Riding West on Diamond Drive and approaching Range Road on my right, I noted that a school bus was approaching the stop sign as it drove south on Range Road. That bus normally makes a right turn onto Diamond Drive and heads West towards the rest of its route. I mentally did my "what-if drill" as the driver slowed to a stop. The driver was looking past me at that point and I didn't know if I had been noticed at any point, so I kept up my guard. The bus stopped.
|At least burial would have been convenient|
Looking over my emergency options at that point, a Quick Stop would likely have put me under the front of the bus, and an instant left turn might have put me in front of overtaking inside lane traffic (I had no chance to even notice if there was anyone coming up on my left from behind) so being a certified BombTown conehead, I was accelerating (as much as an old man can accelerate a heavy bike), calculating the bus turning radius, yelling at the top of my lungs, and trying to stay ahead of and slightly outside the radius of the bus as it turned while not moving any farther left than I had to, to avoid being potentially clipped from behind. With the bus slightly off my rear fender and to my right, the driver finally saw me and stopped.
|Crossing the T. |
Me as white ship on Diamond,
bus as black ship on Range Rd.
Bus has stop sign.
The driver was obviously mortified and pulled alongside, apologizing profusely. Learning experience, I guess. I smiled, waived, and said OK, its all right. No fingers, no Southern Italian blessings. Try to put a positive spin on this....whew...funny how these things can seem so analytical as they are happening.
A few take-home lessons:
One, if you are making a right on red or a right at a stop sign, PLEASE don't rush it. Look carefully for cross traffic (both vehicle and pedestrian) in both directions. Don't assume nothing is there unless you VERIFY THAT IS TRUE. I found the following bit of info one day after hearing yet one more complaint about bicyclists running stop signs: “…Another popular, but illegal, California driving habit is the legendary California Stop, the act of slowing down but not fully stopping at a stop sign. The dedicated staff of edhat.com wanted to see how prevalent this behavior was in our fair city…In a sample of 300 cars, the dedicated staff only saw 50 full stops (16.67%)…” Let's face it, we are ALL getting sloppy and that creates risk. I recently saw a ped dive for safety when a motorist did a "California Right on Red" at the Diamond intersection with W. Jemez road. Ouch.
Two, if you are a bicyclist, this is yet one more example of why SITUATIONAL AWARENESS is your friend. I was mentally doing a what-if drill as I closed on the intersection, and was mentally prepared to act when the shit hit the fan. Although I often think of this part of Diamond Drive as the safest section of bike lane anywhere in Los Alamos county due to its few intersections and excellent sight lines, one cannot let one's guard down--anywhere. Where I failed was that I did not take into account the position of the sun in anticipating a potential problem with motorists pulling out of side streets. Situational awareness means not only being aware of other operators, but aware of the totality of conditions.
Perhaps in a defensive move, I should have moved farther left, so as to be more in the side street motorist's field of consciousness, i.e., be riding with the cars, which is what other motorists are looking for. As it is, I usually ride the inboard side of the bike lane to be more obvious to overtaking traffic. That the bus driver would have therefore seen me is a hypothesis, obviously. I think a cyclist is pretty visible here. The sun, however, was most likely the big problem. A strategy of moving left may mean leaving the bike lane, but one has to ask of what use the bike lane is if it puts you so far right that you are not in a side street motorist's attention. But I'm not sure lateral position was the problem. One doesn't always know what the problem really is.
Of course, my only experience with road rage in Los Alamos was the day I moved out of the bike lane on that same section of Diamond and ended up in a near-brawl with a motorist who was outraged that I was taking up his lane. But the bottom line is that you are only required, when riding slower than the speed limit, to ride "as far right as is practicable" and given this lesson, I would conclude that as far right as is practicable may not always include the bike lane. A good move may be to scan, signal, and safely move left into the travel lane whenever you are approaching a potentially risky intersection (my most worrisome ones are descending Conoco Hill headed north, riding downhill past Quemezon on North, and riding north on Diamond past Sandia/Orange). Alternatively, slow down and prepare for a right of way violation by a motorist.
In this video, John Allen is approaching an intersection in the bike lane, as I was. In John's case he does an instant turn to the right. I was already in front of the side road vehicle when the vehicle accelerated off the line. Would me being in the travel lane have helped?
Three, if you are trying to impart a positive learning experience during such a situation, try to retain some composure, command, and control, at least while the incident is unfolding. Although I have to admit, once it was all over, I waited till no one was around and then yelled !%$#@ at the top of my lungs a couple times.Just to let off some tension.
Now, what was it I was supposed to be doing this morning?
2/19 Postscript: Last night while riding home, an Atomic City Bus pulled alongside me on my left and then merged into the bike lane, with me in it, in order to make a stop at a bus pullout. Rather than yielding until I was past the facility, he simply forced me towards the curb. I stopped and talked to him. He thought he had left me "enough room" even though the bus was straddling half the bike lane. I told him that was not a good idea. It might terrify a less experienced cyclist and left me two choices, brake to a stop or be headed directly for bus customers in an attempt to shoot the gap. Nothing malicious intended, just a typical misunderstanding. Bombtown cyclists have some work to do.
But really. Was there something about the way the stars were aligned yesterday?