It’s a story that needs to be told. One hopes that there are many such so-far untold stories, but no matter how many, it’s not been enough to stop man’s inhumanity towards man. –Mike–
Unbelievable that just a few days after Joy Covey lost her life, we see someone turning right in front of a cyclist at the same intersection. I rode up there again today, wanting to get an idea of how the sun might have affected visibility at the time of day the accident occurred, and hung around for quite a while, maybe 30 minutes, letting the video run and observing how cars and cyclists interacted. In this case, not well!
The cyclist was wearing a light-colored jersey and had a flashing front light. No fog (sorry about the fuzzy video; apparently I hadn’t wiped the lens clean). Did the motorist not see the cyclist? Or mis-judge the speed? You would think there would be a heightened sensitivity with greater care taken in making that turn. There is clear visibility for over a quarter mile on the downhill (north) side, so there’s no rocket science involved in making that turn. You make sure there’s nobody in sight coming up the road, then make the turn only when there’s nobody on the uphill (south) side.
I agree that it’s a dangerous intersection, requiring extra care for those turning into or out of it. But with that extra care, I think virtually all accidents are avoidable. Of course that’s expecting too much, so this intersection might be in need of serious redesign, perhaps adding roadway on the west side (right side when heading uphill/south) so that you could realign the entire roadway further west, giving a better view of traffic to someone on Elk Tree Road, and possibly even a left-hand turn lane incorporated on southbound-Skyline. It’s a whole lot of trouble for a lightly-used intersection, but this may have been the third serious (and second fatal) accident there.
More video, shot a couple minutes before what’s shown above, giving the motorist’s point of view. Many had questioned whether a motorist can actually see much up the hill. Yes, they can. If they’re looking. Make sure to run it full-screen so it’s a bit more realistic, since a car window is just a bit bigger than 3 inches across. And especially note the car at the end of the video, which never stops at all as it enters onto Skyline from Elk Tree Road. Is it really possible the driver gave anything more than a cursory glance before heading onto Skyline?
I’ve ridden this stretch of road literally 2000+ times, every single Tuesday & Thursday morning, for the past 25+ years. Any close calls in all that time? None. We watch for cars turning from Elk Tree Road onto Skyline, since you can’t know for sure that they’ve spotted you and are going to wait until you pass before heading across the road. But that’s not the scenario for the accident 9/18/2013; it was a delivery truck coming up Skyline, not from the side road, and it made a turn across Skyline into her (location in Google Maps).
I rode up there with my son to check it out this morning, as I always do when there’s a serious accident involving a cyclist on “my” roads, and when I have questions that haven’t been answered. And in similar past situations, what I have seen myself is often at odds with the “official” write-up. Unless you have a cyclist on the scene during the investigation, assumptions (leading to conclusions) occur that are often at odds with reality.
It’s nearly impossible to come up with a scenario in which anything Joy Covey did was at odds with legal operation of a bicycle (or any other vehicle). She was descending a stretch of Skyline where the grade is such that you can coast at a reasonable speed (26-33mph) but it’s nearly-impossible to exceed the speed limit of 40mph without really working it, and it’s not a section of road where people do that (coming just after a small climb so you’re tired and happy to take it easy for a bit). We may even know her speed with near-100% accuracy, since she’s on Strava and probably recorded the ride. Looking at her past Strava rides, I’m guessing they’ll find she was traveling at 32mph or less at that point; her prior 3 rides were 32, 32 & 31.7mph. This is not a speed demon terrorizing others on the road. At that speed, there’s about 6-7 seconds during which she was visible to a car at the Elk Tree Road intersection. That’s plenty of time to safely make a go/no-go decision on making the left-hand turn across oncoming traffic. Obviously, if there was oncoming traffic, you don’t make the turn.
But the driver DID make that turn. Did he do so without looking? Did he come up the road without stopping? Making the reasonable assumption that he had no malice towards cyclists, why did he make that turn? Did he see her but think cyclists travel much slower than 32mph on a descent, thus terribly misjudging things? I don’t know. The only thing I know is that I’m not going to believe this to be an “unfortunate accident” that just happened, while operating a vehicle legally. We are required to be aware of our surroundings when driving, when cycling. That doesn’t change that something was an “accident” but it does require acceptance (or deliverance) of responsibility on the part of the person who caused it.
