Car passing a trailer uphill when oncoming bike on shoulder

Here’s a scary on-the-road cycling situation Bugman and I encountered this weekend on which I’d love to get an opinion from police officers and expert cyclists. Were laws broken here, or was this bad judgement – on the automobile driver’s part, or ours?

We were headed south/downhill on our tandem on the shoulder of W CR 38E, coming down off a ride along Horsetooth Reservoir west of Fort Collins, Colorado. The speed limit on that road is 40mph, according to the last sign I saw, but it drops to 20 mph around a couple of hairpin turns on the switchbacks. We were controlling our speed on the descent at around 20 miles per hour because of the unfamiliar terrain, and because we were sticking to the shoulder, which had a pretty good surface.

Suddenly, Bugman braked, and I could hear the roar of a car engine. We suddenly had a high-speed car headed towards us just a couple of feet away.

There was an oncoming pickup truck pulling a boat on a trailer, and a black Kia Optima decided to pass the pickup/boat right as it was passing us, threading the needle between the pickup/boat and us on the shoulder. Here’s a screen grab from our rear-facing bike camera (I haven’t yet figured out how to post these videos online):

scary vehicle passIt was frightening to imagine the possibilities if we’d been out in the lane for some reason instead of on the shoulder.

I wonder – did the Optima driver not see us? Or did they see us and decide to pass anyway?

Was the Optima breaking the law by passing at that moment? We might be able to measure from the video and show that the Optima was breaking the “3 feet to pass” law, but would that apply for an oncoming vehicle situation like this?

Is it safer for us as cyclists to be out in the lane to be more visible as “real traffic,” and to force vehicles to wait to pass, or is it better to “stay out of the way” and keep to the shoulder? I just wonder if we’d be hurt or worse if we’d been out in the lane in this situation.

I would love to see some opinions on what should have been done in this situation, so that hopefully cyclists and drivers can learn from this and avoid similar scary situations in the future.

Ambulances with bike racks

The New York Times and AP are carrying a story this week about a recent addition to the ambulances in the city of Fort Collins, Colorado: bike racks.

The reasoning behind installing the racks:

… increasing numbers of cyclists who had bicycle accidents or medical emergencies while riding.

Some people were reluctant to leave their bikes locked up behind at the scene — whether because they were fancy recreation bikes that cost more than some cars or because they were the patient’s main form of transportation …

Plus, ambulance workers were spending too much time going back to unlock the bikes once patients could retrieve them.

I’ve thought about the “what if” scenario before – what would happen to my bike if I were hurt and taken away in an ambulance?

I once had a medical issue while riding my bike.

I was in graduate school, and I used my bike to commute to and from campus. I’d donated blood that day, and had been so busy I managed to miss lunch.

As I turned a corner several blocks from home, the world started to close in around me – a dark tunnel with sparkling stars.

Uh oh! I was going to pass out!

I managed to get pulled over to the curb and laid down in the grass before I lost consciousness.

I quickly felt better, but I was disturbed by the number of cars that passed by with no one bothering to check on me. Finally, a woman who lived across the street from where I lay came home in her minivan and rushed over to me. She walked me over to her front porch, plied me with fruit juice, and insisted on putting my bike in her van and driving me the rest of the way home.

My little episode was thankfully not serious enough to require transportation to a hospital, but, if it had, I would definitely have felt better about my bike coming along with me, versus leaving it abandoned on the road, even if the bike cost only a couple of hundred dollars. It was my main form of transportation!

Have any of you needed a ride to the hospital while out and about on two wheels?

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Our first tandem ride

Bugman and I headed down to Denver for a weekend to pick up our brand-new Co-Motion Tandem. (Yippie!!) On the way home, we stopped to visit some friends and bike geeks (who own Cozy Cow Dairy – check them out!) in Windsor, Colorado.

They were kind enough to shepherd us along on our first long tandem ride.

We’d had some practice on bike paths, and had advice from the bike shop (read it here). Still, I was a bit nervous being on the back, and kept trying to “steer” the bike at first. I finally figured out how to settle in and leave the driving to Bugman. All I had to do was pedal and listen for Bugman’s signals to shift or stop.

First, we pedaled out to the Swetsville Zoo, which turned out not to be a zoo but rather a delightfully quirky sculpture park.

swetsville

We timed things perfectly, arriving at the westernmost part of our journey – the crest of the bridge at the zoo entrance – just as a stiff wind kicked up and scoured us with road grit. Glad we didn’t have to bike into that wind the whole way! After a tour of the sculptures and a homemade energy bar snack, we pedaled on.

We didn’t get far.

Flat tire!

Our friend changed the flat tire so speedily, I wanted to time him, a la "The Christmas Story."

Our friend changed the flat tire so speedily, I wanted to time him, a la “The Christmas Story.”

After fixing the flat, we pedaled a bit further north before we got to turn east and south and have the wind at our backs. (Great idea to plan a ride that heads northwest so you can hitch the prevailing winds back!)

photo-19

Our first long tandem ride, and we’re all smiles!

Yes, the wind was at our backs. BUT – see those clouds in the distance? It was some weather rolling in off the Rockies.

We truly had “road mojo” on this day.

We stopped at our second destination on the trip – High Hops Brewery – a fantastic combo of a brewery / hops farm / greenhouse / garden center. Just as we were settling down with a beer in the greenhouse, we heard a strange sound.

Rain!

Whew! That was lucky to have reached shelter just in time! We could even wheel our bikes into the greenhouse so they didn’t get wet.

Then the noise got louder.

Graupel!

I only just recently learned the term for this odd little snowball. We missed the main graupel fall, thank goodness, but we caught a little bit of it on our final (very cold!) leg of the ride. It stings when it hits bare flesh!

The majority of our ride had been out on county roads – few stops, little traffic. Our final leg in town was probably the scariest part of the whole ride. It takes us newbies extra time to start and stop a tandem, compared to our regular bikes. We also can’t turn as sharply as on a regular bike, and with such a long wheelbase, it takes longer to complete a turn. Riding in traffic is not real fun.

We drove to a hamburger joint for dinner, then strapped the tandem atop the car and headed home to Nebraska, through 60 mph winds that closed some area highways.

After that journey, we know the bike rack can stand up to just about anything!

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw