Saturday was a good day overall. It just had this little blip in the middle.
After working a short shift at work, I went home to drop off my dirty uniform. I said a brief hello to the roommate, then I was off again. I got on the bike and started down the driveway. A cyclist, who looked to be in his 40’s, passed me. He was decked out in fancy bike clothes. And he was riding one of those new fancy carbon Specialized bikes. I pulled onto the street behind him on my aluminum Specialized single speed and immediately began drafting. I expected to fall behind him once we started climbing the hill between the house and downtown. But, surprisingly he didn’t. I kept my eyes on his back wheel, making sure I didn’t get too close to him. I had a clear view of his rear gears. Not a change all the way up. I’m not sure if I could have passed him. But, I stayed right behind him.
Once we reached the top of the hill, I stopped pedaling. I could see the next intersection in the distance. We had the green light. But, I knew we wouldn’t make it. We were too far back. So, I smartly conserved my energy while he tried to make it. He didn’t. I pulled up next to him at the light. We spoke briefly about the weather. Then we were off. I took the lead. And before I knew it, He was a distant dot behind me. I eased up at this point. No need to embarrass the guy. And I wasn’t in a hurry. And it’s a good thing I did. For waiting at the next intersection, about a quarter mile up, was something that was going to cause some pain.
I usually love the ride down the Highlands into downtown Denver. It’s a blast of a ride. But, a careful dose of caution goes along with that. Your not riding on a closed course. Cars abound. And it’s wise to give them a full berth. You don’t know who is driving. Often times, your not sure if they see you. And any little mistake on your part, or theirs, can cause serious injury. Or death. I approach this intersection with a great amount of caution. There are cars parked on the street here at all times. Which means that there is even less room for error. More often than not, most cars simply won’t even attempt to pass in this section. Your going at least as fast as them. So, that’s not a problem.
As I approached the intersection, I noticed that there weren’t any cars along the side of the road, so I gave the cars around me a little extra room by riding as close to the curb as possible. There was a small car approaching the intersection in front of me. But, he gave no indication that he would do anything other than go straight. No brake lights. No turn signal. I won’t pass a car in this kind of traffic unless I can see that he won’t veer into me. As there weren’t any brake lights or turn signals, I made my move on the right side along the curb. All the while watching his front end. I got my butt out of the saddle, as I do at just about every intersection. It’s a good way of making sure people can see you better. As soon as I got between his back seat and the front, he started to turn right. it was so abrupt, and with so much speed that it caught me completely off guard. I slammed on the brakes and yelled at him through the open windows. I nearly put my feet down. But, I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t go over the hood. Thankfully, he heard me. He corrected to the left, allowing me to pass. But, by this time, my left handlebar and hand punched through his right rear view mirror. And there was pain on my left leg.
He had pushed me so far right that my only option, upon clearing the intersection, was to continue onto the sidewalk. As I slowed down, I tried to get my bearings. Was I ok? Was the bike ok? I passed a man on the sidewalk outside a coffee shop on the phone. He was on his mobile, but his attention was clearly on me and what just happened. I put my feet down, got off the bike, and started breathing again. The guy on the phone asked if I was ok. I told him I thought so. I turned around to see someone from the car out in the middle of the intersection picking up the remnants of the rear view mirror and a hubcap. That must be why my leg hurt. I could see some dirt on my leg and a chunk of skin missing along the left side of my shin.
Against my better judgement, I started walking back toward the accident. The responsible adult in me said I shouldn’t leave the scene of an accident. Back across the street, I could see the cyclist I was riding with earlier. Behind his sunglasses and helmet, I could make out a rather shocked look. As the guy from the car made his way back to the sidewalk, I said to him “Nice turn signal.” In response, he said “I don’t know if it was on or not. I wasn’t driving.” He then began to lay into me. He raised his voice. And went on and on about how I should watch out for where I was going. At this point, I knew I had made a mistake.I asked if everyone was ok. He said they were. I asked him to pass on to the driver that he should watch for bicyclists and always use his turn signal. And that I did nothing wrong. I then turned my back to him and left. The guy on the phone looked at me as I passed and said. “It’s always the tough guys. I saw the whole thing. Didn’t look like you did anything wrong.” I said thanks. Got on my bike. And continued to downtown.
I rode on the street, like a responsible bike rider, the rest of the way. But, needless to say, I took it slow. My hand hurt like hell. I had already taken my glove off. There appeared to be no damage. Just three little scraps and the knuckle of my middle finger was red (I awoke Sunday to a swollen hand). By the time I got downtown and locked up, my hands were still shaking. I stood there at the rack for a good 10 minutes, just trying to calm down.
Attention, both bike riders and people who get behind the wheel of a car. Be careful out there. Keep an eye out. There are a lot of irresponsible people out there. We need to keep an eye out for each other. Use your turn signals. Even if you think your the only one there. I don’t know how many times I’ve been cut off by drivers who don’t bother to signal. Heck. Even I use turn signals on my bike. I want to make sure everyone knows where I want to go. Remember those hand signals you were taught in Driver’s Ed? I wish more bike riders would you use them. Thankfully, I wasn’t hurt on Saturday. But, you never know when someone is going to make a mistake. Or do something stupid. I’ve been thinking and rethinking my attitude on the road. I try to be safe. But, could I do more? Absolutely. I like speed. Is that safe? No, it’s not. I’m definitely going to be more cautious around cars now.