|Not the truck that passed me, though it's about as close. I got this image from www.ibiketo.ca - from a post with a great video showing good and bad driving and cycling.|
He posted this scary video of a transport truck blowing by him, and a sedan cutting him off at 35km/h on his blog today. I'm reminded of the phone call I didn't make yesterday.
I was on my way south on Bank Street. Bank has been identified, incidentally, as quite possibly being Ottawa's most deadly street for cyclists, by OpenFile's awesome data tool Open Road. I seem to recall that even before Open Road, I found Bank Street south of Riverside on a list of the city's most dangerous cycling areas.
Anyway, I was pedaling along on my way home from work when I was blown past by a full-size transport truck. (At least it wasn't also hauling a trailer, like Ken's was: trailers are the absolute worst. Often wider than the vehicle pulling them, they skim terrifyingly close to a cyclist, and you can never be sure the driver's remembering to account for the extra width.)
This truck appeared on my left out of nowhere, and I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that it was a foot and a half off my handlebars. It felt like a foot. I screamed as it went by, and considered braking reactively (damn good thing I didn't: the truck was too close and my best option was to keep going at the same speed and pray it was all over quickly.) The worst part was that after the cab had gone by, terrifying me, the trailer on the thing just kept going, like the Imperial Star Destroyer at the beginning of Star Wars. People waiting at the bus stop near me jumped and stared, because I was yelling so loud.
The instinct to brake when a huge vehicle buzzes you like that is hard to overcome. I don't know which is safer, really; braking involves a marginal loss of momentum and therefore control over straight travel, but on the sort of bad pavement you've got on Bank Street, the chance of hitting a pothole or drainage grate if you keep going at speed while the truck is screaming past you is frightening.
At any rate, I almost never have the chance to catch up to the people that do this kind of thing and get their license plate. But in this case, I caught up to the truck at the next light. It was being operated by Grant Transport, and the license plate on the trailer (though not the cab) was 870 35R. I know this, because I repeated the license number to myself the whole way home, and as soon as I had reached my building and was waiting by the elevators, I pulled out my phone to call them and report their driver.
I regret this: on the first ring, I hung up. Be honest, I thought to myself, do you really think they'll care? What are you going to report, dangerous driving? They'll just think you're a whining cyclist, or they won't believe that the truck was as close as it was, or they'll dismiss the whole thing, or the receptionist won't have a procedure for reporting this kind of thing. I don't have the cab number.
So I hung up. I regret that. But it's hard to make those calls: I tried it once with Capital Cab. The dispatcher listened to my shaking account, and then told me to call 311, and I didn't have a license plate number or any way of identifying the cab, so I figured 311 wouldn't be able to do anything anyway. I felt like my fear and anger were being dismissed. So this time around, I didn't even call Grant Transport. Although, now that I've written this, I just might. In fact, I should probably just call the police. Hey - at least this one time I actually got a plate number: I should use it.