Bike vs car

I’ve had three close encounters of the car kind in a lifetime of cycling. I present them for your education, enjoyment and evaluation.

1. G.I. Jane in Tokyo. This was around 1981 when I was 15 years old and riding my dad’s Japanese custom hand built touring bike to meet a friend at the Yokota Air Base (Japan) air terminal. I was keeping up in heavy traffic. As I crossed an intersection *Ker-blam! — A1C G.I. Jane in a Datsun 280z saw an opening behind the truck I was following, gunned it to cross the intersection and hit me with a classic left-cross, except it was a right-cross because we drive and ride on the left side of the road in Japan.

My dad’s custom built bike went under the car while I went up over the hood, into the windshield, rolled and landed on my feet. It probably looked awesome, but I was shaking from my overworked adrenals. The bike — did I mention it was hand built? — was toast. I was uninjured, though my dad totally freaked out when I called him from the hospital. Umm, of course I’m okay Dad — I’m the one who called you, remember?

Lesson: Dads can get pretty upset when their children are involved in car accidents.

2. Station Wagon Mom. Us oldtimers remember the predecessor to the SUV and Minivan — the venerable Station Wagon, complete with faux wood paneling and three rows of seating. It was dusk and I was zooming across Wichita Falls, Texas to my night job at TU Electric in 1987. I had a big 6 volt lantern secured to my handlebar in addition to a generator light at the fork crown, along with a small red tail light mounted to the seat stay. Station Wagon Mom blew right through her stop sign without even slowing through the intersection that I was entering at speed. I did a “quick turn” maneuver to the right to avoid death but still got sideswiped and knocked to the ground. I got up and gave chase; Station Wagon Mom went two more blocks before she stopped.

She got out, apologized profusely and told me she had no idea she hit somebody until her children said something. I received some minor abrasions; my bike’s crank and derailleus hanger were both bent.

Lesson: File the police report, and don’t believe them when they say they’ll pay for the damage.

3. Cute young thing in a little car. This happened this year. I was on my normal commute route in Menlo Park, California, riding in the bike lane at the 25 mph speed limit. A maniac in a Dodge Neon passed me at probably 40 mph with the right turn signal blinking then slammed on her brakes directly in front of me while veering to the right. I had just a split second to react and slammed into the back of her car and flipped over her trunk.

Lesson: The older you get, the more it hurts.

What lessons have you learned in car vs bike interactions? Does the bike ever win?

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0 thoughts on “Bike vs car”

  1. John says:

    Seems your good for the 2000’s. You’ve had your….your??? (What’s the word that replaces annual for decade?)…..encounter.

  2. Tim says:

    Hmmm. These three incidents all appear to have something in common. I too have had three incidents, but with a different commanality – they were all collisions with fixed objects. At least you had someone besides yourself to apologize to you!

  3. Jeff P. says:

    I had example #3 happen to me about 2 months ago, except with an suv. The woman driving the car was more shook up than me. It helped my rear end remember what pavement felt like.

  4. Rachel says:

    I’ve had at least 6 accidents in Memphis over 10 years. In my experience, the bike never wins but the driver loses with a good lawyer.

  5. Quinn says:

    I have only had 1 encounter with a car, and yes the car always wins, even if the driver doesn’t. this lady floored it out of a driveway, driving a Camry, I went over the hood, bike(Raleigh M20) went under and I couldn’t save even 1 piece.

  6. david p. says:

    i read these posts with optimism, and a bit of fear. optimism, in that you are all happy (it seems!) and have overcome what must’ve been a very uncomfortable, painful, discouraging experience.

    I’ve been bicycle-commuting for a year now (about 150 miles) a week and just know that my days are numbered. i know it comes with the territory, and for that i’m scared. fear of the unknown right? but i’m also glad to know that you’ve survived and seem to be doing well in spite of your ordeals.

    thanks for the blog, you do great work.


  7. Val says:

    One thing to remember here is that the much more common scenario is car vs car, and neither one wins then, either. Being on a bike promotes alertness and cycnicsm about everyone else’s road skills, which can go a long way to preserve your life. Personally, in the last two years I have had contact with cars four times, and they lost every time. By this I mean that there was no damage to me or my bike, and in two of those cases I know that the car was slightly damaged, and may have had its paint scuffed in the other two cases. I try not to let this make me complacent, but it is very satisfying to think that I can bite back. One Less Car – and if they don’t watch out, I might make it two less. Seriously, though, let’s be careful out there.

