Today, I narrowly avoided a really bad accident more by luck than anything else unless there was some angels keeping me from low or high-siding the bike during the sideways skid to avoid a collision with a pick-up truck. Here’s the details and a caution / warning for a particularly bad intersection in the Hoover area … the intersection of Patton Chapel Rd and Chapel Ln. BE CAREFUL IF YOU RIDE THROUGH THERE IN THE LATE AFTERNOON!. The maps and data tell part of the story, but you will want to read the short narrative below to see how I almost got creamed by a pick-up truck that never saw me and why I didn’t see him until it was almost too late.
narrow miss overview map
closeup of the dangerous intersection(s) – if you click on the picture to view the large version you can see the deviation in the GPS data from the sideways skid when decelerating from 25mph to 12mph in 1 second
annotated speed and elevation data including the deceleration from 25 to 12mph
So it all started with my commute home from work. I was climbing up Smyer and ran into Chad Hubbard who was heading the same way as me over towards Bluff Park. (Chad, if you are reading this, great riding with you today! This all happened about 10 minutes after we parted ways) Normally on a commute route home through Bluff Park, I would take Farley over to Shenandoah (crazy steep) and then down Mountain Oaks (fast and dangerous) and Hackberry (crazy fast 50+mph but not as dangerous). Instead, I wanted to get home with an easier route and less climbing so I headed down Patton Chapel (relatively slow and straight) which is not a particularly fun road to descend because it isn’t very fast, goes between two schools across the street from each other (imagine the chaos around 3:00 in the afternoon!), and then has the dangerous intersection with Moss Rock Preserve Parkway and Chapel Ln towards the bottom where I almost got into an accident today.
Today was MLK day though so I knew that the schools were closed. The sun was starting to get low in the sky to the west, though, and I’m sure that played a role in why the old man in the pickup truck with snow white hair never saw me. So anyway, here is what happened. I was descending between the schools at about 32-35 mph (speed limit is either 30 or 35). I made it past the schools and started to approach the two traffic lights which are very close to each other. The first traffic light is newer and it was easy to tell that it was green. The second traffic light is older and much harder to see when the sun is behind you. So you have to look really hard at the traffic light as you approach it. I had slowed down to about 25mph because I wasn’t sure if the light was green or red. As I was looking at it trying to decide if I was going to have to stop, I finally made it to the angle where you could see the traffic light instead of the sun’s glare. I thought, hey, that’s great I’ve got a green light. Well, because I had been so focused on the traffic light and the car waiting to leave from the side street (b/c if he started to move before I could see my light I would know that my light was red), I didn’t see that there was a pick-up truck coming from the opposite direction as me who decided to turn in front of me. There was no room. Let me repeat, there was no room. I looked down from the green light and was immediately staring into the side of a white pick-up truck moving slowly across the intersection. I had enough time to do two things: slam on the brakes and steer left. As I slammed on the brakes, the rear wheel locked up and slid sideways while the front wheel continued to roll (I think). This pointed me hard to the left and when the rear wheel stopped skidding I had slowed down enough and moved far enough left (12mph – nowhere near close enough to stopping) that the pick-up truck had just cleared out of the way in front of me. I mean we are talking inches (or less) from what would have been a 12mph collision with the side of a truck. Not super fast, but it definitely would not have been good. The worst case scenario that was narrowly avoided would have been if my front wheel slid out or if it had grabbed too hard and I high-sided over the bike and slid right under the rear wheels of the pick-up. That guy didn’t see me. As I cleared him barely to the left and looked through the back of the pickup truck, I saw that he had snow-white hair so I’m assuming he was really old. Especially since he was turning so slow. If he had darted across in front of me, then it would have scared the you-know-what out of me, but I might not have even needed to touch the brakes. Instead, he was sorta just rolling across the intersection slowly. Anyway if he was old enough and out of his senses enough, he may have just kept right on driving with me under the wheels.
Just to clear up any confusion though, I had a green light. The next person after me to get a green light would be the guy who was waiting at the intersection to turn left onto Patton Chapel Rd. The guy in the pickup truck who turned across my lane was turning not on a left arrow, but rather on a green light where you are allowed to proceed if there is no oncoming traffic. He clearly didn’t see me, and he almost ran over me. So anyway, all that is to say please be careful at that intersection.
Also, as far as visibility, this is what I had on today – (although the picture below was taken back in early December and today I had on my green Nature Valley kit underneath the reflective rain jacket so my shorts were a contrasting green color)