Could Joy Covey have done something to prevent it? I don’t know, and even if she could have, even if, lit up like a Christmas Tree and blasting an air horn could have prevented it, that doesn’t change who’s at fault, and it’s reasonable to operate a bicycle without retinal-burning lights and ear-splitting air horns. And yet people will use the availability of flashing bright lights to essentially blame the victim if she wasn’t riding with them. I don’t know if she was; the odds would favor that she wasn’t running with daytime flashing lights, because most cyclists don’t.
And this is where it gets very, very frustrating. I strongly believe in bright daytime flashing lights; I think they greatly enhance the likelihood of your being seen on the road, but not for the reasons people think. Not because it makes you more visible at any given time, but because it increases the length of time you might be visible. Why is it important to be visible a very long way away and not just 500ft or so (which would be plenty of time for someone to notice you and react accordingly)? Because people “zone out” from time to time while driving, and if they happen to “zone out” during that critical last 500ft, bad things can happen. And please let me know if you haven’t, at some point, been driving along and suddenly realized that you can’t play back the last 30 seconds in your mind, because somehow you were on autopilot, going through the motions but not really being aware.
But I can’t send out an email telling people to make themselves more visible, suggesting that they use bright daytime flashing lights and wear brighter clothes, because it would seem both opportunistic (because after all I sell such things) and also give people a chance to blame the victim.
The saddest irony is that Tuesday night I saw a story about how dangerous motorcycling is, with very scary statistics, and reflected upon how much safer bicycling is. I was thinking about writing something up to help calm those who are afraid to get out there on the roads because they know someone who got hit, or have been hit by a car themselves. I was going to point out that I’ve ridden well over 500,000 miles with only two minor incidents with cars, and how much more likely it would be that the same number of miles driving might have involved as many accidents but possibly with much worse outcomes.
I was going to write how we are not helpless on the roads; how we survive in part by predictable behavior (which starts with stopping at stop signs and lights and following traffic rules in general) and also through things like flashing headlights and tail lights, even in the daytime. I still believe those things. I still leave the garage (as I did this morning) not thinking that I’m doing something I might not come back from, that I might be leaving my wife and kids and business without me. I still feel safer when I’m on my bike, in control, than I do when I’m in a car that somebody else is driving. Because I do have control, because I have influence over things that affect my safety when riding my bike, even on busy roads.
But think how awful all of that would sound to a friend of Joy Covey’s, or her son. Or one of my kids, if something happened to me. Sure, they’d be dragging out the cliché about how I died doing something I loved, but they’d also be asking themselves what if it wasn’t so important that I rode that day? –Mike–
Added thought: How would this have played out in the media if it had been a car that the delivery van had turned into, and not a bike? Would anyone have questioned that the driver of the car that had been plowed into might be at fault?
I should have refused.
That “thing” was ghastly. Gross. Disgusting. A piece of chicken in there somewhere, supposedly with two fried mozarella sticks on top of it (which had a taste and texture like no mozarella I’ve ever experienced; they looked so suspicious that I tried just a nibble and quickly removed them), smothered in something that appeared and tasted like a mayonaise/cheese combination (equally gross!). I have no idea what the green flecks were. Scraped everything off and ate just the chicken. I figured the chicken would have been fried enough to have a nearly-impermeable coating of crusty grease that would keep anything else away, but sadly no. This “thing” was the personification of a nightmare Gordon Ramsey might have if he were to be on his feet for 5 days straight on crack. I won’t debate evidence that that’s not a hypothetical scenario.
Why offer something like this? Simple. Because you can’t make this stuff up. Nobody would believe it. Like the Bacon Shake. It’s a culinary joke, with Jack daring you to come along for the ride. I can only wonder what they might come up with next. Perhaps the RKB, which stands for something super-secret but they let slip out through an unauthorized tweet that maybe it stands for Road Kill Burger. And it just might be. No shortage of possums around.
This has, to say the least, been an interesting week. How I managed to fit so many “normal” things into it, despite little things like today’s (Friday’s) email & website failure, which still remains unresolved (so if you sent me an email and haven’t seen a reply yet, it’s quite likely because I never saw your email and/or the reply didn’t go anywhere). And bigger things like Karen’s (my wife) hopefully-final surgery related to cancer. Which, in this case, was almost an outpatient procedure… not sure how many body parts you have to lose before you stay overnight anymore!
But through it all a sense of normalcy has been maintained; I kept up my Tuesday & Thursday-morning rides, of which Thursday’s was the most unusual, since I was riding up Kings at the same time Karen was being prepped for surgery. As I write this, it’s hard to come up with a way of telling the story without it sounding like that was the wrong thing to do, going on my usual ride, but somehow, after having been through this three times (actually four, if you count a minor, non-cancerous but related procedure while we were dating), attempting to reach for normalcy makes sense. Of course you’ve prayed for things to go as planned, and you put your faith in the doctors and get through the day.
The ride went well, pretty normal including Kevin having a seizure as we rode through Huddart Park, and I survived a surprisingly-fast pace on the upper stretches of West Old LaHonda. Actually a PR for that segment, which I was pretty darned happy with until I checked out Kevin’s times for that same segment. Thursday I was at 4:43, which puts me at 53rd out of 2009 people who have ridden it. I’m OK with that! Until I look up my son’s best time on it. 4:18 about a year ago, good enough for 7th place!!! Only 15 seconds off the fastest Strava time for that segment, which just might be within his reach. Impressive.
Normalcy continued even to the point of heading to work for a little while, waiting for a call from the surgeon, letting me know when I should head to Kaiser to see her as she woke up in recovery. Got the call at 11:15, said to be there in an hour, arrived at 12:07 and everything went just fine. I spent a couple hours at the shop later in the day (and the one thing we didn’t count on was that this would be a really busy week with lots of customers!), then returned for what always seems like an incredibly-lengthy and often-pointless process of getting checked out (leaving). It’s not like a hotel where you can just leave, maybe feeling funny that you didn’t tell someone at the front desk. But I got her home, where she’s been resting and getting along pretty darned well.
And somehow, it all seems normal.
In a private Facebook group, a collection of voices from bicycle racing back in the early 70s (called the “Dino” group, as in Dinosaurs), one of the legendary riders from back then spoke of how special things were, how we changed the cycling world, and by inference how much better than today. Below is my response-
I think we do lose something as the sound-byte generation lacks the patience to understand something that has a flow and a history to it. There’s only the here and now, which may help to explain the prevalence of doping.
The other thing is that, for us, back in the day, it wasn’t just cycling. It was a lifestyle. It defined us. And I think it’s important to consider it was counter-cultural. Your class-mates didn’t understand you, why you were riding a bicycle everywhere you could, instead of driving. Your teachers put up with you, for reasons unknown, when you’d ride in on a rainy day, smelling like a rat. Your father, who was the sports editor of the newspaper, didn’t quite know what to make of a kid who had the common sense of thinking that running *towards* a high speed projectile (football, baseball, tennis ball) was a bad idea, but had no issues hurtling downhill at high speed in the rain.
That’s why I relate so well to Dave Stoller from the movie Breaking Away. I *was* Dave Stoller. Except that I was so counter-cultural I didn’t shave my legs, because that was expected within the counter-cultural world of cycling.
I met some of the greatest people through bike racing. People whose skills were generally far beyond mine, like Lindsay Crawford and Bob Tetzlaff. I remember as a junior, soaking in every single word that BT said at a training camp, especially how to throw a punch and not get sanctioned. Yeah, as a junior, you actually have to be told not to be stupid like… who was Emily K’s husband, that started a fist fight at the Redwood City Criterium as they came past the finish line on a lap?
I miss it, so much. I miss traveling to races in a a fellow racer’s beat up Rambler station wagon that had to stop every 20 minute to manually pack more grease into the wheel bearings. I miss discovering what a great guy Tom Ritchey’s dad was when we hitched a ride back from Tahoe because the Rambler wasn’t going to make it. I miss my father, who came to me in a moment that I took for granted at the time, telling me he was sorry that we didn’t have enough money for him to support my racing like the other dads could (I was working 32 hours a week during high school).
