Starting a ride at 5:00 pm on a March evening when the temperature is just 48 degrees is a guarantee of one thing. It will get colder as you go. And sure enough, by the time I finished my ride in 1:45, the air had chilled to just 42 degrees and the wind had shifted slightly to the north.
That wasn’t cold enough to generate any real threat to well-being. I had dressed well for the weather with my relatively windproof Proviz360 jacket underpinned by a long sleeve base later and a cycling jersey over that. But toward the end, my arms got cold and my toes too. Fortunately by then I was a mere three miles from home.
Cold comfort and direction
It was sunny and clear throughout the ride. But as the sun sank lower in the sky I was headed directly west on a straight road, and that bright sun became a problem. Vehicles approaching from behind could probably not see me very well on the bike. Even my rear blinking light was little assurance of warning to drivers.
Sure enough, one of them buzzed within inches of me as it blew past. The disturbing thing about that incident is that I was already six inches OFF the actual road riding outside the white line. The driver still nearly struck me. Whoever it was, broke the law.
Three near strikes
That’s the third time this year in fact. Each time I’ve wondered if it was something I’d done to put myself at risk. The lighting conditions were bad yesterday. Yet even in good light one day, a lone driver on a massively open semi-gravel nearly mowed me down.
I do think these close calls were accidental. If they were intentional they are evidence of a truly savage mind behind the wheel. That’s possible of course, but I’m going with the benefit of the doubt that in these instances the drivers just cannot see me.
that means I’ve got to ramp up my visibility game. Or else die.
The Proviz360 jacket works in any condition other than being silhouetted by the sun. Even the merest glimmer of light makes the jacket light up. But when the sun turns me into a silhouette on the road, I’m at complete risk.
So I can’t ask for sympathy if I’m not doing enough to protect myself. That would be cold comfort indeed, defined as: “quite limited sympathy, consolation, or encouragement.”
No sympathy, and that’s cold comfort
We already know there are many drivers that have very little sympathy for any types of bikes on the road. Some seem ignorant that cycling is not only legal, but there are laws requiring vehicles to give cyclists three feet of clearance in all conditions while passing. Of course, that sometimes means cars would have to slow down and separate hazards while trying to pass with oncoming traffic involved. Some people don’t like to do that. They actually speed up and just try to blow past as quick as possible. Which doubles the danger to all involved.
“The laws don’t apply to me”
It is also clear that many people hate the idea they have to accommodate the laws protecting cyclists. The attitude seems to be that those laws don’t really apply to them. Either they’re in a big hurry to get somewhere or they view the road as their personal property. Thus a cyclist is essentially a ‘trespasser’ on their road.
This seems to hold true across every spectrum of road. From urban streets where cyclists attempt to navigate through a maze of trucks, buses, cars and taxis to suburban thoroughfares and boulevards where everyone is either late or afraid they’re going to be late, cyclists are seen as an infraction against the car culture.
Animated road kill
Out on country roads, cyclists are regarded with disdain by many drivers, who seem to look at cyclists as an animated form of road kill, one of those necessary evils of driving on public roads. The attitude of road ownership is even more pronounced in semi-rural areas where the farming community faces its share of discrimination as suburban housing reaches into the fields. It all becomes a competitive battle for use of the roads.
It’s never funny when cultural consideration gets flattened by selfish expectations. But then, America is a country that once thought it was fine to keep slaves. it wasn’t that long ago in our nation’s history that was true. Do we really expect that one or two generations is really going to fix that brand of prejudicial ignorance? Or that it doesn’t somehow get pushed into other areas like toothpaste out of a tube?
We’re daily witnesses to the political wishes of those who consider their own aims and fears far more important than the general welfare of the populace. The real Concealed Carry in this country is selfishness. It is the most dangerous weapon in the universe.
So I got home last night with two realizations.
One, I have to light my bike up like a Christmas tree if I really want to be safe. One simply can’t assume that between bad lighting, busy roads, people texting while driving and the general distractions of life that any single driver gives a rats ass about you.
I accept that. It’s cold comfort when you’ve nearly been struck several times. But you can either work to manage that problem, which I plan to do, or die without trying.
Cold comfort realities
It is also true what my buddy told me yesterday about exercising in the cold. He’s a track coach and has produced many state champions. He shared that he keeps in touch with Division 1 track coaches across the country. And one of them told him something that is immensely interesting.
See, track times among athletes in the south and west are generally faster than athletes in the northern states. That’s especially true with sprinters, but it really applies to tracksters of many types. The cold spring weather reduces the ability to produce fast times because athletes can’t perform as well in the cold as they can in warmer temps.
Recruiters of track athletes actually keep tables that adjust the times of runners up north to compare with those who compete in warmer, more southern climes.
Wait till June
Which is cold comfort when you get home after a ride in cold spring temps because you’re pedaling like mad and just not going as fast as you would in June or August.
But there’s a reason for it. The statistics of big time athletes bear it out. And it’s always nice to have excuses for not killing it out there. But it’s even better to have a plan to not get killed out there.
That’s called convergent evolution. It’s life in real time.