Monday, June 21, 2010

Two flats, two apologies, and one close call

On Bike-To-Work Day last month I biked to work and most of the way back. I would've biked the entire 45-mile round trip except that I got a flat tire about halfway to work, which made me late, which made me stay later at the office, which made me have to piggyback on a bus for part of the way home at an hour early enough for our family's evening plans to stay on track.

Otherwise, Bike-To-Work Day was as fun as it is every year, though a bit chillier and wetter. I stopped at three commute stations along the way and got some of the usual swag and registered for the usual giveaways that I won't win. I missed Mayor McGinn's ride to downtown from the Fremont Bridge by a few minutes, but no big deal -- at that point I still had a long way to ride and more swag to pick up along the way.

My flat was due to a tire failure; a belt in my tire snapped, with one end of a metal wire then protruding into the tube and the other out through the tire. I had a patch kit and all the tools I would've needed to patch the tube, but I went flat right at the Tukwila Park and Ride, and decided the better course was to ride the bus from there to within half a mile of my office, and in the afternoon see about heading to REI for replacement items -- tube and tire. Which made me late getting home, as previously mentioned. Not the best Bike-To-Work Day I've had, but not too bad. I ended up riding my bike about 27 miles on my commute that day.

The following Monday I biked to work again, on my road bike this time, and sure enough I got another flat. Unfortunately I left my frame pump on the other bike, and so I had to rely on the kindness of strangers to finish my morning commute. Fortunately this was not in short supply, and not long after I started taking my bike apart in some unknown company's parking lot right off the sidewalk, a woman drove in, asked if I needed help, and when I said I needed a pump, she brought me inside and introduced me to another bicyclist there who had one. Turns out the unknown company was a Parks & Recreation office, which seemed highly appropriate. Many thanks again to all our Parks & Rec employees and all the great work they do!

2-3 miles further down the road in South Park I had one of the closest calls I've ever had on a bike. I was cruising along a wide, quiet residential street when a medium commercial truck pulled up to an intersection a little ahead of me -- he had a stop sign and I didn't. The driver didn't see me and pulled out to make a left turn in front of me. I hit the brakes immediately and started a guttural shout that began rising in pitch: "aaaaAAHHHH!"

About the time I reached the front of his vehicle, dodging into the oncoming lane to postpone it the collision, I'd slowed to walking speed but the driver would've hit me if he hadn't finally seen me or heard me, or used whatever sense he finally used to tip himself off to my presence. I stopped a car length away, seething. The driver seemed amused, sharing grins with his passenger. "I didn't see you, sorry," he said.

I could've given him an earful at this point, telling him to watch for all road users and not just the ones that could damage his truck or threaten his own life, but said only "Be careful." And I hope he does.

Another few miles down the road, along the Green River Trail in Tukwila, approaching the same Park & Ride where I'd gotten my flat the previous work day, there was a Parks & Rec truck sitting in the middle of the trail, taking up nearly the entire path. As I wasn't able to see anyone and there was space behind the truck for someone to pop out, I dismounted and walked the bike past it. Sure enough, the driver was behind it. He apologized, pointing to a graffiti-ed warning sign on a pole. "Sorry about that," he said, meaning he was sorry for taking up the whole trail with his truck.

"No problem," I said. "Have a great week." And I hope he did.