Friday, November 11, 2011

Do you, or Don't you? (updated)

I stopped at the grocery store on the way home to buy a treat for the Scientist,  and when I was riding off,  I saw a UPS truck at an intersection ahead of me, about to turn into my path.  I give all big trucks a wide berth, so I slowed down a bit, and saw the driver look right at me.  Feeling assured that she saw me, I proceeded, only to have her turn right out in front of me.  Fortunately I was acting with an abundance of caution, so I only had to brake slightly,  but when I caught up to her at the next block (she'd stopped to make a delivery) I rode up to her door, and asked "Did you see me before you pulled right out in front of me?"

She said "Yeah"

But immediately followed that with,  "but you're wearing dark clothes"
I said, "but I have a very bright light"
She said,  "you should have something flashing"
At this point, I just shook my head and rode away, pondering as I went.

This is a bit of a headscratcher.  "Yeah" she saw me and pulled out in front of me anyway?

Yeah, she saw me, despite my "dark" clothing?  and decided to punish me because I wasn't wearing neon lights?

Of course, neither flashing lights nor high vis clothing are required by law in any state I know of, and definitely not in MA, where you need a white light on the front and a red light on the back.   My lights are much brighter than many people's standard "blinkies"

For the record this is what I was wearing: white helmet (with planet bike superflash on the back) light grey sweater, black skirt with  grey tights (and red gloves).    Not exactly head to toe black.

More importantly Minerva was wearing  a Lumotec Cyco R 40 lux headlight mounted at handlebar height.
Lumotec IQ Fly N-Plus W/Standlight
(It's what all the well dressed DL-1's are wearing these days!)

Basically she either didn't look carefully enough to see me, or didn't process that I was there, because she wasn't thinking about bikes.   After I confronted her (in a pleasant and reasonable tone) she started to make any excuse she could to excuse her carelessness and put the blame on me.

I know that the golden rule or urban cycling is to assume no one sees you.  But I also think that we have to start creating consequences for drivers who don't pay attention, consequences that are serious enough that people pay attention to what they're looking at!  Complaining to commercial driver's employers is a start, but I feel strongly that we need dramatically stronger liability laws to protects bicycles and pedestrians.

Updated-  I filed a complaint online with UPS,  and they emailed me to say that they'd forwarded it to the dispatcher. I did get a call from the dispatcher this morning (sat), but couldn't get to the phone in time.  He left a message apologizing and saying that he would call back later, although he hasn't yet, and the number he has called from seems to be permanently busy.  I don't want them to punish the driver, but I do hope that they will remind her to be careful, and perhaps keep a complaint on her record in case she later hurts someone.


  1. If people willingly took responsibility for their actions, wouldn't the world be a more wonderful place.

  2. I think she saw you but didn't bother. Most drivers don't. Especially truck drivers. When large trucks pass me they rarely keep safe distance (>3ft). I guess they just don't bother. They would rather force a cyclist off the road than risk collision with a car approaching from the opposite direction.


  3. My new route takes me down the length of Western Ave and far too often I have to deal with delivery(mostly UPS, which have so far been ok)/construction/and other types of large commercial vehicles ... as a result I have often been cut off or disregarded.

    I wholly agree that everyone needs to be more accountable, because "ride like you are invisible" just isn't enough.

  4. I hate flashing lights. As both a driver and a cyclist. I find that they make it extremely hard for me to tell how far away the cyclist is and at what speed they are moving relative to me, especially if it is a strobing light.

    And she's just a cow.

  5. oh, you know that I'm always happy to commiserate with you on inattentive drivers, but I must ask: what IS that bike in the background? I spy shiny fenders, a Carradice and ... drop bars?

  6. Pretty fuzzy thinking, to attempt an assault with a truck simply because you didn't like what someone was wearing, even if you didn't like their light either. I may not like brown trucks, but that doesn't justify me shooting an rpg at them. Actually, I do like brown trucks, so if you hear of an enraged cyclist shooting an rpg at a UPS truck, it won't be me!

  7. i wish this could be done with all drivers. i called 911 on an aggressive driver and they didn't take it seriously, because i wasn't injured (just scared). if you didn't file a complaint, that driver would've continued with their behavior. well i turned right in front of a cyclist and everyone was okay so this is okay to keep doing.

  8. She perfectly saw you.
    She's just a bitch, like most truck and bus drivers who cannot be bothered.
    People like that should be fired from their jobs.

  9. Monteralize,
    I almost didn't post your comment, because I don't think it's fair, or productive to call people that we don't know names like that. The important question is how to change the behavior- to make certain that drivers of large vehicles in urban situations are incentivized to look twice.

    I did get a phone call on Monday from the dispatcher, who then determined that I needed to speak to someone from Somerville. The Somerville dispatcher called me 10 minutes later, and said that they only had one woman driving for them, so they knew exactly who it was and they would speak to her about being more careful. I stressed to him that there are a lot of bikers and pedestrians in Cambridge and Somerville, and that drivers of large vehicles need to take time to look twice and be extra careful around them. I hope that she will take it seriously and not just be defensive, and I appreciate UPS's followthrough on it.

  10. @ Quincy Quincette

    I believe that the "distance perception" problem is why in Germany, flashing lights are illegal for bikes. Since most Dynamo lights adhere to the the German legal standards (like UL listing) it's hard, if not impossible to find flashing dynamo lights.

    On very rainy or otherwise treacherous rides I do supplement with a blinking front light, and I do wear a blinking rear battery light (as I don't have eyes in the back of my head and might need to give motorists a little extra heads up).

  11. Los Angeles has an anti-harrasment law for things like this. The driver saw you, and attempted to hit you. That's harrasment. That all you need - you can sue her. I'm not interested in your wonderful attire, or how very bright your lights are. You were visable.

    Around here that's a loss of job with UPS. They have a zero ticket policy. And a $1000 or more fine.

    Do you think you need this level of legal defense against assualt?


  12. People who drive for a living, who are driving all day every day in traffic, grid lock, snow - I give them plenty of room and consideration and sympathy. They have to get where they're going before they can go home. Give them a break.

  13. I give them plenty of room too, which is why it's disconcerting to have one cut me off. Part of the job responsibilities of driving for a living is to get where they're going SAFELY, and if they can't do that I don't want to give them a break, I want them to find another job.