Typical Friday for a commuter cyclist. My Indian coworkers have been screwing around (watching cricket finals on tiny tellies), and now we’ve got broken code and fumbled patches, all after quitting time. By the time I’m rolling off the dock, it’s 7pm. The sunlight is getting long so I’m running lights and I’ve got my yellow bee-jacket on. At least traffic will be light.
But then again, it only takes one car.
Going through Eatonville on the bike lane, nice tailwind. Observe a car coming in from the right, a sloppy cross-the-line stop. Figuring the flubbery woman driver is going to roll it, I’ve already on the brakes, throwing away energy but it’s either that or hit her; I’ll pass her to stern. And, yes, she goes. She’s halfway across the bike lane when her equally corpulent passenger screams, “Lordy, stop!” And the driver, who’d looked right at me and calculated she could make it if I gave way, jammed on her brakes.
And now I’ve got a Ford-sized barrier right across my lane. I yank on the brakes.
Woowoowoo go the front ones, slowing me but not stopping me, not quick enough. And the back ones are little more than a hint. Now I’m really crushing down on the brakes, adrenaline boosting the grip but not enough. And that woman is not moving, but she’s yanking the steering wheel back and forth, her flabby arms flopping, utterly useless in a motionless car.
Finally her tiny brain sends a flickering signal to her round right foot.
This opens just enough room, and I’m going slow enough in the road grit to coax the bike to the right: I shave her rear bumper.
I don’t think about much until I turn onto empty 1792. By the time I’m past Lee, I’m considering what just happened. Now that the road’s wide and I have room, I go on the brakes again.
You know, I hadn’t tested them, really tested them. Not in a while.
Early this morning I went out and pulled the bike into the carport. Tuned the back brake up with the turnbuckle until it was just above catching the distortions in the rim. That would help. The front one, from months of use, was really too slack. The shoes were yawning like a UCF student. Tightened them, and lubed the sticking joints. Also lubed the chain while I was at it.
Took her out and rode up and down the street a few times, working the chain lubrication in. Then I laid on the brakes, panic stop.
The bike skidded.
Yeah, that will do.
I only hope that next time that woman decides to violate a right of way, she does it with a train. Then she’ll find, to her regret, that there are vehicles with stopping distances even longer than an untuned bike.