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

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Fly6 mounting hack update

I realized I never posted an update to our Fly6 camera mounting hack failure incident.

A weldingly-gifted friend saw our post, took pity on us, and, in exchange for a book, created a much more stable mounting hack to enable us to attach our Fly6 camera to the back of our pannier rack:

IMG_6266

It’s a short piece of metal pipe welded to two long metal tabs. We spraypainted it black so it blends in.

Here are some close-ups of the mounting attachment to the pannier rack. We drilled two holes in the rack to accommodate the mounting screws.

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Top view of Fly6 mounting hack

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Bottom view of Fly6 mounting hack. (You can see the jagged metal edge of where a piece of our pannier rack broke off in our previous mounting hack attempt. This adapter conveniently blocks access to that jagged metal.)

This mount provides enough stability for us to get good video images, and it stays out of the way of our pannier bag. We sometimes have trouble with the camera rotating to one side or the other – maybe we need to clean the rubber Fly6 adapter so it’s grippier.

I think we would like our Fly6 camera a lot better if it weren’t for battery issues. Several times now, we went to use the camera and, because we’d forgotten to put it on the charger, it didn’t have enough juice to cover our ride. It takes so long to charge up, we’ve just left it behind a lot of times.

But, biking season is nearly upon us again. I guess I’ll just need to get into the habit of plugging in the camera the night before a ride.

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

Top 3 reasons why you should cycle WITH traffic, in the direction of traffic flow

Because bicyclists take so much flak from motorists who would prefer not to have the two-wheelers on the road to begin with, I’m particularly sensitive these days when I see another cyclist breaking traffic and safety rules.

A super common and super dangerous traffic error I see is this:  biking on the wrong side of the road, against traffic.

Perhaps there was a whole generation of people who were given mistaken instructions on how to ride, and the misinformation keeps propagating. Or maybe they get mixed up, since pedestrians are supposed to face oncoming traffic when walking along a road. Or perhaps cyclists feel safer if they can see traffic coming at them (they are actually in MORE danger, as I will explain below).

Bugman and I encountered a particularly egregious example of this over the weekend. We had just crested the Mitchell Hill on Highway 92 eastbound when Bugman said, “What the . . .? There’s a bike coming the wrong way!”

The cyclist was westbound in the center of the eastbound lane. We played a little pas-de-deux of confusion about who would pass on which side, and our bike camera recorded him as he passed on our left and proceeded uphill on the wrong side of the road.

cycling against trafficTHIS IS SO DANGEROUS! I’m absolutely flabbergasted that someone would think it was OK to ride on the wrong side of the road heading up a blind hill on a 60 MPH highway. (I will admit, I yelled at him. “You’re riding in the wrong lane!” But he probably didn’t hear me. HE WAS WEARING HEADPHONES!)

Here are the

TOP 3 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD CYCLE WITH TRAFFIC, IN THE DIRECTION OF TRAFFIC FLOW:

  1. Anyone turning onto the roadway will not be looking for you there, if you ride against traffic. When you are driving a car and you merge onto a highway on-ramp, are you looking forward to see if anyone is traveling down the Interstate in the wrong direction? No! Because that is not normal! Similarly, a driver making a right-hand turn out of a driveway or crossroad on the stretch of highway in the photo above will most likely look left, to see if there is any traffic coming. They will not look right to see if there is a bicycle traveling the wrong way towards them. They will accelerate onto the highway, and the bicyclist will have no time to react or will be forced into traffic in the other lane. NOT GOOD!
  2. You are INCREASING the relative speed at which cars will pass you, if you ride against traffic. Let’s do the math with the above example. Say the cyclist has some good legs and is making 10 MPH up that hill. An eastbound car in that lane at the speed limit would be traveling 60 MPH. The additive effect of those two vehicles traveling towards each other in the same lane means they are approaching each other at 70 MPH, thus reducing the amount of time each person has to react to the situation. If the cyclist were traveling uphill properly, in the westbound lane, and they were passed by a westbound car doing the speed limit, that car would approach the cyclist at only 50 MPH – the cyclist is moving away from the car at 10 MPH, thus giving the driver more time to react. (Another example for in-town riders: you’re riding at 15 MPH, the driver at 25 MPH. With wrong-way travel, you’ve got a closing speed of 40 MPH. When you ride WITH traffic, that drops to a closing speed of 10 MPH.)
  3. It’s the law to behave as an automobile would. Would you drive a car on the wrong side of the road? No! Then why would you ride a bicycle that way? On the back page of the NDOR Nebraska Bicycle Guide, it states (emphasis mine):

Follow the law. Bicyclists have the same rights and duties as drivers. Obey the rules of the road as if you were driving a car—stop at stop signs, red lights, and signal before turning or changing lanes. Ride with traffic.

I will acknowledge that it feels creepy and awful to hear vehicles coming up behind you and not be able to see them. That is why I always use a mirror – so I can see what’s happening back there.

