30 March 2014

If Speed Doesn't Kill

Today I'm going to talk about one of those topics about which none of us wants to think:  accidents.

Specifically, I'm thinking about motorists hitting or, worse, running down cyclists.

One reason it's on my mind is that last night, I had one of the closest calls I've had in a while.  

I had just traversed the Pulaski Bridge from McGuiness Boulevard in Greeenpoint, Brooklyn to Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, Queens--a crossing I've made hundreds of times.  On Jackson, I turned left and followed it to 50th Avenue.  Then I turned right on Vernon Boulevard, which skirts the East River and takes me within a few blocks of my apartment.

Daylight, such as it was, fell into night.  Showers were turning into a downpour.  Even that, in itself, is not so unusual, especially at this time of year.  I exercised my usual caution:  I rode a little bit slower and gave myself extra time and distance to brake.  I expected nothing more inconvenient than wet clothes (I was riding Vera, which has full fenders and a flap, but I had not brought any rain gear.) on the rest of my trip home.  

But as I approached the "Y" shaped intersection of Vernon with 45th Avenue and 10th Street, a car shot out from behind me and seemed to miss my front wheel by inches.  A quick turn of my handlebars saved me.

The intersection was well-lit, so my "blinky" lights and reflective vest should have been sufficient for the driver to see me.  There was no light or "stop" sign in the intersection, and I proceeded as far to the right as I could without making a turn.  

However, that driver had to be going at least twice the speed limit for that street.  And, given that it was early on Saturday night, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that his blood-alcohol level was over the legal limit.

In thinking about the incident, I realize that in every one of my close encounters with automobiles in which road conditions or inadequate signals or signage weren't the cause, the driver was speeding.  And, I would suspect that there was a better-than-even chance that the driver was drinking.

Then, just a little while ago, in doing some research (i.e., surfing the web), I came across this account of a 70-year-old cyclist in India who was mowed down by a speeding mini-bus. As it turns out, the driver has a record of speeding and recklessness.

That got me to wondering whether speeding is the main cause of accidents between cars and bikes in which the motorist is at fault. 


  1. My cycling-related emergency room visits now number four. In none of the cases was a motor vehicle nearby. My last close call with a car in traffic was in 1973 and involved a motorist pulling out of a driveway in front of me.

  2. Let's all take care out there.

  3. I think a major cause of accidents here is not paying attention while driving and being in a hurry. A lot of our drivers are hostile to cyclists. I've had 3 close calls while cycling, and some threat displays [running off the road just ahead to stir up dust, once they pass you]. Once I was in a bike lane and another time I was a foot and a half from the right edge of the narrow road, where I was suppose to be. According a police officer I spoke with, there is a fairly high number of DUI and drug users on the road, higher than you might think. Ride like everyone is out to get you.

  4. Steve--Hmm. Four emergency-room visits with no car involved. I don't know how I feel about that--except relief that you recovered from whatever brought you to the emergency room.


    Liz--I've had a couple of close encounters with drivers who were texting or talking on their cell phones. Even though laws against driving while texting or talking on the phone are on the books, they're almost never enforced (at least around here). And the officer you spoke with is right about alcohol and drug use. They seem to amplify the hostility some drivers feel toward us.