SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.


Taking Chances...

Today I bike-commuted to work, and I had two close calls with cars that were mostly due to me needlessly taking chances.

In the morning, I was in SF, headed uptown on Mission Street at 14th, waiting in the left-hand lane (two lanes in either direction) at a red light, intending to turn left onto 14th. 14th is a one way street, with two lanes of traffic. When I'm waiting to make this left turn at this intersection, I always feel vulnerable -- I figure it's only a matter of time before some motorist comes barreling down Mission, blathering on his cellphone or whatever, and plows right into that cyclist he didn't even see (that'd be me). So I always try to expedite the process of making this left turn. Today, as I was waiting at the light, I saw a huge line of cars stack up in the opposite direction, so I knew that I was going to have to sit at the intersection for several minutes more and wait for oncoming traffic to clear before I could make that left-hander, even though the light had turned green (refer to previous fear of getting smushed). So, I took a risk: when the light turned yellow and then red, but before traffic from 14th started moving, I slipped in a quick left-hand turn. Technically not a correct thing to do, but I really wanted/needed to get the heck out of the middle of traffic. Unfortunately, the SUV behind me also decided to try to jump the light, and came perilously close to grunching my rear wheel. I zigged and he zagged and we missed each other fortunately, but it reinforced the fact that I definitely need to be smarter about my tactics for that particular intersection. Sometimes when traffic (read: MUNI busses) won't let me get into the left-hand lane to properly make a normal left-hand turn, I execute a box or "two-point" turn which involves cutting across 14th Street and then turning to parallel the traffic flow in that direction and waiting at the light. Maybe I need to make this standard procedure?

Then in the evening, I was in Mountain View, exiting the Stevens Creek Trail where it intersects with Evelyn Ave. This path annoyingly exits onto a street on the opposite side of the direction I need to go, so I'm forced to somehow cut across 4 lanes of traffic to get to the other side where it's "safe" to ride. I was running late for my train and there was traffic on the road, so I hopped down off the curb and started riding the wrong way on the wrong side of the street. Bad, I know. A car was pulling out of a driveway just up ahead of me, and I incorrectly assumed that they'd seen me (I did have a strong headlamp on my bike, as well as a flashing helmet-mounted strobe). Apparently the driver was only looking for oncoming traffic and of course, just as I was in front of that car, he started going and so had to slam on the brakes at the last minute, stopping his bumper just inches from my left ankle. Of course I had no business riding as I was, but this car was also blocking the sidewalk, so what if there had been pedestrians trying to walk in front of that car?

At any rate, I need to be more attentive and follow my instincts better. In both of these situations my spidy-sense was tingling, telling me what I already knew -- that I was making risky choices.

Let's all be safe out there!


Blogger blackmountaincycles said...

Hmmmm, my son and I just watched an educational film on safe cycling in San Francisco and according to the film (MASH) it's perfectly okay to believe that you as a cyclist has the right of way in any and all situations including blowing through stop signs.

Seriously, glad you made it unscathed today.


4:12 PM  
Blogger cyclofiend said...

I think it was the moon. There are a number of acts which I got away with in the past week which seem abominably stupid upon reflection. Mostly right-side squeezes where traffic can decide to use the parking lane to advance. Let's feel lucky, but humbled. I want to be riding when I'm 90 or so.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Yokota Fritz said...

MASH as an "education film on safe cycling" :-) That's pretty good.

For left-turn to one way like that I'll make something like a 2-point turn, but from my position in the left lane. You're in the crosswalk already, right? So when light on 14th is green, just make a sharp left and follow the crosswalk so you're on the left side of the road on 14th.

12:10 PM  

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