It may “feel” safer to ride facing traffic, but it is MORE DANGEROUS, for the reasons mentioned above, and here is proof: a couple of cycling experts analyzed bicycle accident data from the 1980s in Palo Alto, California, where they are from, and found that wrong-way cyclists are between 3-7 times more likely to get into an accident than those traveling in the direction of traffic.

Here’s a snippet from the results section of the study:

Table 4 shows that all categories of bicy­clists traveling against the direction of traffic flow are at greatly increased risk for accidents—on average 3.6 times the risk of those traveling with traffic, and as high as 6.6 times for those 17 and under. This result is readily explained: because motorists normally scan for traffic trav­eling in the lawful direction, wrong-way traffic is easily overlooked. To give only a single example, a motorist turning right at an intersec­tion scans to the left for approaching traffic on the new road, and cannot see or anticipate a fast-moving wrong-way bicyclist approaching from the right. (This is the one of the most common types of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions in Palo Alto.)

This finding provides compelling justifica­tion for current traffic law, which requires bicy­clists on the roadway everywhere in the United States to travel in the same direction as other traffic. It also implies that vigorous enforcement of this law, for both adults and children, can substantially reduce the number of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions, and should receive high priority in any bicycle program.

Two points about Table 4 deserve comment. First, the conclusion is extremely robust: wrong-way bicycling is risky at an overwhelmingly high level of significance—p<<10-5 for the category as a whole, p<10-5 in four out of seven subgroups, and p<10-4 and 10-3 for two others. In the remaining subgroup, on the roadway, only 5 percent of bicyclists (108 of 2005) traveled against traffic, and only 5 accidents occurred there (compared to 2.5 expected); these small numbers limit any statistical significance.

Second, wrong-way bicycling is dangerous for all subgroups of bicyclists—including those traveling on the sidewalk, who may at first seem to be protected against collisions with motor vehicles. In fact, sidewalk bicyclists enter into conflict with motorists at every intersection (including driveways), and these are exactly the points where most bicycle-motor vehicle colli­sions occur. Wrong-way sidewalk bicyclists are at particular risk because they enter the point of conflict from an unexpected direction, just as they would on the roadway.

So, folks, please – when cycling, and when instructing youngsters on cycling, make sure everyone is RIDING RIGHT, in the direction of traffic. You’ll reduce the risk of accidents that way.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Mounting Hardware Hack Failure from the Point of View of a Fly6 Bike Light/camera

I so wanted to love my Fly6 bike light/camera. And I guess I do love the camera. It captured the essence of our (thankfully inconsequential) dog incident. It’s the camera mounting that’s the problem.

The fancy-dancy website for the product tells all about the camera and light features, but says nothing – nada, no pictures – about the mounting options, other than the fact that it comes with “2 x seat post mounts” and various straps and adaptors. I assumed it could be mounted to our pannier rack, like every other bike light we’ve ever had. It’s not until you scroll into the help section and encounter numerous requests for alternative mounting options, or download and read through the instruction manual, or receive your new camera in the mail, that you realize there may be a problem.

The Fly6 only allows for mounting to a seat post.

Seat-post mounting doesn’t work for our tandem because:

1. I use a ThudBuster on the rear seatpost, which doesn’t leave room for the Fly6 mount.

2. We have a pannier bag and trunk, which would block the camera’s view anyway.

Cycliq’s response thus far to the problem:

We mount it to the seat post as it provides a very stable location for the footage to be taken. Our tests in other locations don’t deliver the same smooth results making the footage in some instances very hard to watch and useless for capture information. We are hoping to deliver different mounting solutions in the future once we have tested them but for now we only have the seat post mount. If you google search “Franken Fly6” you can see other peoples hack mounts but they are not endorsed (& often for paniers)

So, we did said Googling, consulted some peeps on social media, and came up with a hack mount for our Fly6.

We attached a length of PVC pipe to the light mount on the pannier rack by drilling a hole through the PVC and attaching it through the light mount with a screw (prevents sliding down) and adding a pipe clamp higher up (prevents sideways torque).

We connected a length of PVC pipe to the light attachment point on the pannier rack by drilling a hole through the PVC and attaching it through the pannier with a screw (prevents sliding down) and adding a pipe clamp higher up (prevents twisting sideways). Nota bene: We are not engineers. We did not consider the torsional strength of the pannier rack light attachment point.

This hack worked for exactly 196.3 miles on Wyobraska’s lumpy-bumpy road shoulders. Then the metal of the pannier rack light mount suffered a critical failure on Highway 92 a mile west of McGrew. We discovered that our Fly6 was missing 20 miles later, when we stopped at the Karette Drive-In in Bridgeport for lunch.

By an amazing stroke of luck, on our return journey we encountered a group of people clad in hi-viz vests cleaning up trash along the roadside in the sweltering heat. We slowed to inquire about our lost Fly6.

