Head-on collision on my commute (not me)- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Head-on collision on my commute (not me)

    Not sure there are any lessons here, but I'm still somewhat stunned by an incident that indirectly involved me on Wednesday on the Guadalupe River trail in San Jose, CA.

    I ride a Giant Trance E+1 with a nice commuter wheelset. It's not modded and e-bikes are legal on San Jose trails and bike paths so I'll just get that out of the way first.

    This bike path is full of roadies going full speed in the evening. I've had several near misses when people heading in the other direction swerve around walkers and other bikes. Because of that I got a Cateye 700 light set to flashing. I ride at a casual speed in my flip-flops and work clothes. I wear a helmet, gloves, and a mirror. Not trying to set any personal goals on Strava or anything, but it is rare for one to pass me because most of the traffic is coming in the opposite direction.

    So I come up to an older woman on one of those bikes with time-trial wheels in full lycra. Strangely she was going fairly slow, so I safely passed. Unfortunately it was right before a hill that descends under a freeway into a fairly dark tunnel. She sped up on the hill and caught up and drafted me for a few seconds, then right at the bottom on the flat she darts to the left to pass. I was going as fast as I could at this point because I didn't want to slow her down, but I can't go much above 20-22 because my bike is 55 lbs and the motor offers no assistance above 20, and we had hit the flats at the bottom. I never expected her to try to pass me based on her previous speed or I would have just slowed down and let her.

    There was a guy coming in the opposite direction at maximum speed at the bottom of the hill on the other side. No light. It's dark under there, especially when everyone is wearing dark glasses. There is a curve that would hide oncoming traffic from someone who is drafting someone else. The woman never saw him and all he saw was my bright flashing light since she was drafting me. I don't remember seeing him either because of the darkness and speeds. They collided at what I estimate was 45 mph combined. This happened about 1 foot to my left. The sound was terrible.

    I won't go into graphic details but there was blood, the guy said he couldn't move, and the woman was awake but sucking in very shallow breaths with unfocused eyes. I called 911 immediately. Within 5 minute there were about 10 cyclists there and 2 of them were assisting with traffic control and attending to the injured.

    The guy ended up being mostly fine after he recovered for 15-minutes. The bikes were damaged but he walked away amazingly. The woman had some serious injuries, never moved her lower body, and was carted away on a backboard. Luckily we never moved her.

    I feel terrible for these people. The guy wasn't at fault except that he didn't have a light. The fact that I was riding an e-bike probably played into this a bit because I ride at a more constant speed and can't pick up speed much on moderate downhills, but there are a ton of e-bikes commuting on the bike path so that's not at all unusual. Not sure what the woman was thinking doing that, but we all make mistakes and usually get away with them. Just bad luck.

  2. #2
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    Holy Crap...

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    Quote Originally Posted by notb View Post
    Not sure there are any lessons here, but I'm still somewhat stunned by an incident that indirectly involved me on Wednesday on the Guadalupe River trail in San Jose, CA.

    I ride a Giant Trance E+1 with a nice commuter wheelset. It's not modded and e-bikes are legal on San Jose trails and bike paths so I'll just get that out of the way first.

    This bike path is full of roadies going full speed in the evening. I've had several near misses when people heading in the other direction swerve around walkers and other bikes. Because of that I got a Cateye 700 light set to flashing. I ride at a casual speed in my flip-flops and work clothes. I wear a helmet, gloves, and a mirror. Not trying to set any personal goals on Strava or anything, but it is rare for one to pass me because most of the traffic is coming in the opposite direction.

    So I come up to an older woman on one of those bikes with time-trial wheels in full lycra. Strangely she was going fairly slow, so I safely passed. Unfortunately it was right before a hill that descends under a freeway into a fairly dark tunnel. She sped up on the hill and caught up and drafted me for a few seconds, then right at the bottom on the flat she darts to the left to pass. I was going as fast as I could at this point because I didn't want to slow her down, but I can't go much above 20-22 because my bike is 55 lbs and the motor offers no assistance above 20, and we had hit the flats at the bottom. I never expected her to try to pass me based on her previous speed or I would have just slowed down and let her.

    There was a guy coming in the opposite direction at maximum speed at the bottom of the hill on the other side. No light. It's dark under there, especially when everyone is wearing dark glasses. There is a curve that would hide oncoming traffic from someone who is drafting someone else. The woman never saw him and all he saw was my bright flashing light since she was drafting me. I don't remember seeing him either because of the darkness and speeds. They collided at what I estimate was 45 mph combined. This happened about 1 foot to my left. The sound was terrible.

