J-Hooked Today

November 16th, 2009 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

J-hook graphicClimbing stairs, of which my house has many, is less fun than it was a couple of hours ago. I have a dollar-bill sized bruise. A driver j-hooked me on my bike ride early this afternoon.

I had been cocky about my ability to outwit the witless and impatient. Numerous drivers in Boston and Cambridge have swerved to the right in front of me to make a turn, but I have always been too alert, too quick and too skilled to be hurt. This one got me.

She turned suddenly as she was passing me, starting her signal as she went from Rte. 138 south into the Suffolk Grille/Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot. Like the old joke about Tarzan painting zebras, I’ll never know whether she was headed for a chocolate glazed or a double martini.

I had no way out and despite my good brakes and fast reflexes, I was probably still doing 15 mph when she hit me with her passenger side. I went down on my left hip and then elbow.

She stopped. I got off the pavement. We talked.

She first said she didn’t see me. I didn’t buy that. She was still in the process of passing me, all 185 pounds of me with a yellow Polartec pullover and shiny blue helmet, riding my very yellow bike.

Then she quickly came to the truth of the matter. “I thought you were back there…I had no idea bikes could move that fast.”

In all honesty, still recovering from my badly broken leg and being an old guy, I’m not all that fast. I bet coming down that hill, I never broke 25 mph and was able to slow before she clipped me. Yet, her point was well taken. Most drivers think of cyclists as going walking speed. That makes them think, if they consider it at all, that they can disregard any bike on their right. They would surely be long gone or turned before a human-powered vehicle approaches.

Wrong-o, sports fans.

She kept saying how sorry she was. I told her several times I was pretty sure I was just roughed up and bruised. My bike seems OK.

As she calmed, I got to my cyclist’s teaching moment. I did point out that she turned into and hit me; she was nowhere past the bike. There are specific laws forbidding what she had done.

(Mass Ch. 90-Sec. 14, including, No person operating a vehicle that overtakes and passes a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall make a right turn at an intersection or driveway unless the turn can be made at a safe distance from the bicyclist at a speed that is reasonable and proper. It also covers: No person shall open a door on a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so without interfering with the movement of other traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians. It has fines and comes with civil liability, presumption of guilt, license points and insurance surcharges. There basically is no defense any more than rear ending another vehicle in traffic. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.)

However, I led her through that a slow cyclist is likely going 10 to 13 miles per hour and road cyclists 15 to 30. After this event, for all us cyclists, she said she’d be very careful and aware. She really hadn’t thought about it. She should allow space and time.

I believe she will and I believe she’ll tell family and friends, and in turn some of them will think of it. I think she is much more bike friendly and aware.

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2 Responses

  1. So says:

    So you din’t call the po-po? Sounds like you had her dead to rights.

  2. Harrumpher says:

    I’m not a vindictive nor litigious sort. I’m sure I could have had her cited and maybe (but judge-dependent) fined. However, I have had my own experiences with that like when I was broadsided on a bike by a young woman flooring into a left turn. I did want her punished, but the Boston cops lied about when she’d be in court. I found out that the judge decided she was poor (uninsured and unregistered car) and single parent of a baby, so she got no penalty. Enough of that, my limp and soreness are at least half gone and I honestly believe she has had a transforming, biker respecting experience.

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