A scary pass, an educational opportunity

I ride my road bike on the road because that’s where it’s designed to be ridden.

Also, since my community lacks connected bike path infrastructure, to get where I’m going on a bike, I have to use roads.

Whenever possible, I choose low-speed, less-traveled roads. However, sometimes I have to ride on the highway to get where I’m going.

I have met several cyclists who no longer ride on paved roads. They stick to gravel roads exclusively. They’ve had too many run-ins with ignorant, inattentive, or ill-willed automobile drivers.

I’m not willing to give up road riding. I think things are getting better, with more cyclists on the road and more awareness of safe driving practices.

But I did buy a bike camera to record the traffic around me, just in case.

On a recent ride, I had a semi truck pass me far too fast and far too close for comfort.

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 1.40.27 PM

You can see in this screen shot that I was in the travel lane (the shoulder here is in poor condition & had lots of debris), yet the semi was straddling the center line.

My bike camera captured it all. I had the license plate and DOT number, the company name, the time/date stamp.

But still, I wondered what to do.

Clearly, the footage is scary, but does the close pass violate the “3 feet to pass” law? They didn’t hit me, and I didn’t crash from an air wake blow-over. Would this be worth taking to law enforcement? Should I try contacting the company directly, or would that accomplish nothing but stir up a hornet’s nest for me?

Instead, I decided to turn this video clip into an educational opportunity, and a shout out to drivers who rate an “A+” in how they maneuver around bicyclists.

Here’s my little video (which I struggled long and hard with in iMovie to create – no video artist am I).

I’m sure this video will win me some criticism.

Like, I probably should have been riding further left in the lane to signal to the drivers behind me that they should change lanes to pass. But would that have only landed me closer to the passing semi? Traffic interactions are such a delicate dance!

Regardless, I hope that it makes people think about their interactions on the road and contributes to overall road safety.

The life you save may be mine!

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw


10 thoughts on “A scary pass, an educational opportunity

  1. Great information/video Katie!! I know exactly this location as have ridden it many times and encountered much the same endangerment. I hope this gets much exposure and appreciate your efforts in educating the public. Thank-you!!

  2. Reblogged this on Doug's Scribbles and Ramblings and commented:
    So far, I’m my four years of riding here in central Nebraska I’ve only had one close call with a car and it wasn’t as scary as the big truck in the video. As a trucker and a cyclist I always slow down and get clear over for people on bicycles. Watch this informational video and see why it’s important everyone does the same, wherever you live.

  3. 3 foot rule is ridiculous. Impossible to prove. A bicycle is supposed to obey the same traffic laws as a motor vehicle. In that case a bicycle should be given the same rights a motor vehicle. A vehicle passing a bicycle. Needs to switch into a passing lane to pass a bicycle. Just like they would do for another motor vehicle. A motor vehicle should not be able to pass a bicycle in a no passing zone.
    Now a motor vehicle can pass a bicycle on a hill. If another car comes over the hill what is is the passing vehicle going to do. Stay in the passing lane. Or move over to avoid the oncoming vehicle.
    Yesterday I encountered a bicycle rider riding facing traffic. I noticed people were slowing down more and giving the rider more space.
    I wondered if maybe drivers have more concern when they have to look the person, they may run over in the eye, instead of coming up behind them.
    Is a bicycle actually safer riding against traffic. Is a bicycle more like a pedestrian than a vehicle. Do we have more of a chance of getting out of the way if we see an idiot coming. Than having them bearing down on us from behind with no idea what they are going to do.

    • Research shows that even riding against traffic on the sidewalk increases the risk of crashes, so I don’t think riding facing traffic is the answer. It contributes to the opinion that cyclists are lawbreakers, increases the closing speed, and puts cyclists in a place where turning drivers won’t be looking for them. It’s a slow evolution, but I think things are getting better. Being respectfully outspoken seems to help. I’ve had people comment that they now give bicycles lots of space because they think it might be me out there on the road.

  4. I’m glad you took some time to educate why cyclist don’t always get onto the shoulder. Vehicles just don’t understand, and I guess many won’t watch this video. In 2014 I rode across the US. Iowa where I live has no safe passing law. Nebraska does. Most states have better laws than Iowa. The semi driver probably felt he passed safely as he was in control and judging the distance, but I tell you it’s scary as hell to a cyclist. My advice to cyclist, when I see a truck I typically pull onto the shoulder regardless of it’s hazzards. You might be right but still dead. My advice to automobiles, it’s only 15 seconds out of your life, take a breath.

    • I’m finding that there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about rules of the road regarding bicyclists, from drivers and from cyclists themselves. Even my sister, who is not a biker but who I talk to about bike stuff a lot, was unaware of the traffic laws I mentioned.

