Monday, March 26

FKS Revisit the Safety Pyramid

If You are Experiencing Close Calls, Consider You are at the Second Step...

I posted about the Safety Pyramid once before, here. I'm prompted to revisit the topic by Fear, Khal, and Steve to illustrate how it applies to cycling.

If you will recall, the Pyramid suggests that crashes are related to the number of "near misses" or, commonly in cycling talk, "close calls." And "close calls" are related to the number of "at risk" incidents.

One problem with this in cycling is that some like to use fear as part of the sales pitch.

DISCLOSURE: I had a traffic close call myself on a bike. As I recall, it was in 1974 or 1975. In West Seattle. More recently, I had a pickup driver threaten to back over me in North Richland Hills, and another pickup crew in Bedford come by in a threatening "second pass," but I'm unsure if that is equivalent to a close call. On the other hand, I had a crash in a car in 1996 when another motorist crossed the road through a stop sign and smashed into the left front quarter of my Jaguar.

Anyway, on to the comparisons:

Fear: A blog I follow, had its writer bemoan three close calls in one week. The particular blogger advocates riding on the sidewalk as the safest form of travel; and I can't really argue with that if one really makes a full stop at each and every driveway and intersection, and yields to all pedestrians as the author claims to do. In such a case, close calls would tend to consist of motorists who crash into the curbs of sidewalks or simply drive up onto same. Regardless, if I were to adopt this method of riding, it would be quicker to simply ditch my bike and walk the seven miles to work. Quicker still would be to join the motorized majority. I pray that the three close calls in a week is simply a blogger exaggerating - based on the possibility that the Safety Pyramid has validity as we are taught at work.

Khal: Mr Spencer, in his excellent blog, related a case of a close call. He doesn't have a lot of close calls so pretty much each really becomes notable. In offline correspondence I didn't ask for permission to put up here, he noted:

"...even when things start to go wrong, one has some options left if one is paying attention. I don't like to have to manage unsafe actions, etc., mind you."

I do not think this unauthorized quote will make headlines, since it is not much different than something I might have said - in words not too much different, except I'd have probably added "cycling is fun and safe."

Steve: I had an unsafe incident last week. Tuesday morning to be specific. I was coming south down Bedford Road; crossing the Airport Freeway. It was dark. I had on my usual dark clothing. The "Flamethrower" headlight was on, but I had it on the "low" setting that is merely brighter than most bike headlights and not the "high" setting that is brighter than automotive lights. This fact is mainly relevant to "Safety Pyramid" corrective action.

Anyway, on the service road, off to my right, a motorist decided to make a "free right turn on red." Myself, I was in the left lane since the right one is closed to make more motoring roads. Typically, as I enter the intersection, I drift right into the right lane that begins again just south of the intersection construction. Except for "Teal Escort Guy," (who isn't going that way anyway) any following traffic understands why I'm in that lane and that my right arm hung out means I'll be going into the right lane when it reappears.

The motorist SHOULD have waited for traffic going with the green light to clear the intersection before he began his right. Them's the rules. Still, this was not a big deal to me since I was still a lane to his left. I'd simply stay in the left lane until the motorist's acceleration took him ahead and then complete my shift into the right lane. Well, that plan evaporated when the "free right turner" went further into scofflaw territory by then beginning a move into the left lane. My lane. Now, I had to decide what this guy was going to do next. He could accelerate or he could run into the median. Figuring that it was more likely that the guy was simply clueless rather than inebriated or otherwise incapacitated, I moved further left in the left lane and slowed down a smidge. I think "free right turner" realized he was potentially going to run over a cyclist who had the right of way, because at this point he slowed down as well. Seeing this turn of events, I turned up the burner a bit and merged into the right lane ahead of him. As it turned out, this was precisely the best action I could have taken since the motorist was intending to go into the grocery store in the mini mall off to my left. I have no idea what he was going to shop for at 6:30AM, but this is Texas so he wasn't buying booze.
When Close Calls Are Rare, Even the "Unsafe Act by Others" Must Suffice
Cycling IS Fun and Safe...


Justine Valinotti said...

What many people don't realize is that for every scofflaw cyclist, there are many others who do things like you, Steve, did in that situation. Many of us go out of our way, sometimes to the point of trading one risk for another, to make up for the mistakes, carelessness and thoughtlessness of some motorists and pedestrians.

Khal said...

"Cycling is fun and safe"

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