“Did you guys happen to find a bike light?”

“Yes.”

“Attached to some PVC pipe?”

“Yes. She’s got it in the truck.”

“Yay!”

(I am disappointed that my reporter-brain was so sunbaked that I neglected to ask who our camera rescuers were. It was a mixed-age group. Maybe a church group, since they were out on a Sunday? Thanks again, anonymous camera rescuers! Also, thank you for the cleanup work you do! We get to see a lot of Wyobraska roadside trash from the bike.)

Our Fly6 was a bit scratched (the camera lens avoided scratches thanks to the slightly raised plastic housing around it), but it still works, and the video was recoverable!

And so, I give you:

Mounting Hardware Hack Failure from the Point of View of a Fly6 Bike Light/camera

(Note: these screen grabs were sized down for the blog post. The quality of the original video gives better detail than what this shows. Selected screen grabs do not show the full extent of the video during the 10-second clip.)

What a lovely day for a ride! La la la!

What a lovely day for a ride! La la la!

Oh, hey - there's the ground coming up to meet me. That's unusual!

Oh, hey – the ground is dominating my field of view. That’s unusual!

Wha . . .? Woah!

Wha . . .? Whoa!

Oh, hey - there's my bike's rim. A Velocity Dyad? Nice!

Hey – there’s my bike’s rim! A Velocity Dyad? Also – disc brakes. Nice!

Oh, look! An oncoming pickup truck. It's a Chevy!

Oh, look! An oncoming pickup truck. It’s a Chevy!

Whoa! Trippy!

Whoa! Trippy!

Oh - so this is what asphalt looks . . . OW!!!

Oh – so this is what aspha . . . OW!!!

Blergh . . . what just happened? Hey - there's that Chevy truck again/

Uuuh . . . what just happened?
Hey – there’s that Chevy truck again!

Oh my! Look how blue the sky is today!

*cheepcheepcheepcuckoocuckoo* Oh my! Look how sky the blue is today!

Wha - hey! Thhose'r my peeeople!

Wha – hey! Thhose’r my peeeople!

Hiiiiii, peeeeople!!!!

Hiiiiii, peeeeople!!!!

Ow!

Ow!

Whoooooa! *BLERGH, HORK*

Whoooooa!
*BLERGH, HORK*

Hey, guys? I don' feel so good . . .

Hey, guys – I don’ feel so good . . .

Guys . . . ?

Guys . . . ?

Hoh no! Spinning!

Hoh no! Spinning!

Chevy truck? Life. Flashing. Before Eyes. I'm dying!

Chevy truck?
Life. Flashing. Before Eyes.
I’m dying! OW!

Is this heaven?

Is this heaven?

What the . . . ?

What the . . . ?

Ooof! Oh. The spinning stopped.  Where am I? What was I doing? Oh yeah - I've been tilted past 60 degrees for more than 5 seconds. Time to start the emergency protocol . . . beepbeepbeep

Ooof!
Oh. The spinning stopped. Where am I? What was I doing?
Oh yeah – I’ve been tilted past 60 degrees for more than 5 seconds. Time to start the emergency protocol . . . beepbeepbeep

The camera continued to record the waving grasses and the sounds of passing vehicles for about another 25 minutes before uttering three long beeps and cutting out, the battery apparently depleted. (The light appeared to stop blinking after about 18 minutes.)

Yes, the camera still works, but how the heck are we supposed to mount it? And we’ve got a jagged metal edge on the pannier rack and one less option for light mounting now.

Cycliq, please – can you come up with some architecturally solid alternative options for mounting? Maybe a specially-designed pannier rack?

Until we can come up with another solution, our Fly6 is, disappointingly, out of commission.

As far as a review of the Fly6? I can’t currently recommend it, unless you are an engineer or have an unobstructed seat post.

UPDATE: We’ve got a different mounting hack that works much better.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

What you don’t want to see when you’re on a bike

Due to some close calls on the road, Bugman and I bought a nifty little tail light / video camera combo for our tandem – a Fly6.

Today was the first time the camera recorded anything that really scared me.

Take a look at these screen grabs, captured just after we turned west on Old Oregon Trail from Five Rocks Road:

dog1dog2dog3dog4dog5In the audio, you can hear me shout “Dog!” At the same moment, I reached down for my water bottle to defend myself (my legs are closest to a pursuing dog in my stoker position on the back of the tandem!), and – RATS!! – we didn’t bring water bottles for this short ride!

You can then hear me hollering at the top of my lungs like a madwoman “NO! BAD! STOP! GO HOME!!!”

I saw the dog hesitate for a moment, but then it continued closing in . . . and pranced excitedly past us, continuing to run back and forth across the road and next to us until it decided to chase a pickup truck on a side street.

The word “whew” seems inadequate here.

We pedaled on up to the Monument, my spinning legs fueled by adrenalin shakes, all the meat in my right calf intact.

WHEW!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw