Monday, May 11, 2009

Learn from Rooty-Toot Jasperson

So I've been a bike commuter for a while. I started riding while I was a college student in the early '90s because a parking pass cost way too much, I made way too little, and walking to classes often meant being late due to the vast distance between them. I remember the first time I rode to college was a vastly liberating experience. I just got a new Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo, and I was especially proud of the front shock (a shock on mountain bike was a luxury item for the time, rear shock was unheard of). I commuted to campus through stopped traffic (holy crap, I'm actually moving!) and then blazed in between classes with time to spare. Truly, a bike was superior to both car and legs, I reasoned.

That first Fisher bit the dust about 6 years later when I found myself caught in a pickup truck's wheel well and vaulted slo-mo into the air, coming down headfirst into an intersection during rush hour. While I was in midair I remember thinking so clearly "Dammit! This is going to ruin my ride, and probably my bike." My helmet sacrificed itself to the greater good but my right clavical (aka collarbone) was pissed. I crawled out of the intersection thinking I was going to get run over and learned that my right arm wasn't going to cooperate. Everybody was shouting for me to lay down. I was no longer feeling well, so I did.

My commute has varied between a 4-5 mile round trip all the way up to a 30 mile round trip. Currently I'm putting in an enjoyable 17 miles a day.

Since that fateful bike/truck collision I've learned a few more defensive tactics. Among my arsenal is lots of hand signals to let everyone know, I AM NOW TURNING. However, no matter how much eye contact, hand waving, lights, and signals, some folks still don't get the message.

Last week I attempted my usual left turn onto the home stretch (toward the office, not home, so I guess I should call it the "office stretch" but I thought that might confuse all of you, which of course is none of you since no one really reads this blog) at about 7:20 am. I had the right of way as there were no stop signs or signals on my road, and no oncoming traffic. A few cars were waiting the stop sign to turn left onto my road (and I was turning left, onto theirs). I began my turn after signalling as many times as I could prior to the turn. As I approached the front of the waiting cars, one of them began to accelerate right in beside me. Fortunately he stopped before I was T-boned. I too stopped before proceeding just to make sure he wasn't going to hit a moving target but a fixed one. Why not make it easier for him?

As I passed him, he was yelling at me behind his rolled up window while he was talking on his cell phone. I too felt the need to express my reasoned position on the incident by making sure he knew that I was signaling and that driving while talking on a cell phone can certainly be a distraction, my good man. Feeling satisfied that he learned what he needed about bike safety, I rode on.

I have since discovered a gem of a cycling/LSD public service video made in the early '60s (actually, I hijacked it from one of my favorite sites). But there is one flaw. Sometimes, Rooty-Toot Jasperson, it doesn't matter how many times you signal, there will be drivers who are determined to remove you from the road.


  1. Well I read this blog. you have more than 2 followers. This one is a bike advocate too. (until his bikes get stolen). ahh toronto

  2. Dr. Jones! Thanks for chiming in. Great to hear from you. Sorry to hear about your bike. Too bad it wasn't that awesome Park Pre I talked you into buying years ago.