  8. red says:

    it may be nice to hear about close-death encounters on a bicycle, but lets remember that the not-so-fortunate killed cyclists don’t get to post an entry in this blog…

    i’m not -yet- one of them … by the way!

  9. jason says:

    Since I have been riding like a vehicle, which is in traffic and not beside traffic, I have only had one encounter with a car. That was a drunk driver at 1 am. I got side swiped, with road rash as the major injury. Sure I get honked at and cut off, but I will not hesitate to sign a police report if it is bad enough. They have no excuse for not seeing me if I am in the lane. Will people learn patience if they have to go to court?

  10. Rhome says:

    You all are a pretty peaceful bunch for having gone through what are essentially life or death experiences. Not even small traces of indignation. I’ve been psyching myself up to start commuting by bike. I’d really like to hear the endings to some of these stories… like fat wads of cash scored from lawsuits or insurance.

    I was making a grocery run one morning when a large pickup came barrelling at me head-on on the wrong side of the road. It was not a busy street – a quiet neighborhood actually – so I didn’t know what this guy was doing. I waved my arm frantically to get his attention and got ready to hop up on the curb. Apparently my arm waving angered this dude because he pulled over and started cursing at me. I informed him that he was driving on the wrong side of the street then continued on my way before an “incident” occured. He was still cursing me. I shouted back at him “how would you have felt if you had killed me?”. “Bring your b***h a** back here and find out” was his response.

    Right before this a Metro bus and then a schoolbus overtook me in the intersection and trapped me between them and the merging traffic on my right. Lesson: TAKE THE LANE.

    I don’t know if I’m ready to start this commuting thing.

  11. jason says:

    My drunk driver was charged with underage DUI and hit & run. Ordered to pay restitution, her auto insurance paid for my chiropractic visits for the better part of a year, and an extra grand or so for time away from work. If I wanted to be difficult about it, I think I could have gotten a new bike and glasses out of it also.

  12. Miss Moppet says:

    Oddly enough, the only time I was ever hit by a car was in a designated bike lane. Being young and dumb, I was blithely doing what so many of my fellow students did: Riding AGAINST TRAFFIC in a bike lane on a one way street! I had paused at an intersection where a lady was stopped in her jeep, and I thought that she saw me…Of course, just as I rode in front of her she stepped on the gas. My bike was crushed, and I was thrown off of it and into the street in front of the vehicle. In fact, when the bike stopped her from going forward, I was looking up at the underside of her bumper. She immediately started crying, and her little Yorkie riding in the passenger seat began barking and whining…I was able to get up, and later took a cab to the hospital where I received treatment for a broken bone in my elbow and gory cuts and scrapes. I was covered by my parents’ insurance at the time and realized I was at fault…I paid the residual medical bills out of my own pocket. The lady offered to pay but I felt bad….Finally I took $50 to buy myself a new beater bicycle, as I really did need it for transportation.

    Lesson: I have NEVER gone against traffic in the street again!!! It has been 12 years since that accident and I can still see the underside of that red jeep like it was yesterday. I strive to participate in the traffic pattern rather than attempting to evade it, and since I have been doing things like taking the lane, I feel much safer.

  13. Mike Myers says:

    I’ve been hit by a truck. It happened, not that it makes me FEEL better, in what Forester says is the least common way—I was hit from behind. I was lucky in that I didn’t have major injury, but my knee isn’t the same as it was before the hit, and I’m afraid I’ll always have some pain as a reminder of the moron who hit me.

    I’ve also been confronted by a motorist. Some guy in a ragged out Town Car took a corner too fast for my liking and got too close, so I yelled at him. Well, this guy turned around and came after me. He was a little guy(smaller than me and I’m 5’7″) but I managed to talk him down. I did pull over in front of witnesses so that may have had something to do with that. However, it spooked me. Now I don’t yell at ANYONE—-but I also have pepper spray and a gun(CCW, of course), and a cell phone, of course. Life is too short to let some jerk take it away—like happened to the cyclist in Minneapolis last week. Everybody LIKES to think theres some nobility or machismo in duking it out, but one good punch to the temple can render you brain dead. No thanks. If the pepper spray doesn’t get it done, then I’m certain the 9mm will.

