June 7th, 2013
Over the past few years I’ve always had a dislike for the cyclists in San Francisco. Not because they’re sharing the road, I’m fine with that, but it’s because they want the same rights as vehicles but don’t want the laws applied to them.
But not ever did I forget the fact that when I’m driving my car around, I’m protected by heavy metals and plastics. Cyclists aren’t so lucky. I’m always cautious when driving around, making sure I give them room. Especially when I’m making a right turn through a bicycle lane.
We recently purchased some road bikes in our quest to stay healthy and so that I can stop getting to work using public transportation. Got a helmet, lights, chains and a u-lock. We were very prepared.
I’ve always had safety a top priority rather than getting there quickly. I’d stay away from cars, at a red I’d go to the front so they know I’m there. The usual thing a sensible cyclist would do. I’ve had one or two close calls where a vehicle will make a u-turn into my lane from an oncoming lane. But other than that my morning commutes were pretty calm.
Until 7am today.
I take Post all the way to the Financial District from Lower Pac Heights. It’s a big lane for busses, but it’s very quiet so early in the mornings. Post consists of two hills, one getting to Gough and the other from Polk to Leavenworth. The rest is downhill, giving your legs a rest.
At this time in the mornings I typically stick in the bus lane where it’s empty so cars can pass me safely on the two lanes they have on the left. I didn’t peddle downhill as to maintain a safe speed on the bike.
This particular morning a silver Toyota was driving in the middle lane. If you count the space, I was probably two cars behind him in the lane to his right. With bus lanes in SF you stay in your proper lane and use the bus lane only when you need to make a turn, this is legal and safe thing to do.
The unsafe thing to do is to make a quick right turn from the middle lane. And this is what the silver Toyota did, right in front of me.
The Right Hook
A motorist passes a cyclist on the left and turns right into the bike’s path.
I slammed on my breaks and started moving to the right to try and avoid him. I didn’t want to get into the left lane because of the possibility of other vehicles. And that’s when I hit him.
My drop handlebar has brakes on the top flat part which I luckily grabbed instead of the front/outer ones. They were the first to slam into the passenger door. My bike came to a stop when it hit his side view mirror but my body continued a bit. I fell off to the right and tried to do a roll without landing on my laptop bag.
I got up, the driver stayed in the car. I tapped on the window and asked him to step out. He finally came out and apologized, saying he didn’t see me.
This was my first accident with any type of vehicle. Ever. I asked him to write down his information while I inspected myself and my bike. Nothing obviously broken.
He proceeded to get into his car and drive off. I’m standing there with a slightly bent wheel and sore legs. Helpless.
I’m still in that “Holy shit did that just happen” mode at the time of writing this post. It was scary. I was upset and relieved at the same time. It could’ve been much worse.
I urge you to do more than what I did. Call the police (non-emergency if no broken body parts etc.) and wait for them to show up. Take photos of the accident, the car, the license plate and the damage. It could save you some trouble later on.