. My leg is broken and I think there may also be ligament damage. I was stopped at a red and a woman cut her turn short. She plowed into me head going east in my westbound lane. She said she was distracted and didn't see me. As you can imagine, it's hard not to be angry...but we all do dumb things. I was lucky and could have been hit when I was at fault.
Damn! I hope you'll recover fully and quickly and get something for your pain out of this. Good luck!
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Old 05-01-12, 08:56 AM   #11
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Damn! I hope you'll recover fully and quickly and get something for your pain out of this. Good luck!
It doesn't sound like there will be much money...certainly not enough to compensate me for 6 months of lost cycling and what amounts to my life being on hold for half a year to a year. The recovery time is BRUTAL...things won't be "normal" for a full year. When you deduct the attorney's 25% from medical and lost wages, there isn't a whole lot afterwards. The only silver lining is that it isn't worse and I have a great wife helping me through this.
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Old 05-01-12, 09:06 AM   #12
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..... and I have a great wife helping me through this.

That's a major plus, since some BF members wives have stopped/try to stop/limited their husbands from commuting to work by bike after a serious collision with an auto.
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Old 05-01-12, 09:31 AM   #13
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That's a major plus, since some BF members wives have stopped/try to stop/limited their husbands from commuting to work by bike after a serious collision with an auto.
My wife was explicit in stating she sees it as a freak accident and not a result of bicycle commuting. If anything, she's encouraged me from my fear. I married the right woman

This could have happened in a car...or to a pedestrian. If someone is so negligent as to drive in the wrong lane, there's not much you can do. Seriously - I was stopped at a red light. The only take away here is that "they" are out there.
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Old 05-01-12, 01:57 PM   #14
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On my way home, at 14th and Constitution, I had a pretty close call. I had ridden down the sidewalk to the intersection where I typically cross 14th Street when I ran into a couple of co-workers. They were walking to their car and I rode up behind them. We started talking/goofing around. As I approached I noticed the crossing light's timer was at about 17 seconds, usually more than enough time for me to safely make it across, even with a crosswalk full of tourists/pedestrians. Well, I guess I lost track of the time after getting distracted. I said I'd see them later and looked to my left, no approaching traffic so, I darted across. By the time I was halfway across I heard the horns and screeching brakes/tires. I think I heard someone yell as well The car in the lane nearest me stopped just before the crosswalk then, I noticed another coming, in the middle lane. At this point I felt committed and stood up, hammering on the pedals-I didn't think I could have stopped in time. Luckily this car skidded to a stop just short of hitting me.....
a very similar thing happened to me the other day. for me, it was an unfamiliar intersection that had more lanes (about eight i think) than i anticipated. i got halfway across after entering it as it turned yellow and because i was not trying too hard the light turned green for the other lanes before i got across. it was touch and go. after i got through a police officer pulled up beside me and through his open window said, "not too smart". i quickly agreed, fortunately for me we were both old enough to understand how that stuff and can happen and nothing more needed to be said.

i've subsequently, i hope, put that into my sub-conscious area that has kept me alive and accident free for thirty years of adult bicycling. hopefully i can die of some malignant disease instead of a bicycling accident. stay tuned...

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Old 05-01-12, 06:43 PM   #15
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change your signature

thanks for sharing, maybe you'll save a life. I've been in a similar situation. it's amazing how cars can appear out of absolutely nowhere.

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Old 05-01-12, 07:11 PM   #16
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Hey, Pobody's Nerfect -- this is just a reminder of the base truth of travel:

"Look first, drive/ride/walk second." You know, looking back, that your register of "17 seconds" for the crosswalk was 'disqualified' by not moving right then. So take it as a mild 'kick in the pants'.
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Old 05-01-12, 07:25 PM   #17
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"Happens to the best of us" is a saying I use often. As you saw all it takes is one moment of inattention or distraction sometimes. I was riding my motorcycle one day and was doing a little math in my head and almost crashed/missed a turn. This after 50,000 miles of riding a motorcycle in four years. Have over 100,000 miles on the bicycle and the other day simply flopped off the front while trying to mount it. Fell on my back in front of my office in front of co-workers - and one that just said "be careful!"
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Old 05-01-12, 09:12 PM   #18
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It doesn't sound like there will be much money...certainly not enough to compensate me for 6 months of lost cycling and what amounts to my life being on hold for half a year to a year. The recovery time is BRUTAL...things won't be "normal" for a full year..
I know that feeling. I've just lost the last 6 weeks with 4 broken ribs... result of a left hooking automobile and me veering away into the median.

Hurt like hell.

But I started riding about 10 days ago. It was terrible to start. I was all out of breath on hills and my legs hurt after 5 miles.

But I'm surprised at how quickly I'm recovering... although I have a few road rashes that look like permanent tatoos.

Good luck with you recovery and try to get into something that you've always wanted to do... like reading "War and Peace" or learning bicycle repair.
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Old 05-10-12, 07:39 AM   #19
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Change my signature: I thought about that. It means that when I go I want to have left it all on the field, not having been afraid to try new things, not attempt to die doing stupid things :-)

I was shaken up for a couple of days but, have returned to form, not fearing parts of my commute but, striving to be more alert and careful instead. Years ago I made it a rule to always wear my helmet and ride safely, especially when in DC. I now use my headlight in flash mode whenever I'm in DC-not just in the morning, when it's dark. I also don't allow myself to rush to catch a light, any light. This close call hasn't had the "near death experience" affect on me that I thought it might. I've definitely learned from it and improved my commuting technique but, haven't had an increased urge to hurry up on my bucket list, I guess I've always had a sense of urgency about things and this doesn't seem to have changed. Also, 2012 is shaping up to be one of the fittest years of my life and I don't want anything to jeapardize this. I've lost over 22 pounds and upped my riding/training while improving my diet significantly. I'm going in for a full blood panel soon and am eager to see the improvement the last 3 months should have brought. Also, a good friend of mine's wife just bought a Harley and quickly dumped it, breaking her foot. She's an avid runner and will have to see how this affects her. My goal is to not let something similar impact my 10 years of commuting, mountain biking, touring, century rides and recent health gains.
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