That Pesky 4 Percent

In the classroom portion of CyclingSavvy we present a nifty interactive pie chart demonstrating that a bicyclist who knows how traffic works and follows the rules can mitigate 96 percent of the most common types of crashes. That leaves a 4-percent slice of the pie called “other.”

I had a close encounter with “other” this morning.

This “other” is actually a very old problem going back to the earliest days of automobile traffic in urban areas. It is well described in the book Fighting Traffic. This “other” was a real killer early in the last century — mowing down pedestrians and motorists alike. Before traffic controls and regulations, car drivers had a nasty habit of cutting corners when making left-hand turns.

This has now happened to me twice in the past few months — once at the intersection of Catalpa and Fremont and this morning — in the dark — at the intersection of Kickapoo and Grand (I had working front white and rear red lights on at the time). Take a look (click for larger image).

The yellow line is my path. The red line is the path of the car. The blue line in the second photo is how the car driver should have made the turn (please excuse the deficiencies of my crappy, free photo editing application).

In the early days of motoring, someone dreamed up the idea of placing a post in the center of city intersections and requiring motorists to pass around it to the outside in order to make a left turn.

Long story short: With my bicyclists’ modest speed and 360-degree awareness, I saw this coming and executed a dandy emergency stop (I wasn’t going very fast at that point, so it was not so dramatic). The motorist passed with about 18-to 24-inches of clearance. I was coming to a stop anyway because I had the stop sign. The contact point, however, would have been where I marked it — exactly where I would have normally, legally stopped.

So, yeah, the emergency stop (and the emergency turn) that we teach in CyclingSavvy can come in handy for mitigating that pesky 4 percent we call “other.”

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Comments 6

  1. Khal Spencer wrote:

    I take it you didn’t ask the motorist WTF was wrong with him/her?

    Posted 29 Mar 2012 at 11:58 am
  2. Keri wrote:

    Situational awareness comes in handy, too.

    The silent policeman story is a good one for illustrating how a solution to one problem, based on a “common sense” hunch, ended up being abandoned because it caused other problems.

    Posted 29 Mar 2012 at 4:20 pm
  3. Steve A wrote:

    Thank your lucky stars you weren’t driving a car or you’d be having a lot of body work done. The only real mitigation here is to use my “flamethrower” headlight on the high setting, but even that would not phase the truly clueless.

    Posted 29 Mar 2012 at 8:43 pm
  4. Robert wrote:

    I started using a helmet mounted light in addition to the handlebar mounted one. Being able to look at a driver and shine your light right inside the cab makes a tremendous difference. Most bike lights are not very visible from the side.

    Posted 29 Mar 2012 at 9:29 pm
  5. Khal Spencer wrote:

    I also use both a handlebar light and a helmet light. But light doesn’t shine around corners. Situational awareness and leaving some “error bars” around one’s self is a good idea here.

    Posted 30 Mar 2012 at 6:49 am
  6. Andy Cline wrote:

    I own a helmet light, but I don’t use it often. Hmmmmmm… perhaps I’ll start.

    Posted 30 Mar 2012 at 8:08 am