For more musings on my past, including some embarrassing stories and examples of my writing in Competitive Cycling, see this older web page.
Sunday I got my best Strava time on Old LaHonda (so, best time in the past 5 years, but definitely slower than back in the day!) and today my best Strava time up Kings. Life could be worse! I do note some difference between Strava time on Kings and what I get on my lap timer though; Strava has me at 25:59 while the lap timer showed 26:17. But either way it’s faster than I’ve been since beginning the long project with my son, which required that I give up fast Sunday rides for the three years it took to bring him up to speed.
Of course, that’s not been an issue for the past two years or so. Just looked up Kevin’s rides up Kings; in June 2010, he’d gotten down to 31:17. June 2011 was his breakthrough month; on 6/9 he rode 29:31, 6/14 down to 28:02, and on 6/23 an unbelievable 26:44. That was the crossover point; he was able to repeatedly ride 26-something times (and eventually 24-something!) while for me, 26-something was becoming increasingly rare.
For the time being, I’m continuing to improve, while Kevin’s suffering a bit from spending less time on the bike than I have. Little things like riding to work & back whenever I can, plus a number of rides I’ve gotten in when Kevin’s had a medical issue of some sort, and once in a while, he’s off with friends doing paintball. I know what I have to do and I do it; Kevin isn’t quite there and thinks it’s a bit unfair that, to be the rider he wants to be, he has to keep at it and that taking a break from riding is something you’ll pay for.
Obviously, it’s a choice. Nobody’s forcing you to go out and try to constantly better your times on the climbs. There’s nothing at all wrong with riding a bike at whatever speed is enjoyable for you. But if you do desire to get faster, to push yourself to find the limits of what you can do, to discover that “wall” where your times up Kings or OLH are consistently within a very narrow window and try to find a way to get through it… then it’s going to be a tough ride, with a few sacrifices here and there.
My wife made a trip to Columbus Ohio to see her nephew get married. Perhaps also to get away from the rest of us, as she ends up kind of “rooted” to home and the shop, not getting away to France for bike rides or Dallas for emergency bicycle dealer meetings etc.
Easy getting out there; just two flights, nothing eventful. Then I get this text from her on her return-
You are dead when you get home for putting me on three flights. I am going to die. Have you ever heard of bands Nightranger or Testament because I sat next to the road manager for both bands from ATL to LAX.
Nightranger, no biggie, I remember them, fairly popular mainstream heavy-metal band. But Testament? Not “heavy” metal but “Thrash” metal. Trust me, it’s not the sort of thing she’d expose herself to, and if she did come into contact with it, she’d probably feel like she needed a bath and some time to decompress. She’s not quite 101 Strings; early Genesis is about the “strongest” legit rock that would appeal to her. Most of the “Progressive English Rock” that was (and still is) my mainstay is a bit “out there” for her. That’s likely a good thing, not bad.
Now I’m in that odd position of really wanting to hear the stories about that flight, but concerned I might not survive the telling!
I see my staff at lunch glued to their cell phones and tell them, you control the phone, the phone doesn’t control you. Maybe I should take my own advice and question whether I really need to pay attention to Strava on my ride home from work, when I’m in street clothes. But no, instead I’m thinking Strava needs a “street clothes” option. But I’m not addicted. If I was, would I be stopping for coffee every day I ride, no matter what, or would I be just trying for the fastest Strava time? Oh, now you think I’ve got a coffee issue too, right?
But who wouldn’t be frustrated when yesterday, I tied for my best time on the Strava segment from Tripp Road through Huddart Park’s exit onto Kings… and Strava says it was my second-best. And then, on my ride home heading up Highland, same darned thing. Tied for my best time, and Strava tells me it was second-best.
But I’m not addicted. Not to Strava. Or coffee. I can stop either one at any time. And if you buy a $12,000 bike from me you’ll drop 7 minutes from your Old LaHonda time. I’m on a roll here. What other lies can I pedal?