Thursday, August 20, 2009

Before Being Overtaken By Events...

This is the blog post that was forming in my head before all the excitement the other night. I was going to say-

Something very unusual happened on my ride today. It was really no big deal, but for the rarity of it.

I had a string of cars pile up behind me, waiting to pass! Yes, really!

Some say that as a courtesy and as a gesture of goodwill, cyclists ought to move aside from a primary lane position to facilitate faster traffic getting by them. If it is safe to do so, they often add. But how many automobiles in queue does it take to evoke the "courtesy doctrine"? There is some dispute over this.

Many cite Pennsylvania and California statutes that mandate operators of slow vehicles yield when five or more drivers of faster vehicles pile up behind them. I guess those laws are saying that one's Right-Of-Way (ROW) is equal to 20% of everyone else's Right-To-Proceed-At-Or-Above-The-Posted-Speed-Limit. (RTPAOATPSL) When enough driver's RTPAOATPSL of .2, taken together, exceeds your ROW of 1, your ROW disappears and you are now violating the ROW of overtaking motorists!

Why five? Is three slowed vehicles too burdensome because it would force too frequent pull-offs? Is five delayed drivers suffer-able while six delayed drivers is a tragedy? I think such laws are preposterous. They are the result of political compromises and then the one size fits all mandate is forced onto the public.

In places that such laws exist, it is no longer a matter of courtesy, but a matter rights under the law. It is not a courtesy to pull aside, but an obligation. Such is the effect of laws. Law, being such a blunt force, is a poor guide when seeking enlightenment on matters of courtesy, don't you think.

Perhaps a better guide as to when pulling aside is a courteous thing to do is the amount of time a vehicle must wait behind you.

I suppose, if it were a hill crest ahead causing the motorist to be unable to pass you in a safe manner, there would be no need to pull aside, as our progress to passing lanes can be clearly seen and accessed. The trauma for the motorist by such a delay would be milder than if heavy opposing traffic were keeping them from passing you.

But if opposing traffic were steady enough that it were unlikely that a motorist's RTPAOATPSL could be resumed within 30 seconds, pulling aside might be in order. Keep in mind that this arbitrary span of time is less than most signal light cycles, which is a common, acceptable, and expected delay performed at a complete stand-still!

I do not think I have ever caused any vehicle a 20 second delay, let alone a half minute. The actual necessity to pull aside may come up from time to time for a cyclist who exercises lane control, but it is a rare and unusual situation.

In April of this year, there was some discussion of being "cautious" even though the law is clear that I am not compelled to do so. The imaginary example of impeding traffic for endless miles was usually trotted forward. So I began to take a more careful observation of just how many automobile drivers queue up behind me.

From then until the other eventful day, the highest number was two. The unusually long string of cars that momentous day was three! [Gasp!] The huge traffic pile up managed to dissipate in about 20 seconds.

In my experience, cycling on narrow roads impedes other road users, but less than the impedances caused by non-bicycle traffic. The worries people have of interfering with traffic flow when cyclists take their rightful place on the public by-ways is unfounded.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Home

You are traveling down a two-lane country road in the dark of night. You come upon a strange sight. There is an oddly flashing red light up ahead, in the middle of the road. You instinctively slow down.

As you come close to the strange light, you can make out that it is some fellow on a bicycle in the middle of your lane. The road is nearing the crest of a rise, and so you must slow and wait to overtake in the opposing lane.

As the line of sight becomes clear, a dark colored SUV roars past you! You are glad you always check before changing lanes.

But the SUV slows suddenly in the oncoming lane, and then accelerates again. As you prepare to overtake the bicyclist, he waves his arm and swerves into the center line while coming to a stop. He nearly falls to the ground as he dismounts and runs toward you... He has a full beard and has a deranged look on his face... His eyes are wild-

"The passenger of that car shot me!" He yells when he comes up to your closed window.

In this scenario, what would you do?

In this case, the fellow rolled down his window and exclaimed in a loud voice; "You've been shot?"

"Yes," I said, "By a pellet gun I think, can you chase him down for me?"

I am holding my left side.

Without another word he roars off.

About 8:30 PM I was west-bound on Hwy 879 (a mile east of FM 1722) when the passenger of an overtaking motor vehicle shot me with some sort of pellet or BB gun. He was a lousy shot. He hit me once out of three tries.

I hope the fellow I talked to will get the license plate number, I tried to get it but I was unable to see it clearly. I ride on down the road to a safe place to pull off and wait.

And wait.

And wait some more.

It is hard for me to tell how long I've waited. I know my emotions and adrenalin is messing with my perception of time. I wait some more.

Surly enough time has passed for that guy to get the license plate number and return to me, hasn't it? What if he thinks I have asked him to stop the guy? What if he just doesn't want to get involved? How long before I should give up waiting and just go home? I hope that it left a mark so I can get a picture of it.

After a while I decide it is a lost cause waiting for him to come back with the license number and finish my ride home.

