More Ups and Downs – and Doubling Up

I’m going to continue with my “ups and downs” theme from Tuesday because it fits so perfectly.

On my way home from work last night, taking busy city streets, I rode by a group of people giving out free lights to cyclists. Up!

Dressed for 35 degree biking (thanks for the belt, Trisha!)

Not a half mile later, a driver passed me and then immediately swerved hard to the right to go around another car waiting to turn left. The maneuver put his speeding car dangerously close to my front wheel, causing me to scream and slam on my brakes. Soon the driver was stopped behind 10 other cars waiting for a red light. As I rode by, I looked in and saw a 30-something guy tapping away on his iPhone. This was too much for me to bear, so I tapped on his iWindow. He looked up with surprise and rolled it down. I said, “That was very scary back there.” He reacted with complete cluelessness and I calmly informed him that he very nearly hit me when he sped around the car just a few seconds ago. He apologized profusely and said that he never saw me.

Holy hell!! If that’s even true, it does not make me feel better. I kindly suggested that he pay attention to the road and then I turned onto a side street, anxious to get away from the rush hour madness and allow my hands and voice to stop shaking. These drivers are totally out of control. DOWN!

La Oma

But wait! Don’t give up on humanity yet: this is an overall positive post.

After that debacle, I met my friends and fellow oma-owners, Janet and Dan, for hard apple cider and sweet potato fries at a neighborhood pub. Up!

Afterward, this amazing husband-wife team demonstrated doubling up on a bike, with Janet sitting side saddle on the back rack and Dan pedaling. They made it look so easy and elegant! Then I got a chance to ride on the back rack – my first time doubling up. It was so much fun! Learning this skill is now high on my to-do list. Janet has graciously offered to be my trial passenger this weekend. Stay tuned for more detail as this progresses. There will be video. UP! :)

What have your ups and downs been lately?

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52 thoughts on “More Ups and Downs – and Doubling Up

  1. Anna says:

    I am very often nervous about cars not seeing me when I’m on a bicycle and similarly anxious to look out for cyclists when I am driving. Glad you had more ups than downs in this post!

  2. NancyB says:

    The constant yakking on cells and tapping on mobile devices is a pet peeve of mine both as a driver and a cyclist. Pay attention! But, are we as cyclists as visible at night as we think we are though? We put our blinky lights on (and in some cases multiple blinky lights)and we (hope) we’re good to go. But really, aren’t these just little tiny lights in a sea of red car tailights and brake lights? I’ve been out driving and riding in both wide open suburban traffic and urban traffic and I gotta say, if you’re not looking for cyclists, those blinkies are easy to miss. Be safe, Nancy

    • dukiebiddle says:

      Fight fire with fire. If you want to be as visible as motorists in congested traffic you need a taillight just as bright as motorist brake lights:

      • Mr Colostomy says:

        Good lights are important, and it is where the cyclists’ responsibility ends. The real issue is motorists simply not paying enough attention. If I’m walking along on foot I might permit myself to daydream or write a text message, but if I was in charge of a few tonnes worth of a large, fast moving metal cage I would make sure I was very much aware of what was going on around me. There is no excuse, if you can’t pay attention when driving you should not be allowed to do so.

        With respect to doubling up, I have done this a few times on my Yuba Mundo and it is not too hard and very much fun.

        • dukiebiddle says:

          I’m not sure if that is where a cyclists’ responsibility ends, but there is certainly nothing wrong with using lighting to grab them by the throat and demand their attention.

      • NancyB says:

        That light’s pretty reasonably priced, I think I’ll put that on my Christmas wish list, thanks!
        I wonder if you’d need a car battery to power a car sized tail light. Or, paint your bike using the same paint they use for the white lines, then you’d be visible from all angles, not just front/back.

        • dukiebiddle says:

          That LED is as bright as a car’s brake lights and lasts 90 hours – or so says the marketing. My experience is that it lasts shorter, but still lasts a really long time. LEDs only use a fraction of the power of incandescent lights.

        • Herzog says:

          It’s going on my wish list too! Great link, dukie!

        • Angelo says:

          Up – this seems to be a bright light
          Down – if it’s only one LED it still won’t put out nearly as much light an auto brake or tail light with multiple LEDs
          Up – Auto lights with LEDs shouldn’t take much power, so you many small 12v batteries should be adequate. You just need a few watts for the light, the car battery is large because it has to turn over the car’s engine to start it.

