Have you ever been happily rolling along in the bike lane (or in the shoulder) as people in cars next to you wait in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and then suddenly there’s a break in the cars at an intersection? While you might be relieved for a momentary break in having cars right next to you, this is not a time to let your guard down. This is a potentially dangerous situation that can lead to sideswipe collisions.
I’ve been aware of this situation for a long time, so I usually slow down at intersections (even when I have the green) in order to peek around the parked cars and make sure it’s clear to roll through. Unfortunately, not everyone makes it through unscathed. In the interest of raising awareness, I thought I’d share two stories from readers who were recently victims of sideswipes.
Alex M. wrote in a few weeks ago after he was hit while riding on NE Broadway. Alex was headed westbound. When he approached NE 6th, he noticed the classic sideswipe scenario:
“Cars were backed up over a block for a traffic light and had left room for the motorists to get through. I couldn’t see the car coming through the traffic because of large vehicles in the way.”
Luckily Alex wasn’t seriously hurt.
Bob Albano wasn’t so lucky.
Back in August, he was commuting up N. Williams Ave (which is notorious for sideswipes during the peak PM commute hours) to his job at Portland International Raceway (he’s an official with the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association). Albano told us he was riding in the bike lane and that the two lanes to his left were full of auto traffic. As he approached N. Fargo, here’s how he explains what happened next:
“With this heavy traffic flow, I was blind-sided from my left and all I remember was hitting something big, red and very hard. The next thing I remember was laying on the pavement, coughing up blood and a cacophony of voices in my ear and shadows standing over me.”
That “very hard” thing that hit him was a Chevy Avalanche pickup truck, which the Portland Police Bureau says was “traveling through stopped traffic” at about 5 mph when the collision occurred (Albano was going 16 mph).
Have you ever been sideswiped like this and/or experienced the conditions where they can happen? Other than slow down and be extremely cautious, it seems like the way to improve these situations is to add signals and/or stop signs when possible. What do you think?