Sunday, May 11, 2008

In Your Face!

Riding home one evening last week, I was starting up a hill on Route 28 just north of where Route 109 turns off to the east to go past Lake Wentworth, when I saw one of the other regular commuters coming down the hill. He rides the opposite of my route, working up near where I live and living near where I work.

We always wave when passing. I grit my teeth and don't say anything about his too-small old ten-speed with the drop handlebars turned upside down, inverted brake levers and all, because it's really his business. If I ever get the chance I'll offer him a bigger frame I have hanging around, and see if I can get him the ride position he wants without setting a bad example for onlookers. Inverted drop bars are so '70s. Early '80s at best.

So here he came down the hill, when suddenly he swerved across the highway onto my side and came straight at me against the proper direction of traffic, right down my throat.

Whenever I meet a wrong-way cyclist I have to decide which way to go to avoid collision. Do I shoulder him into the ditch, the curb or parked cars, or hip check him out into the oncoming traffic beside me? Why should I have to accommodate someone's unsafe behavior at all?

In this instance, he headed into the ditch on his own, well before we met. I was making the big WTF shrug at him as soon as he shot over onto a head-on course with me. As we passed, I enunciated clearly, "illegal and dangerous." Sure, on that section of ditch he could get by me, but above or below would not go as well. After he got by me, he would come into a highway intersection where no one would be looking for him. So he would have to round the corner at the bottom of the hill right down the throat of motorists waiting to pull out, requiring THEM to decide how much consideration he deserved. Since many motorists don't think we deserve much at all, it seems a risky gambit. It makes us look like more of a dangerous nuisance than necessary.

If you need to make a left at a dicey intersection, try going past it and hooking a U-turn rather than crossing into oncoming traffic. In this case he could also make a right at the road opposite 109 and then cross when it was clear.

I know what he does next. He gets on the Sorry Excuse for a Rail Trail and rides the rest of the way into town. Early and late in the season, the SERT is pretty mellow. It only gets gripping when cyclists meet head-on in the many sections where it is too narrow for safe passage. That's more likely in the height of summer, when the population more than quadruples around here. If he hangs on a bit past 109 I think he can access the SERT from Kenney Shore Road without pulling strange maneuvers on other road users. But all this takes too long to explain when you're jostling past each other, playing chicken beside a 55 mile-per-hour highway. Most people haven't hit that speed coming up from the 40 zone at 109, but most of them are working hard to get there.

I can't tell people not to take risks. But I can damn sure tell them to leave me out of it. I won't clothesline someone like that, but I also can't stop thinking I'd like to.


vcspinner said...

I only encounter wrong-way cyclists about once a month. Lately, I just stop my bike and haul it (and myself) off the road before they get to me. Life's too short to risk injury from this kind of idiot.

JLKasper said...

I call old ten-speeds like that "tavern bikes", since one can often spot them while nested-- chained to a lamp-post in front of a bar. These have fallen out of favor in recent years, having been replaced by Wal-Mart "mountain bikes", with milk crates often bungee-hooked to the handlebars.

cafiend said...

You have to have a place to carry the 30-pack.

The Walgoose has become the vehicle of choice for the involuntarily carless. It looks like a lot for the money compared to some spindly thing that would blow right over when a truck goes by.