          Has anyone used a car tail light on a bicycle? How did it work?

  3. Dan F. says:

    Get a cellphone jammer about 250.00!!!

  4. Trisha says:

    The amount of people who text and drive chills me to the bone. Seems like every third person I pass is doing it. Talking and driving is bad enough.

  5. Kara says:

    I had a very weird night last night. It was the first time I rode my bike since the DLS time change so the ride home from work was dark. It was like I lost my confidence in the dark and cold. I just started thinking to myself over and over, they don’t see me (even though I have lights on my Pashley). I got freaked out so much that I actually pulled over and walked half-way home.

    It is funny cause I have biked home at night in the summer and it was no problem. I think just the newness of the dark winter and my lack of confidence in the driver’s around me really just got to me. That and there were less bicyclists around me, so I really felt like it was me against the motorized world.

  6. Zweiradler says:

    Will this madness ever stop? I’m afraid there are already people surfing the web while driving.

    My Up today was that I took the lane to pass a few parked cars on a narrow road and the driver behind me DIDN’T honk – although he had clearly started to accelerate a second before (it was a company vehicle).


  7. bibliogrrl says:

    Oh man. High fives for politely telling that guy he almost hit you, but HOLY CRAP the cell phone. I am so sick and tired of almost getting hit on my simple commute to work (one street, five miles), and seeing half the cars with someone talking or texting on a phone. It’s frustrating that people yell about the bad bad bikers who flaunt all the rules of the road, but they will be DAMNED if they will put down their cell phones.

  8. donna says:

    texting and driving is out of control everywhere.

  9. Dave says:

    Oregon just passed a law that makes it illegal to talk or text on a mobile phone while driving, but it has been *very* lightly enforced, so basically everyone still does it. Thankfully most people in Portland proper drive pretty slowly, and I do notice most people I see texting have at least waited until they get to a stoplight or something.

    Downsides of yesterday: dumping rain and 30mph winds. Jerk driver.

    Upside: Jerk driver zoomed around me (at least he obviously saw me) at an intersection with stop sign, cut it close with traffic on the cross street, the sped off. I, riding calmly, with a poncho in the wind (therefore, slowly), ended up right behind him at a stoplight about 5 blocks further on. He sped off again and took a right one block later. I went straight a few blocks, then right a few blocks, then left a few blocks, then right again, crossed a major intersection and was riding in the bike lane, and who goes flying by, but jerk-face again, only to get stuck behind more traffic going about 15mph.

    So, in the dumping rain, in a poncho, with heavy winds, I still was getting through the city as fast as Mr. Zippy being impatient and dangerous, and obviously needlessly frustrated at not being able to go faster.

    Not that anyone who needs to hear this is likely to read this, but seriously, calm down out there folks. You’ll be happier, everyone around you will be happier, and you’ll get where you are going just as fast. Take a deep breath, then another, ease up the gas foot a bit, just relax.

  10. Scott says:

    My lady and I have tried the rack ride before with no success! I want it to work so bad! What is the trick?

  11. Scott says:

    I am always careful when I see a car waiting to turn left at a light with no turn lane. The car behind doing that same rightward swerve has almost hit me a few times. Just two weeks ago I had the exact same experience as you, knocking on the window of a car only to have the driver claim he didn’t see me. Have to be careful about this one.

    There is one other traffic situation that I think is as dangerous. It’s when a long line of cars are waiting in traffic, and one driver leaves a gap for a car going in the opposite direction to make a left turn. If the cars waiting in traffic are all tall (like SUVs), there is no way for the car turning left to see a cyclist coming. And it is very hard from the bike to see that one car up ahead has left a gap through which a car can turn. Once a lady doing this while texting came within inches of squashing me.

    • cycler says:

      I agree that the swerve around is very dangerous,
      This, and more importantly the left cross is why I’ve stopped filtering along between cars and the side of the road, and just stay in line with the passenger seat of the cars. Yes, sometimes it’s actually slower for me, but I don’t have to worry about coming up into people’s blind spots or popping out from behind an SUV into the path of a left turning vehicle.

      • Scott says:

        I do this a lot now too. If you wait in line with the cars, I think they see you more as a vehicle.

        There are a few spots on my ride home on Milwaukee Ave in Chicago where the cars back up 1/2 mile behind some very crowded intersections. Here, I just ride really slowly in case someone pops open a door.

        • Maggie says:

          UP: The studios are filming on my street today. They paid me for the right to block my driveway.