      As far as getting out of the way of a semi – often I will do just that, as I want to be courteous (farm implement drivers will do this), and I also think this is a good idea for self-preservation, but I worry about contributing to the idea that cyclists don’t belong on the road when I move out of the way.

      As to the specific circumstances on that stretch of road pictured in the video, I have slowed down and gotten on the shoulder when there was a cement truck coming up behind me once, or when there was a truck coming and oncoming traffic. But on that day in the video, I was going downhill with a tailwind, so I was traveling pretty fast, there was zero traffic ahead on the road, which has a several-mile unobstructed view of a straight, flat road, and I saw in my mirror that the truck saw me and had started moving over. What I did not expect was that the truck did not pull fully over. (And what does not show in the video, which I would have needed a front camera for, was that the truck started returning to regular lane position before it had fully passed me.)

      I’m still gun-shy about that road and have been more frequently riding another highway that has much better shoulders.

      I’ve been riding for years, but I’m still learning!

    • I was just looking up safe passing laws. It’s so strange Iowa doesn’t have one, with it being the home of RAGRBRAI and all. I think I like South Dakota’s safe passing law the best: 3-foot passing at 35mph and below, 6-foot passing at 35mph and above. That makes so much more sense and I believe would have made this semi truck pass illegal.

  5. I’m a cyclist and a truck driver… Everything is about context, context is key. Take the case that nothing is wrong with you or inside you, nor the truck driver. 2nd don’t regard the way other people see the world as ” true and a fact” and do yourself the same courteously… If you do these things then it is possible to analyze your situation in such a way as to achieve a useful result…What you may not know that you don’t know is that truck drivers are taught a system called “SMITH”… Look it up. Basically it teaches a truck driver to maneuver first, ( always have an out) slow down second… My opinion ( not true and a fact) is that this system is not useful. Especially with radar equipped trucks… It occurs to me that the only out is being able to stop…

    So hearing in mind that the truck driver is using the smith system, 1) he didn’t see you as he is looking ahead of you ( SMITH) and you are a low profile target. 2) he maneuvered as fast and as safe as possible
    3) he controlled both lanes to prevent a car from coming up behind you
    4) he took his foot off the gas

    It’s the system, not the driver that may be at fault. I hate it.

    Now you are on a 2 way road, right? Then ( if it were me) I would move all the way over… But I don’t do SMITH… I do always be able to stop… There is only one company in all of the USA that does this,

    Last, if you were on a divided road I would straddle the center line, because it is my responsibility as a truck driver to protect your life… The difference is that I would decelerate hard but not so hard that my cargo would shift and endanger you… But me straddling the line just saved you… And your family, sll the pain your death would cause.

    You guys don’t see it, so you don’t know, but every 2 hours (averaged) of me driving I see a car do something that could kill someone…. Like passing on the right… When you are in a car you don’t see the deadly behavior because you are going a similar speed.

    Last the truck driver that passed you was carrying livestock…. It shifts center of gravity extremely easily, so he can’t break hard and he can’t maneuver to the other side of a 2 way road because the camber sets up a dangerous rolling motion that could kill you both…

    I think your video shows the inadequacies of SMITH

    Cheers and be safe


    • Deane – thank you so much for your comments. It’s true I know very little about truck driving. I have been trying to learn more. Could you explain your comment about SMITH being especially unhelpful with radar-equipped trucks? I couldn’t make that connection with the info I found with a search.

      All I know so far is that, generally speaking, the truck drivers I encounter while I’m biking usually give me lots of clearance when passing, and I really appreciate that a lot. (It’s the short-term-rental RVs that really scare me!)

      I can see how the SMITH system could make sense – physics and all, can’t stop a semi on a dime. I’ve heard similar strategies in defensive driving lessons. Don’t know if it makes a difference in this case, but the cattle trailer in the video was empty. Is best practice is to drive as though it were full anyway? Thanks for your comment on the road camber and load instability, too – that makes sense.

      I think what really shook me up about this incident was that I could see very far ahead that there was no oncoming traffic on this lightly-traveled straight, flat road, which led to my decision to stay in the lane, as did me seeing in my mirror that the truck was already moving over, leading me to assume that the driver had seen me. (I was wearing a bright orange and green jersey and had a high-intensity flashing light on the back and front of my bike, and it was midday, so no rising or setting sun glare.) By the time I realized the driver was not pulling all the way over, it was too late for me to make a safe exit over large road cracks onto the shoulder. And the video also does not show the fact that the truck started to come back into the regular lane position before it had fully passed me.

      Because I have been the subject of “coal rolling” and obvious “punishment passes” before, it’s a struggle not to develop a chip on my shoulder. However, I’m finding it’s much more helpful to assume scary situations are occurring through ignorance (my own as much as other drivers) and try to learn and educate.

      Thanks for your help in the latter process!

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