June 10, 2010

Mortality Check

On my commute home from work on Monday evening I was given a quick reminder of my own mortality.

I was cycling west on a reasonably heavily trafficked road just south of Shimokitazawa when a traffic light roughly 100m ahead of me turned red.  As I began to slow, the impatient driver of the car behind me decided he couldn't coast the short distance to the traffic light and began to overtake me.

Partway through this overtaking maneuver the driver realized that he'd better get back in the left lane or he'd be left with half of his car in the lane of oncoming traffic when he stopped at the red light ahead. Clearly not wanting this he began to slowly move to the left forcing me ever closer to the gutter.

In Japan the gutters in front of driveways often have metal plates or ramps installed.  This is because the gutter in front of a driveway may be up to an insurmountable 2 inches high!  Obviously no modern motor vehicle can overcome such a rapid change in altitude over such a short distance, thus the use of a ramp is necessary.

As I was forced further and further into the gutter I clipped out of my pedal in preparation for what might come.  While in the process of clipping out I noticed the ramp beside me but was unable to lift my wheel on to it before the side of my tire came into contact with the front lip of the ramp and began to travel parallel with it leaving me without steering.

The grating of rubber on steel continued for what seemed like forever as I tried to maintain my balance.  The only thing that saved me from falling over was an almighty crash as my left bar end (followed by my left shoulder) came into contact with a utility pole on the sidewalk.  This rapid deceleration allowed me to touch ground with my clipped out foot, regain balance, shoot past the front of the killer car and continue on my way.

As I looked back I noticed the vehicle that caused all the trouble was an imported, left hand drive vehicle.   Typical!   Why the authorities allow left hand drive vehicles on Japanese roads is beyond me.  They're a menace, but I've ranted about that in the past.

I'm naturally wary of a lot of situations when cycling, getting pushed off the road is one of them, but the metal driveway ramp was new to me.  I will be more aware of them from now.

Anyway I'm alive, the bicycle sustained little damage and I've related enough of this story as my wife may be reading and I haven't told her of this little encounter yet!

4 comments:

  1. Crikey, that sounds bad. Glad you're ok though.

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  2. Joseph,

    Thanks for your concern, but the whole thing was over in seconds and really wasn't as bad as the time I hit a small truck and broke my collar bone (but that's another story).

    Were it not for the metal ramp I would have merely been forced into the gutter, stayed upright and shook my fist at the driver as I shot off his bonnet. The ramp was a variable I hadn't factored into my evasion plan proving that no matter how long you've been riding there are still countless unknown situations out there to trip you up!

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  3. Dude, that sucks. I think that when drivers see a bicycle, a "must overtake" madness seeps in, regardless of other conditions. It's right there with the "of course the bicycle is in the wrong" reaction.

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  4. Tim. I totally agree. Cars overtaking just so they can reach a red light, or row of stationary cars 20 or 30 meters ahead is just one thing on my long list of pet hates.

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