At home, I see that there is a mark, so I arrange some lights and take a few pictures. Shawlee is demanding a walk, (I want to chase bunnies, let's go! Let's go! Please take me for a walk!) so I change into long pants to avoid feeding the mosquitoes, and out the door we go.

In a few minuets, a patrol car with flashing lights comes up the road. I am correct in supposing that they are looking for me, the missing victim.

It turns out that the kind fellow in the car behind me called the police, and then his friend! (To go looking for me and to render aid- he thought I was dying on the side of the road!) He said that the perps were exceeding the speed limit substantially to avoid pursuers. He did right by me, and I am grateful.

The local police, of various jurisdictions responded in force. I counted six cruisers. Three different departments. They canceled the medical units that were rolled. Alas, the perp got away, there was nothing that could be done.

Those are the facts. What has surprised me the most is my emotional response. I am angry, of course, but no more angry than when I hear of similar incidents that have happened to other people. I am heartened by this. I am glad that my sense of injustice is as aroused by the experiences of others as it is when I am the victim.

I have decided that it was a malicious prank. Wrong and cowardly, yes. Reckless, and they are lucky they caused no permanent injuries. A spur of the moment crime.

This was an unfortunate one-off event I am sure, and I doubt it will happen to me ever again. There is nothing I could do to prevent it, as it was a bit of evil born in the heart of someone with poor decision-making skills.

Well, that is pretty much it, but I expect that you, my dear reader, will have questions. Feel free to inquire, I will answer all that I can.

Oh yes, pictures! Warning! For those of you with weak stomachs you should not scroll down. You will subject your senses to horrifying images! (Not bloody and gory- Fat rolls and body hair! Bleach!) Nightmares can be made from this! Tread ye not on yonder path- Lest ye be slain and eaten by Ogres!

I honestly would not have the courage to post such scandalous images, but for the brave post's of dear Rantwick.



Saturday, August 1, 2009

Due To Technical Difficulties...

...this blog post has been modified from its original form.

Oh I had a good post planned! There is a catch-22 situation in town, and I captured it by digital photographs- and I had a serendipitous encounter with scofflaw cyclists, capturing automobile/bicycle conflicts as they scraped along the curb face...

But alas, I inadvertently deleted the files simultaneously from my hard drive and my camera. (What tha...?!) I won't be doing that again, and I am (Once again!) mourning the truism that education is always expensive!

So, a blog about odds and ends!


Please provide us with good roads. I prefer chip-seal over this.


Yes, the dreaded parallel cracks! This is a way too common phenomena of the roads around here. Our ground heaves and contracts as we change from wet season to dry. High clay content of the soil or some such thing. I have heard various theories from the natives, but the why isn't really the issue. The hazard is the issue!


I will not ride on this particular road at night. It is one of the compromises I have to make because I have chosen to travel with "to be seen by" lights rather than "lights to see by".

These cracks tend to appear running down the right tire track, but they are found anywhere at all some of the time. Most of them are not this wide, and this is admittedly the most extreme example I have come across locally.

But it is a beauty!



I have never been hassled for bringing my bicycle in with me to eat at this Taco Bell. In fact, there is only one fast food restaurant that has ever objected! The key to taking your bike with you is to just do it as though that is how it is done.

For fourteen months or so, I have done all of my grocery shopping at Ennis Wal-Mart. (That is the old style of their name. They are now Walmart) I take my bike with me, and nine out of ten times there are no objections. Occasionally, a greeter will say; "Hey, you can't bring that in here!" It is always after I am three or four steps past them! I just say, "Sure I can! Watch!"


I have noticed a few folks do not take their bicycles into Wal-Mart and "lock" them outside. After looking more closely at them, I wonder why they even bother locking them. That sounds really snobbish, I know. What do you think?


When I first thought to photograph these, I was thinking along the lines of PM's How Not To Lock Your Bike tutorials, but then I noticed the shape the bikes were in.


There is another one that is in even poorer shape. When I looked at it closely, it had been reduced from a ten-speed to a single-speed from inoperable dérailleurs, and both caliper brakes were inoperable due to missing brake pads! No photos though. (Rats!) I met to owner the other night. I was surprised to see him locking up his "bicycle" when I was leaving the store.

I thought to myself; "Self, that guy not only has one gear and no brakes, he is a nighttime ninja! Yikes!" So I dug out a blinky light with batteries that I carry for just this sort of thing and gave it to him. We'll have to see if he uses it.


Perhaps one of my reader's questions is interesting to the other person who visits my blog. Or perhaps not. But if you don't ask how will you ever know? (I know there are more than two people who visit this blog, but only if I include my Mom.)

So finally, SteveA asked about a water bottle I am using with dog repellent, specifically, "Where did I get it?"

I received it as a promotional gift at either the 2007 Tour D'Italia or the first annual Head For The Hills Bike Rally. Both were very well organized and challenging. Rally riders are commonly asked by non-cyclists; "Why would you ride your bike 65 miles?"

The answer, of course, is: "Because it was the longest ride they offered!"