Sunday, November 29, 2009

Anatomy of my STP '09 Wreck (and a bit of soapboxing)

I've already mentioned that I crashed and you can see the full ride report here.

At the time of the crash, I was going 27 mph. There was a car on my left. I was in a paceline that was passing another group of cyclists. The white line was also a rumble strip, which made lane changing interesting. As you can see in the diagram below, a cyclist in the line I was passing, decided to jump into my line. He didn't look (or stop afterward, for that matter), just moved abruptly over into me due to the rumble strip.

As there was a car on my left the only option I had was to attempt to brake just enough to open a gap without getting rear ended by the guy behind me. I hit the brakes too hard, and our bikes locked. Justin, the guy following me, hit the road. We were the only two involved in the crash, luckily enough, but both bikes were trashed.

I will fully admit that I am partly at fault here. I was pushing way too hard and didn't have my wits about me. I didn't leave myself a way out in case something like this happened. I hit the brakes too hard. I assumed the leader of the paceline was alerting the folks on our right that we were passing. And the list goes on.

After being picked up, I saw the remains of at least four other accidents on that stretch of road. One of them was being attended to by a fire truck and an ambulance as the rider appeared to have broken a collarbone. 

The Seattle to Portland ride, has had 30 years of history. The Cascade Bicycle Club hosts a great event that both serves a local charity, and gets riders on the road and helps drivers know that cyclists belong on the road as much as cars. But I have to wonder if 10,000 cyclists is too many. I posed this question, along with what happened to me on the ride, on the Cascade Bicycle Club forums. (leave a comment below if you would like a link to the discussion). I received a lot of feedback on what I could have done differently and people's opinions of the event.

I concluded that the STP might not be the best ride for me. I've been thinking about whether it would be more fun to do the ride by myself or with a small group of people. I have family in Portland, and could meet my wife along the way for support. I've also thought about making sure I'm riding with a group of people that I know and have ridden with before so we have certain protocols established going into the ride (i.e. hand signals, pull time, general feel for what people are going to do).

I still don't know if I'll ever do the ride again. I had a blast up to that point. But there is still a bit of bitterness from the crash. I've since searched for and learned a lot about bicycle safety, and group riding as a way to help myself become a better rider. I hope to share some of those items with you all in the coming months. Please leave a comment on any safety related questions, or you thoughts on what I've written here and I'll try to get to them in future posts.

1 comment:

  1. I had some bicycle related thoughts yesterday, after I narrowly avoided smashing a dude on a street bike. I was turning off a residential street, onto a main street. The street sloped downhill to my right, and the cyclist was coming from my left. It was 4:30, and the sun had already begun to go down. Everybody had their headlights on, so it was easy to see that the road was clear to my left...except for one cyclist. I almost didn't see him. True, he was wearing the most garish yellow safety jacket I'd ever seen. True, he was in the oncoming lane. True he was doing what he was "supposed" to be doing. But the truth is - I DIDN'T SEE HIM. He had no lights.
    I stopped to let him pass, and watched him narrowly avoid ANOTHER crash to my right - he was passing a freeway onramp, and the lane of cars waiting to turn left onto the freeway nearly didn't see him in time. He was wobbling and weaving, as he tried to both dodge cars AND keep up the speed he needed to get through the intersection and continue along the busy road at a reasonable speed, relative to the traffic.

    It made me angry, and I don't think I'm the only motorist who is frustrated with things like this. It angers me that cyclists don't seem to tak into account the fact that motorists AREN'T LOOKING FOR THEM on certain roads. Like main drags through rural downtown and passing freeway onramps on a Sunday evening. I don't deny him his right to be there, but the LEAST he could do is clip a light on his handlebars and try to ACT like a car, right? Am I wrong here?