Tuesday I went out at lunch for a short recovery spin. It was raw out, cold and drizzly, possibly the first time I've ridden in rain this year. I'm always a little more cautious riding when it is wet. Not so much reduced traction or braking power. Cyclist are already invisible to some drivers. When wipers are going and cars are kicking up a little mist, cyclist become invisible to a larger population of drivers.
I was heading south on Daniel Webster Hwy approaching a side street, Henry Clay Dr. There was a car at the stop sign, waiting to turn right. A quick glance over my shoulder to make sure nobody was going to right-hook me said back was clear. Make eye contact with driver waiting to pull out. I had wind to my back and there is slight downhill grade there. I was cruising 25mph. All was good.
Suddenly, without any warning, a car comes flying from the opposite direction on DWH towards me. No blinker that I recall, no waiting in left turn lane, just full speed sudden left turn. Speed limit is 40mph. Most cars travel closer to 50mph on that stretch. The turn is not a hard 90 degrees, but more sweeping from the direction the car was coming. Thus you don't have to slow down much.
In an instant, I realized impact was imminent. I had nowhere to go with a car sitting there. I pretty much thought that was it, that that was my final ride. In a last desperate act, I thrust my bike forward, as in a photo sprint at the line. The front corner of the bumper flew by under my left hip. Miraculously, bike and body cleared the car. Closing velocity between us had to have been at least 50mph, maybe over 60mph. Had I been about 0.2 seconds later, I would have been dead.
After I cleared the car, I was now on collision course with tall granite curb, telephone pole, and razor sharp reflector posts. A split second after dodging the car, I was now panicking trying to not get sliced in two on other obstacles. I barely saved it and stopped. I was trembling uncontrollably.
It didn't take long before the trembling turned into rage. Somebody nearly killed me and kept going. I turned around and began sprinting up Henry Clay Dr. It goes to the YMCA, so I suspected I would catch up to the driver. The car was cresting the top of the modest rise when I gave chase, motioning to pull over. Surprisingly, the car did. I think it was a full-size Buick.
I let up from my explosive sprint as I see the driver's window going down. Uh, oh. Punks? Somebody that's going to scream expletives at me for being on the road? Are they armed? This all crossed my mind as I approached the car.
It was a woman, about my age. She was trembling and began apologizing profusely. She was nearly in tears and shaken up as badly as I was. I said "you could have killed me!" She replied "I know, I know, I just didn't see you." I gave her credit for stopping and accepted her apology. She said "At least you didn't have a gun." She rightfully understood how upset that could make somebody.
I sensed no lecture was necessary. Cyclists must accept the fact they are lowest on the visibility food chain when it comes to the battle on the roads. Sometimes drivers just don't see you. I was wearing my red Nor'East jacket, which has decent visibility. I suspect there was traffic coming up behind me and the woman was fixated on them, perhaps thinking "I better turn now, or I'll have to wait." It would be easy to miss a cyclist coming up the right shoulder. In the future, I will wear a hi-viz yellow shell on dreary days.
It took a good while for the adrenaline to settle down, like the rest of my ride. It didn't sink in right away how close that incident was. Rolling an ankle in the woods is one thing. Head-on with a fast car is a risk level I can barely comprehend. Be careful out there, folks.