          DOWN: My mom spent the night in the hospital yesterday. She is home now.

          Oh, did you mean ups and downs in the cycling world? ;) It has been all UP. Today I rode the beach bike path home. The weather has been perfect, but then it is SoCal.

          • ridon says:

            DOWN!!! i saw a woman going around to the driver side of the car. since i didn’t see her look at me or even turn in my direction (and i do this regardless now that it’s dark so early), i rang my bell once. still facing her car, she said “seen you” with an annoyed tone. hey it’s not like i rang my bell multiple times. and even if i did, it’s hardly as annoying or jarring as a blaring car horn. not to mention if i just assumed she saw me and i was wrong, i’d be dead and she’d be fine.

            • Art Vandalay says:

              Biked to work. Up.
              28 degrees F. Down.
              Forgot Kleenex. Down.
              Found 40 cents along the way. Up.

              Beautiful sunset on the way home. Up.
              Wine tasting bar out of business. Down.
              Had the IPP almost entirely to myself. Up.

      • Trisha says:

        Agree, I do this in questionable areas too. Especially now that a lot of my rides are dark.

  12. Dave says:

    I forgot to mention, I got to give our friend a ride on my rear rack from the metro stop to our apartment in Amsterdam in September when we picked her up from the train station (she arrived the day after us). From the point of view of the person riding the bike, it really only took a couple minutes to get the hang of it. I imagine it might be harder for the person on the rear rack, depending on how they’re sitting. She just straddled the rack, rather than sitting side-saddle. All-in-all, it went pretty smoothly :)

  13. dpellet says:

    Glad you talked to the guy.
    “iWindow” made me laugh.

  14. Ian says:

    Can’t wait to see the video Dottie.

  15. Matt says:

    Sorry, that didn’t work the first time.

  16. cycler says:

    I’ve done the doubling thing, mostly as the biker, and the key is to start moving slightly before they sit down, so the person riding pillion takes a couple of little half running steps- that way you both have forward momentum and are less likely to tip. After that it’s mainly about keeping your bits and bobs out of the spokes and the way of the pedals.

  17. The unfortunate thing, is that as long as he didn’t see you, or didn’t do it intentionally, he feels that it wasn’t his fault. And the even more unfortunate thing, is that the police would probably agree – as my friend and I experienced in Boston. A driver hit my friend as we were cycling, but he didn’t do it on purpose. The police did not know what the heck we wanted from them.

    • Michael says:

      Does not matter whether a motorist sees you or not, if you have the right-of-way then the other driver is at fault. I was hit by a truck that had been stopped at a stop-sign coming off of a cross street. The street I was on did not have a stop-sgin. The driver said he did not see me, he was still at-fault (he should have seen me, and it was his responsibility to yeild to traffic that has the RoW). So the driver got a citation and his insurance paid for my bike.

      If the police do not know what you want when you call them to an accident, maybe they should look into a different line of work. I would have told them I wanted them to take statements, assess blame, write an accident report and issue citations if appriate. Just like any other traffic accident–that is their job.
      The at-fault party is responsible for the injured party’s property damage and possibly (depending on your insurance and state insurance laws) bodily injury. If the at-fault party acted intentionally (and you can prove that) they would be subject to criminal prosecution.

  18. dukiebiddle says:

    In Maryland it’s actually illegal for a passenger to ride on the rear rack, which I would call the dumbest law ever, were it not for a lot of even dumber ones. Good thing the police are all oblivious of the bicycle code.

    • Dave says:

      In Oregon, it’s illegal for a second person to ride a bicycle that “isn’t outfitted for a passenger”, or something like that. Recently there have been a couple of court cases in Portland where someone was given a ticket for carrying a person on the rear rack, and the judge dismissed the charge because the person showed in court that the rack and bicycle were sufficient to carry a second person.

      • Vee says:

        oh yay- I thought about you and this type of post today.

        up- riding to yoga and from yoga and feeling all warm in the cool windy fall air especially after yoga.

        down- turning onto a street that I had to turn left from in 50 yards so I always ride next to the yellow line so I don’t get caught on the curb. I had plenty of room between me and cars coming behind me ( it’s a steep fast hill so I don’t turn unless they are several blocks up) and so I’m riding and the car coming the opposite way throws his hands up and gives me a WTF look as he passes b/c I am obstensibly in the middle of the road- but no where on the other side of the yellow line- ykwim? anyway it pissed me off. I wish drivers could just chill out- give cyclists the benifit of the doubt and stop getting all ragey over every last thing we do.

