The biggest danger I worry about when I’m out riding my bicycle is cars. They’re big, they go really fast, and they often have drivers who don’t pay as much attention as they should. The place I most worry about cars are is at intersections. On the open road a car that is coming up behind me seems to always see me. I guess it’s hard to miss a cyclist when he’s right in front of you but at an intersection it’s a whole different story. I’ve heard it said that when on a bicycle treat all stop signs like yield signs and treat all stop lights like stop signs. That’s a good recipe for survival. You just don’t want to be hanging out at the crossroads for too long when on a bicycle.

I think I’ve been in the most danger from cars as I approach cross streets. Cars will be sitting there waiting to pull out and sometimes they pull out nearly into me. Usually it’s one of three scenarios. The first is that I’m riding up the street and a car is on the cross street on my right waiting to pull out. The driver is looking to his right, away from me, and is waiting for traffic to clear. He hasn’t looked left in a while as the traffic to his right has got his attention. As that traffic to his right clears he just starts to pull out without ever looking left again. That’s when I almost get run into as I’m coming from his left. I can sometimes tell when this is going to happen as I approach the car and the driver just isn’t looking my way for a long time. I say, “Look back at me. Look back at me. Look back at me.” in my head and slow down as I approach. I’ve never actually been hit but there have been close calls.

The second scenario is when a driver dismisses you as a danger. It’s usually the same cross street scenario except this time the driver will look right at me and then cut me off. By the look in said driver’s eyes I think they look through me. I’ve even had some look at me and then through me as they pull out. I think what they are doing is looking for danger, being distracted by the bigger danger posed by other cars, and than not even seeing me as I was dismissed as not being a danger to them. And then I get cut off and nearly ride into the side of their cars.

The third scenario I can think of happened to me just a couple of weeks ago. I was riding along on the far right side of the road coming up to an intersection with a traffic light. It was a green light that seemed a bit stale. The car coming up behind me must have thought so too because he sped up and then made a right in front of me. He nearly clipped my front wheel and/or made me ride into the side of him. Only slamming on my brakes saved me from a collision. I just wanted to throw rocks at his car. I mean why would anyone do that?

This all comes to mind tonight because I was, once again, nearly run over by a car. Except this time I was on foot! I was walking on the sidewalk down my usual route on a local road. I like this walk because it’s a nice wide road with nice wide sidewalks. Very little danger. Lots of room for everyone. Except tonight. It was like scenario one on the bike. I was walking on the side walk and there was a car up ahead of me waiting to pull out of a pizza place. Not an uncommon occurrence. As I walked in front of the car, on the sidewalk, he pulled out into me. I put my arms out onto the hood of the car and rolled off unhurt as he stopped but I couldn’t believe it. The driver just never saw me. By the look on his face he was more stunned than I was. I was okay so I sent him on his way but come on, look where you’re driving before you drive there. I should have been paying more attention too and will in the future. Usually in that situation the driver and I make eye contact and he acknowledges that I’m walking in from of him. Or I walk behind the car. In the future if neither of those happens I’m not going.

Something like that happened to me years ago on the streets of Manhattan. I was heading down to work one morning walking down Park Avenue from Grand Central Station to Twenty Eighth Street. Somewhere along that way I was stopped while waiting for the lights to change. The light went green and I started to cross the street. It was then that a driver, obviously not used to driving in NYC, thought she had edged too far into the intersection. When the light turned red in front of her she decided to back up into the crosswalk. The cross walk I was walking in. Do you want some advice? Don’t ever back up into a crosswalk! Once again I spun around, put both hands on the car, and jumped back. I was unhurt but, damn, that’s a bit unsettling.

Oddly enough the last time I got hurt on my bicycle involved nothing but my own bad luck and misjudgments. And it happened in my own driveway. As I was coming home after a ride there was a newspaper in my driveway. My driveway is a steep hill and the paper was in the middle of the hill. Usually in this situation I’ll stop at the top of the hill, walk my bike down, and pick up the paper. Alternately I’ll stop at the bottom of the hill and walk up to the paper. It’s not a long driveway. For some reason on that day I decided to stop my bike in the middle of the hill. I didn’t even stop all the way when I started to dismount and my weight shifted too far forward. I went flying over the handle bars and landed on my left hand and then my shoulder and head. It was a good thing I wear a helmet. I immediately checked for bones sticking out and there were none. I also checked to see it my arm had its full range of motion and it did. Then my elbow swelled up and was out of commission for a few weeks. The feeling of stupidity as I rolled around my driveway with my arm in pain was pretty intense too. I can injure myself all on my own I don’t need help from other stupid people. If only the cars on the road knew that.