Q In the past six months I have hit five vehicles doing a "right hook" turn immediately in front of me on my bicycle. In four of these I was in a bicycle lane, across which the driver turned into a strip mall or gas station. In two cases the driver had just turned out of the previous driveway, meaning he or she must have looked directly at me, or rather, through me. Fortunately the damage in these collisions hasn't been serious: broken saddle and bottle cage, damaged brake lever, torn gloves, trousers and messenger bag.
A The "right hook" turn poses one of the greatest risks to bicyclists. It's when a driver moves ahead of a bicyclist and makes a sharp right turn at a corner. The driver should move behind the bicyclist and then turn. But Bernard has more to say.
Q Also in the past six months two oncoming vehicles have made U-turns immediately in front of me and I'm pretty sure both were illegal maneuvers. In one case I had to grab the bed of the pickup as it straightened out to prevent being driven into the curb. Then in January I hit an oncoming car that made a left turn across my path. I landed flat on my back and part of my bike got bent.
Still more: Twice in the past month a driver has pulled out of a side street immediately in front of me. One missed me by mere inches as he crossed my path and headed the other way.
A And ...
Q What's going on? I've been riding my bike for 35 years, and I've regularly commuted by bike all my working life. These past six months have been terrible; I've had more crashes and near-misses than in the previous 35 years total. Nearly all the drivers have said the same thing: They never saw me.
How is this possible? In the past six months I've spent $500 on state-of-the-art lights, and this year I have joined the growing number of cyclists who use flashing lights even in the daytime. My cycling jerseys are mostly red, yellow and orange.
Yet, dressed in a bright red and yellow jersey, with my garish messenger bag on my back, and flashing lights front and back, drivers still don't see me. How is this possible?
I've done my part to make myself visible. Drivers, please do your part to see me. And please use your turn signals.
I have always thought that I was doing everyone a favor by cycling instead of driving to work. I stay fit and healthy, reducing health care costs; I reduce my carbon footprint and help the Bay Area's air; I reduce the nation's gas consumption; I impose less wear and tear on the roads. And I impede the complainers' commutes less than if I were driving my car in front of them.
A You are doing everyone a favor and it's time some drivers return the favor. Commuting by bicycle is increasing and more bike lanes are being added. So to all of us behind the wheel, watch out for the pedal pushers.
Q I'm writing about another bicycle-related issue. I agree with your response to Hal Brown, of Pleasanton, the cyclist who thinks it's safer to ride facing traffic instead of with traffic as required by law -- it is entirely correct. But you might have added that when someone is bicycling against traffic, they create a real problem to other cyclists they meet who are going the "right" way (with traffic), especially if they have to pass each other in the narrow space between a parked car and the traffic lane.
A A good point I had not thought of.
Q I'd like to see some discussion regarding cyclers sharing pathways with walkers. When I walked the path along the Alameda Creek one Sunday, at least 25 cyclers came up from behind me and not one alerted me of their presence. I happen to be deaf in one ear and impaired in the other. I was startled, to say the least! One young man almost ran into me -- too busy on his cellphone to pay attention! There are safety standards for cyclers; calling out when approaching walkers from behind with "on your right" or simply ringing a bell. The parks department has posted signs along the creek requesting cyclers to "call out" when passing, and to slow down. Apparently cyclers don't know how to read.
A Alas, I fear you may be right.