Struck: Truck Driver Sideswipes Biker

I’ve been commuting on bike for more than ten years and today was the first time a driver ever hit me. It was just a sideswipe, a push from the side of a passing truck, and it was alarming. I didn’t lose control of the bike and I was not hurt.

After it happened, I rode across the street to the Mount Rainier police department to report the incident to an officer who promptly pulled the driver over (!) and brought him back to talk to me and ticket him.  Looking back, it feels fortuitous that everything turned out as well as it did.

Here’s the video (click on “HD” for maximum quality):

Music by BOCrew.

27 thoughts on “Struck: Truck Driver Sideswipes Biker

  1. are you on facebook, and are you feeding this blog there? if so, we need to friend each other. i’m really diggin’ your bike commuting video series, evan.

      1. But I learned last night at the WABA meeting that the thing to do if no police are next to you magically is call 911 and report it.

  2. Yikes! That was too close. It made me think about accidents I’ve been in and how they make me look at what I do and whether to change anything. If you found yourself in the same video again, would you do anything different?

    1. Luckily I can’t be in that video again :) but it is convenient to ride in the traffic circle. Yes, I’ve tried a few things this week to make it less likely anybody would do this again. There are alternate entrances to the circle as well as better lane positioning that I’m working on. In terms of changes to the circle itself, if there were shared lane markings or a “sharrow” on the road it would clue drivers into the fact that they need to give some space to bikers.

      1. Hi Even,

        Thanks for the video, I too am recording my commutes with the gopro960.

        I ride 9 miles each way from baltimore county to south baltimore

        I’ve had close calls but never been swiped, glad your ok.

        What i do in a situation when there is no shoulder to ride on, I’ll ride almost in the center of the lane.

        Maybe it the angle of the camera but it looks like you are hugging the curb before and while in the traffic circle.

        Be safe,
        Josh

      2. Hi Josh how’s that ride? I’ve never ridden in Baltimore. Is it on city streets or do you have some paths?

        Yeah it may look like I’m on the curb but that but that isn’t the case in the circle. Here’s the satellite view and you can see part of the reason this happened:

        http://goo.gl/1dek0

        Notice how the rightmost lane is extra wide where I entered the circle? In that satellite photo there are even two cars in the circle and still plenty of space in the right lane. So when I started going in the circle I was in the middle but that still gives cars space to travel. Not good on my part. Then see how the rightmost lane gets narrow? Well that’s where I got pushed aside.

        Lesson learned!

      3. The ride from Baltimore to the county is less than a mile of trails around the harbor and the rest is road.

        I take a 2 lane road into the city and then on the way home I take a single lane that takes me through a neighborhood with more stop light and less traffic so people drive a little slow.

        When i used to cut through canton (where money does not equal brains) people used the 2 lane road as highway, with little regard for me, even with my dinotte taillight.

        I really like that satelite link, those traffic engineers must be braindead after seeing what i say in that right lane, going from 10 feet wide to 8 feet, thats crazy.

        I gotta start me a blog, thats so cool, never cared for them till i saw yours.

  3. bty, nice choice of music. At least, the title is certainly catchy. Personally, I would think twice before entering a traffic circle at the same time as a truck. Especially since I know about a neophyte box truck driver that sideswiped a car this summer and didn’t even know it! Didn’t even feel it! A cyclist? Just another bug on the windshield…

  4. Wow! So close and so fortunate that you kept your balance. Keep up the biking and the blog, it’s really awesome! I have been bike-commuting in DC for the last 2 years (and 7 more in Chicago previous to DC) and just recently I had a close call – a cabby in Georgetown passed me by about 3 inches. I caught up with him at Washington Circle and gave a him a nice warning. Next time it will be a citizen arrest :-)

  5. Hi Evan,

    I think you are right on point about lane positioning. In that situation, you need to decisively enter the circle and take the full right lane by riding in the center of the lane. That way, you signal to the truck drive that he must follow you, not pass you. For more, read the booklet Bicycling Street Smarts by John S. Allen, a booklet that has be adopted as the State Bicycle Drivers manual for several states. League of American Bicyclists and other organizations, such as WABA in their Confident City Cycling classes, teach these essential skills.

    1. Hi PJ. Nice to have you stop by!

      Yes, giving that clear signal to drivers is key. It can be difficult as a new biker to feel safe riding in the center of the lane but after taking the Confident City Cycling class I started feeling better doing that. While it makes a biker safer to use the full lane, drivers don’t always like it (I have been in front of drivers who decided to lay on their horns to show disapproval).

      Lane positioning was basically my problem a few weeks ago as well when the driver of the Camry buzzed me near R St. Since those incidents I’ve been more careful about where I am in the road.

      1. The key is to realize that a car horn may piss you off, but it can’t kill you.

        Glad you were ok!

  6. Can you tell me what camera you were using for that? Nice video btw. I had a fairly close call with a vehicle at an intersection yesterday who totally blew through a stop sign. I couldn’t help but think it would have been nice to have a video if I hadn’t stopped in time to avoid being struck.

    It seems like it would be handy to have a daily video of your commute and just erase it when it’s incident free.

    1. Hi Sherry I’m glad you were able to avoid being hit! So scary when that happens.

      The camera I’m using is the GoPro HD Hero 960. If you ever happen to be in a crash and there are no witnesses besides you and the driver, a video recording can make a difference.

  7. Not to blame the victim (seriously, I’m not trying to do that here), but…. please, please, please stop riding in the gutter. I kept waiting for someone else to hit you while you rode straddling the white line at the end there.

  8. Why didn’t you just wait for the gap behind the truck at 0:20? If you can’t get up to speed with traffic, why would you take a small gap in narrow lanes? It’s kinda like when a car pulls out in front of you and forces you to hit the brakes.

    I expect drivers to respect me on a bike, but as a rider, I try to respect them too. Jumping into a short gap when you have the yield sign at slow speed doesn’t win us over with non-cycling drivers.

    In fact, at second look, you’re still in the merge lane as he over takes you. You probably still have the responsibility to yield at that point.

  9. Actually, I guess the lane begins at the dashed line and there is no merge lane, but I still don’t like the idea of fighting drivers for position. If you’d have yielded to him, then slipped behind him, the incident would not have happened and you wouldn’t have forced anyone to rapidly slow.

    1. I’m with you, Ron. I would have done exactly what you suggest in hindsight. As it happens, my thinking at the time was that the truck was in front of a driver turning right which would have made him enter the circle very slowly. On bike I enter fairly slowly and then of course can speed up quickly.

      That really didn’t go so well so yeah I am avoiding the whole possibility of this kind of collision now by entering the circle from a different place while taking the lane.

  10. Nice videos and I like your blog. I live in Mount Rainier, too and wish I could bike to work. I tried a few years back but my carpal tunnel is too bad. Maybe I’ll try again someday.

    1. If you want a fun ride with friends look into the group rides that the bike coop organizes. They’re low impact and hopefully won’t impact your carpal tunnel.

  11. I moved to the Mt. Rainier area a couple months ago and this traffic circle is definitely dangerous. Usually, I avoid it by taking other streets to my place, but when I do have to go through it, I pull off the road and wait at the pedestrian crossing til the traffic clears or it’s safe for me to cross the road.

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