Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Black Boxes for Bikes

I stumbled across this blog post a couple of days ago: by a cyclist who happened to have a GPS system on him when he was hit by a car. And not just a GPS system - a fancy-shmantsy cycling training GPS system that measures every little thing, from altitude to speed to your heart rate and vital signs. This one (check it out in the post) was sensitive enough to record when the bike was hit. When it was moved to the side of the road. When he moved it to repair it afterward. It registered his heartrate spike on impact.

Okay, yeah. That's cool. I really can't see myself ever wanting something like this, or forking out the (fairly substantial) cash for it. Seems like the sort of equipment you'd only need if you were a pro cyclist (which this guy is.) Or competitive. Or a really, truly obsessive gearhead. But in this case, it turned out to be worth it, just for insurance purposes. Maybe they ought to install black boxes like this in cars too.

Because what really interested - and scared - me about this post was the blatant way the driver tried to lie her way out of her culpability: telling the police she didn't even hit the guy ... until they pointed out the dent he'd made in her hood. Then telling them that he'd been crossing the street illegally (until they mentioned that if she could see what direction he was crossing the street, then she could have seen him and stopped in time.) And it's also disturbing how little recourse anyone has, without eyewitnesses. It all become a case of 'your story against mine.' Until, in this case, he gets home and realizes he's got a record of the whole accident on his GPS device.

And what if he'd been killed? That GPS record would have made a huge difference in how the driver was prosecuted in that case.

Almost. Almost reason to get one.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The First Enforced Bus Ride

I suppose I could have ridden to work today.

Yeah, I could have, to be totally honest.

But man. I woke up to fine, blowing, falling snow, and the spectacle of car after car fishtailing it down the street below my apartment building. After watching a bus slide to a halt at the stop sign - and after agonizing about whether or not to get the bike packed up for entirely too long - I decided that although I really did actually want to ride to work, it was probably not the safest or smartest thing to do. Especially since I was completely unsure about what route would be best to take: did I want to try the path? How deep was the snow out there? Would I find myself trapped at Hurdman Station, like last year? How clear was Bank Street? What about the Rideau Canal path? Had it been cleared? How bad was it out there anyway? And was it likely to keep snowing all day?

I remember this... the winter-morning decision making. Funny, that all the rest of the year I just don't work "bus" into my list of options. But a couple of centimeters of greasy, new slush and unploughed roads does make a bit of a difference, and I have to start remembering to keep bus change around the house. Raiding my piggy bank on bad mornings.

But I'm sort of regretting not riding. After all, there isn't really much reason not to be on the bike: it's slippery, sure. I'll get used to that. I'd have had to ride way out in the street and piss off a few impatient drivers, yeah. I'll have to resign myself to using my winter route (more roads, longer, less pretty) sooner or later. And dammit, it would have been a rough slog, but it would have been fresh air, blood pumping, the kind of wake-up call that I really need on grey December mornings.

I'll ride tomorrow. It'll feel good.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Near Misses

I feel really bad.

I didn't get out of the office till well after sunset this afternoon. One of the advantages of winter is that although the recreational paths aren't lit, exactly, they are rendered a little easier to see in the dark by the absence of leaves in the trees overhead, and the general reflectiveness of the snow. (I'm still taking the paths, because so far my usual route is still clear, with the wind sweeping the pavement free of what snow there is.)

But, it's still pretty dark out there. My headlights cut the shadows a little, but not really that much. So any pedestrians on the path show up mostly as dark shadows until I'm pretty close. As I was making my way along the path, near the river, before the highway underpass, I noticed a figure standing in the grass at the edge of the path. I swung a little to the left to get out of her way, and was distracted by the glow of a smartphone screen reflecting off her jacket (which I hadn't noticed before.)

When I looked back at the path, there was a small terrier practically underneath my front tire. I yelped. So did the dog's owner (which is how I know she was a woman) and the dog skittered out of the way only just in time to avoid my hitting it. I didn't have time to hit my brakes. I barely had time to register that the dog was there. And for a few moments afterward, I just kept pedalling, trying to process what had just nearly hapened, and being very glad that I hadn't hit the dog. Would I have killed it? Or just hurt it badly? I would have gone flying in either case. I was glad I'd had my helmet on.

And then I realized that I really should have stopped and gone back to talk to the woman. Not necessarily to apologize, although I probably would have - really, no one was at fault in this. The dog could have had a light on it, or a leash. She could have been watching instead of texting. But I could have been paying better attention to the path ahead of me. And she couldn't have been expected to be on the alert for cyclists after dark in early December - there aren't that many of us on the paths. And I really, really, should have stopped to make sure she and her dog were okay. Now there's a good chance that in her mind, I'm one of those reckless cyclists with no regard for pedestrians, zipping along unaware and unconcerned, a danger to myself and others (and others' dogs.) But the longer I thought about going back, and the more space stretched out between me and her, the more awkward it felt to turn around and go back. After all, no one was hurt. The dog is fine.

But I feel really bad. So if you know anyone whose dog was nearly run down by a cyclist this evening, tell her I'm sorry.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010