  19. the same exact thing happened to me today but instead of being polite i yelled out “watch the road!” it was the second time this week of the exact incident. scared me too so i stopped to catch my breath.

    glad we are both okay after these incidents today.

  20. Nuresma says:

    I’m really interested in the doubling up thing!
    I saw a lot of people doing it in Amsterdam and I absolutely love it (especially when they are couples). I want my man picking up me after work in a cycle chic way!! :)

  21. beany says:

    Down: The time change means I’m riding in the dark a lot. I’ve been associating riding in the dark with peaceful riding since people used to be home in bed and asleep. But now with the time change at 5:30 when it is dark everyone is still on the road and very irritable.

    Up: The cool weather. Which means I can warm up on my ride. Also I like to see my breath when I’m panting. Also cool weather = baking season with baked things that are warm and toasty.

  22. Katie says:

    Oh I love doubling up. My fiance has a Mundo cargo bike and a Batavus Personal Delivery Bike, both of which are excellent for doubling up. I’m always the passenger, though. Good luck trying it this weekend!

  23. maureen says:

    I look forward to reading more about you learning to double up. I am sorry you had another anxious scare. I don’t ride at night, it is way too stressful for me. Glad you are okay.
    UP: Nice weather today, tomorrow and Sunday.

  24. Daniel says:

    The way Janet and I double is that I get on the bike first, sitting on the saddle, one foot on the ground and make sure I’m steady. Then Janet sits side saddle on the rack. The only trick is not going too slowly after launch, so make sure you have some room. The bike is much more stable when moving at a fair pace. I don’t mean you have to race, but try not to be too timid just because it is something new. On my 8-speed omafiets, I start in 2nd gear, which is what I usually use, and start off with a good firm push. Launch positively, and get up to a jogging speed quickly.

    I suppose somebody who cannot sit on the saddle with a foot on the ground would have to use the technique where the passenger gets on while the bike is already in motion. We’ve never tried doing that, so I can’t comment on whether it is better or worse than the passenger mounting while the bike is stopped.


  25. Angelo says:

    Ups – With several bikes I can commute in any weather. I prefer the Raleigh Sports for most commutes. In the rain my Gazelle has drum brakes (we’ve had some rain recently). In the winter, the MTB has better brakes and wider tires.

    Down – Even when bicyclists are minding their own business waiting at red lights, motorist seem to think it is appropriate to berate them with torrents of profanity for not using the sidewalk.

  26. cris says:

    Up! — crossing paths with my girlfriend about three miles from home on my evening commute and spending the rest of the ride home alternating between “how was your day, dear?” and yelling at cars that did rolling stops at stop signs

    Down! — nearly hitting a car as it pulled out from a parking spot and having the driver yell at me for being too fast because “I checked my mirror and didn’t anyone, so you were obviously sprinting and just came out of nowhere as I pulled out.” WHAT?

    Up! — riding past the factories where they make Junior Mints and Tootsie Rolls and being able to smell peppermint in the crisp autumn air.

  27. meligrosa says:

    I find the most aggressive traffic, and it applies to all bikes+pedestrians+cars, to be during the end-of year, holiday season. people are distracted, angry, in a rush, lost — be careful out there.
    btw/ the details on your bike, i love them ea.time more and more :D
    +great red sweater

  28. I’m glad that you confronted the driver. I really don’t know how anyone can truthfully believe that he or she is capable of driving a car texting or surfing the net on their phone.

  29. Kristin says:

    I just found your blog and love it! My current “Up” is that I finally bought a bike of my own (I’ve been using my city’s version of the Velib so far, but now I know that I will be able to find a bike in the morning for my commute and not have to go scavenging for one). It is a low-end pseudo Dutch bike. Downside: the dynamos are the old-fashioned kind that only work when you’re moving, so I’ve had to deck it out with little battery-powered blinkies (although the upside of this is that I’m extra-visible. I’ve been told I look like a moving Christmas tree).

    I’ve got a question for you: I love all the flowers that you use to decorate your basket & pannier. What kind of flowers are they and how do you attach them? I’d love to deck out my new bike (and make it much less stealable for the average 19 year old male bike thief — who likely wouldn’t dare ride down the road on a flowery girly bike).

  30. L. says:

    I was wondering if any of you have ever heard of or used the ‘reallite’. I’ve been looking into new taillight for my bike and I’m leaning towards this one.

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