  14. L. M. Lloyd says:

    I’ve had five collisions with cars in almost 30 years of cycling, and luckily only one has resulted in any kind of serious injury. When I was 17 did, however, put some pretty serious dents in a lawyer’s Mercedes with my Kryptonite and boots, after he flattened my bike making a right turn over me! I was on the street moving with traffic, and had the light, and he decided to just pull out and make a right turn on red, with my bike right in front of him. I rolled up on the hood, and my bike went under the car. He stopped, and I pulled my ruined bike out from under his car, when he got out and started saying that he was going to sue me and my parents for every dime of the repairs, because he was a lawyer, and I was a “snot nosed s**t on a bike.” I took out my Kryptonite and started smashing it down on his hood, while kicking the side of his car, until he got back in his car and sped off. I was young, it was stupid, but boy it felt good.

  15. Rhome says:

    Mike Myers,

    wow! I guess you’re not a spandex clad roadie. how do you carry a firearm comfortably on a bike?

    my immediate reaction was shock and dismay but if CCW is legal in your state I can’t say that it’s unreasonable that a sane, law-abiding, trained citizen would feel justified carrying a weapon.

    I’ve seen some ugliness on the roadways and in city life in general but is it that real out there? Maybe it is.

    To all:

    How much of the accident aftermath can be handled on insurance claims? When do you need to bring a lawyer into the mix? I guess it’s when there isn’t consensus on who was at fault. Maybe I should avail myself of the pre-paid legal service benefit offered by my employer.

  16. Mike Myers says:


    I actually DO wear spandex in the summer. I have several carry options. Sometimes I slip my tiny .32 automatic and holster into a jersey pocket. It’s pretty light, and I’m usually wearing reflective vest to cover its silhouette. I have a handlebar bag so sometimes I’ll carry my 9mm. And there are days when I only carry my North American Arms mini .22 revolver on a chain around my neck. The firearm is last resort—-and there are times when that last resort will be necessary, I’m afraid. I just hope not.

  17. Jett says:

    Sometimes the bike wins — if you count $ of damage incurred.

    In 1980, I was approaching an intersection with cars to the right and left waiting for a gap and traffic coming from the opposite direction on the same main road I was on. Because of the approaching traffic, the car to my left didn’t really have time to get across the intersection, but the guy on the right could pull out in front of me for a right turn. I was looking to catch his eye when the car on the left decided it could jump across. He never saw me until I was smashing in his windshield. I had almost made the right turn to avoid the collision, got my front wheel on his bumper and I got myself on top of his hood. After smashing his windshield, he came to a stop and I slid off the hood and ran for a few steps. Fortunately, my backpack kept me from getting anything worse than a single small cut. My bill was $120 for the wheel and some medical attention for the cut. His windshield was significantly more.

    The incident has actually given me more confidence. To this day, I can’t go through any intersection without expecting a car to jump out as if I was invisible, whether I’m on my bike or in a car. I expect poor judgment, and am prepared for it.

  18. Rhome says:

    Mike is definitely an iconoclast. Cyclists are stereotyped as crunchy granolas (for being anti-automobile), burnouts (messengers) or yuppie sports snobs (expensive bikes and weird clothing) and no one would assume that a gun owner would use a bicycle as a main mode of transportation. I wonder if Mark Penn has a category for you.

    Things aren’t looking good over here. Last night two tow trucks almost ran me over going about twice the 30mph speed limit on the road I ride home from the subway station. I have two blinkies, a headlight and reflective tape. I can usually hear cars coming from far away and see their headlights before I even look over my shoulder but they came up so fast that I barely had time to break toward the curb. Oddly enough they turned into my neighborhood. Maybe to get some illegally parked cars from the apartment complex? When I caught up to them I asked them why they were going fast and informed them that they almost ran me over.

    “We didn’t see you.”
    With these bright ass lights I’ve got?

    “How do you know it was us?”
    Didn’t you just say you didn’t see me?

    “What were you doing on the road?”
    Exercising my legal right to ride home without dying.

    “Well, I’ve got a legal right to drive however I want.”
    Is that what you would have said if you killed me?!!?

    “How do you know how fast I was going?”
    They were going about as fast as cop cars when they’re on an emergency call. I caught the kind of wind bump that folks warn about when being passed by trucks on high speed roads. I just asked them to please be careful and drive safely. They scoffed at that and left. It was too dark for me to read the company info on their trucks.

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