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I Almost Hit a Cyclist This Morning. Here’s What Happened.

by Jess Hughes

I’m driving west on San Felipe in the right lane. Cars ahead were darting out of the right lane in a hurried manner. I slowed down as the car directly in front of me slammed on its brakes. They changed lanes and there was the cyclist traveling at approximately 13 mph into the sun with no idea what was happening behind him. I wondered why he chose to ride in traffic instead of the sidewalk but hey, I do it all the time. We all do, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. unnamed At this point we were almost to Willowick.  I was less than a mile from my office, wasn’t in a hurry and thought I’d help him get past the section of San Felipe that has no sidewalk.  I put my flashers on and stayed a fair distance behind in an effort to protect him from frustrated drivers. We crossed over the tracks.  The sidewalk reappeared but the cyclist stayed in my lane.  The next light turned green, we both moved forward and he darted right onto the sidewalk. Sigh of relief. He was safe. As I pulled ahead to cross the intersection I noticed he was doing the same in the crosswalk to my right.  That’s when he changed his mind.  As he neared the sidewalk ramp, he darted left back into my lane with no warning. I had 3 options:

1. Hit him,
2. Slam on my brakes and get rear-ended or
3. Swerve left and get hit on my driver’s side.

I slammed on my brakes, bracing for the car behind me to react (or not) noticing the cyclist had no regard whatsoever for the events he had just caused. His cadence never changed, he never looked over his shoulder before re-entering traffic nor reacted when he heard the sound of brakes locking up. My angry motorist reaction was to park, chase him down on foot and beat his ass. My open-minded cyclist reaction was nothing short of,

“Oh my God. He’s one of us. That just happened.”

Insert shameless plug here. My husband owns a small bicycle fit studio in Houston that proudly serves and supports our cycling and triathlon communities seeing just over 1,000 riders a year.  I play a major role in our business’s online presence and claim our share of accountability to our cycling constituency; I have no doubt other shop owners do the same.  I pride myself on living and working in the city. Seeing folks on all kinds of bikes riding on sidewalks, bike paths and in the streets makes me proud to live in Houston.   I do what I can to help our cause by signing petitions, participating in awareness rides and sadly donating to funeral funds when we lose a fellow rider to an accident involving a car.   Hear me when I shout,

“One of my worst fears as a small business owner dependent on cyclists, is being part of, let alone causing an accident involving a cyclist.”

With local headlines depicting open season on cyclists and authorities blaming riders for being hit by cars on supported group rides, this incident today raises my concern as an advocate. I live in the world of ‘what if?’ and can’t help but wonder what this event would have done for our pro-cyclist platform had it played out poorly. What would I have said to the police and any media about hitting this cyclist or causing an auto-accident to avoid a reckless cyclist? Would I have fallen on the sword to save face for our cycling communities’ valiant efforts towards improved legislation for cyclist’s safety or would I have come to my own defense?  This was not my fault yet there I was contemplating taking the blame while reciting, ‘no good deed goes unpunished’.

Just yesterday, I pulled over on Heights Blvd when I saw Tad walking home from work.   Tad came to the car, hugged the dog hanging out the window and pointed out that I was boldly blocking the bike lane… in our car with ‘BIKEFIT’ license plates.  I drove off quickly hoping no one saw me.

So I ask you, as a cyclist, what would you have told the police this morning?