Can’t Win For Losing

Some folks say that it is simply too dangerous for bikes and cars to occupy the same routes and it is best for bikes to stay off the road and stick to multi-use paths and sidewalks.   Others argue that bikes have a legal right to be on the roads and if more cyclists would actually take advantage of that fact, things would work better for everyone.  I tried it both ways on today’s ride and was nearly hit by a car while using both methods.

I was pleased the light dusting of snow we had last night melted off nicely and I was ready to take on yet another chilly ride.  I pedaled northwards on Rte 234 and turned right following the Prince William Parkway.  At all times I was on multi-use paths.  Eventually, I found myself at the intersection of the parkway and Liberia Avenue – a busy intersection.

My route at "The Intersection," taken from today's Garmin data. There was a lot more traffic than this.

I used the crosswalk to reach a triangular-shaped cement island which had a button to change the signal for pedestrian crossings.  I waited several minutes for the sign to beckon me across.  All four lanes had cars in them; the rightmost lane had cars turning right on the red light after stopping.  After the first two cars went, this quickly turned to “turn right on red just as fast as the car in front of you is moving.”  I knew I would be in trouble as I approached this stream of traffic.  Sure enough, a man driving an SUV didn’t see me nor slow in the least until I was within five feet of him.  He slammed on his brakes and I did likewise, although “slamming my brakes” is not the best description for coming to a stop while pedaling at walking speed.  After staring at each other for a few seconds, he waved me on.  I think he recognized his mistake, but he didn’t seem very apologetic for it.

I soon found myself on Yates Ford Road.  The pathways had ended at this point and I was on the road.  For the first time, I took a turn onto River Forest Drive and found some excellent hills.  I think I’ll be back there later this summer as I get ready for the hilly Civil War Century in September.

I was about four miles from home on Spriggs Road when the next problem occurred.  All four lanes of the road were completely empty of traffic when another SUV blew past me.  He came within a foot of me and he blared his horn while he passed.  There was plenty of room for him to take the other lane (as I mentioned, the road had no other cars on it).  He just wanted to see how close he could come to riding me off the road.  Charming.  The last time something like this happened was December 4th – also on Spriggs Road.  It looks like I need to avoid Spriggs Road.  I guess crosswalks at busy intersections need some scrutiny as well.


14 thoughts on “Can’t Win For Losing

  1. Steve – You need to move down to Richmond. Drivers here, for the most part, are very courteous (knock on wood). I even have had some drivers purposefully stay behind me on long, curvy hills to make sure I’m safe when they well could have passed me. Stay safe my friend.

    • I’ve actually had a fairly easy time of things vis-a-vis automobiles. I’ve had more challenges with pedestrians, to be honest. The thing about cars is that it only needs to happen once, then you’ve got a big problem!

  2. The keyword here is SUV. You don’t buy one of these and expect to have to pay any attention to other people. Our equivalent round here is timber lorries. They are the only people doing any work and anyone else can watch out. But the caravan season hasn’t started yet. They are really frightening.

    • It looks like we have a working theory on a personality type that likes to aggress cyclists and how that personality manifests itself in different cars in different cultures. There’s an anthropology and/or psychology thesis out there for someone!

  3. The person who honked at you was probably looking at it as if they were doing you a favor. In their mind riding a bicycle on the road is stupid, foolish and dangerous, so they try to discourage you by honking and passing closesly. They think if can persuade you off the road you’ll be safer and better in the long run. At least that’s what I’ve told myself after so many crazy people have come by honking, shaking their head, screaming or whatever.

    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep,

    • Shakespeare as applied to cycling issues? Now there’s a first! I shall try to remember your more optimistic perspective and the next time some bozo nearly runs me off the road, I’ll remember what Hamlet had to say about mankind:

      What a piece of worke is a man! how Noble in
      Reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving
      how express and admirable! in Action, how like an Angel!
      in apprehension, how like a God?

  4. Glad you are OK!
    Eye contact is helpful, whenever it’s possible to get it. I try to follow it up with a smile.
    You know this, though.
    Cycle Joyfully!

  5. I hate it when drivers play follow the leader. There is a T intersection on my commuter route where this happens routinely and is the site of my own record near miss ( I was walking my bike through the crosswalk at the time ).

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