    I won't go into graphic details but there was blood, the guy said he couldn't move, and the woman was awake but sucking in very shallow breaths with unfocused eyes. I called 911 immediately. Within 5 minute there were about 10 cyclists there and 2 of them were assisting with traffic control and attending to the injured.

    The guy ended up being mostly fine after he recovered for 15-minutes. The bikes were damaged but he walked away amazingly. The woman had some serious injuries, never moved her lower body, and was carted away on a backboard. Luckily we never moved her.

    I feel terrible for these people. The guy wasn't at fault except that he didn't have a light. The fact that I was riding an e-bike probably played into this a bit because I ride at a more constant speed and can't pick up speed much on moderate downhills, but there are a ton of e-bikes commuting on the bike path so that's not at all unusual. Not sure what the woman was thinking doing that, but we all make mistakes and usually get away with them. Just bad luck.
    This is the worst part of commuting, the person embarrassed or whatever by someone passing them. I have passed people that were dawdling or what have you then have had them come roaring by, usually in an unsafe area to show me up or whatever bit of dick measuring they need to do. Unless you paid an entry fee and it is a closed course, no one is racing you, there is no winners medal, and no bragging rights. People have to come to grips with the fact that no matter who they are, there is someone faster than them. Especially now with the advent of the ebike. This women, for whatever reason, was irritated that you passed her and needed to pass in a dangerous location for no apparent reason. She may have completely crippled herself or taken herself off of bikes permanently, all because you passed her.

    WTF is wrong with people?

    Sorry you had to experience this, this is an insane story and so sad, glad no one died but it sure could have gone that way, they were just lucky in that respect.
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  4. #4
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    tri bikes on busy bike paths are bad news. I used to commute on a bike path where there was a well known "tri guy" rider that most people I know had some kind of interaction with. This path was flat and straight, so many of the contributors to this crash weren't factors, but he'd absolutely haul through crowded sections, blowing past pedestrians, people walking dogs on flexi leashes, and kids weaving around.

    Busy multiuse paths in general are places where people on bikes (any bikes) should be soft pedaling. You want to put down the watts, go find empty stretches of road or path.

    It's such a shame that a crash like this happened.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    tri bikes on busy bike paths are bad news. I used to commute on a bike path where there was a well known "tri guy" rider that most people I know had some kind of interaction with. This path was flat and straight, so many of the contributors to this crash weren't factors, but he'd absolutely haul through crowded sections, blowing past pedestrians, people walking dogs on flexi leashes, and kids weaving around.

    Busy multiuse paths in general are places where people on bikes (any bikes) should be soft pedaling. You want to put down the watts, go find empty stretches of road or path.

    It's such a shame that a crash like this happened.
    I am going to go on record, maybe somewhat controversial, and say that trisports people are not cyclists. They ride their bikes like runners. They zoom around, run race pace on MUP's and tend to only look as far ahead as a runner would. I used to hang out with a lot of Tri folks and they were all to person this way. Never saw why being in their aero bars on the MUP was a bad idea, never saw why riding in traffic looking at their front hub was a bad idea, and were just generally clueless about bike, traffic, MUP and street etiquette.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    Busy multiuse paths in general are places where people on bikes (any bikes) should be soft pedaling. You want to put down the watts, go find empty stretches of road or path.

    Seriously.

    People who speed on bike paths are frigging tools.

    I know the OP put the blame on the lady, where most of it probably belongs, but I also know the MUPs around here all have speed limits, and none of them are up around 20mph.
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  7. #7
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    FWIW

    San Jose says


    Maximum speed is 15 MPH (Muni Code Sec. 13.44.100).

    OP might want to ....review the code for the next ride


    No person shall operate a vehicle, except as authorized by the director, in any public park or recreation area within the city except upon any publicly owned street or highway which is open for public vehicular traffic within such park or recreation area. No person shall operate any vehicle on any road, street, trail or highway in any city park or recreation area at a speed greater than the speed limit established by ordinance or resolution of the city council and posted on such road, street, trail or highway, or if no speed is posted, at a speed greater than fifteen miles per hour.
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    I really appreciate how OP told a story and wasn't really passing blame, making assumptions or accusations.

    One of the best written 'crash' experiences I've read in a while.

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    In regards to the speed limit, I'm well aware that it's 15 and that is about how fast I was going initially. However, I don't have a speedometer and wasn't using Strava. I ride at the lowest assist level and it was into a stiff wind.

    Once I passed I picked up speed on the downhill so I wouldn't piss the other rider off and FORCE her to pass. That would be a dick move and I've done enough road riding to know that. Once she picked up speed I realized I had made a mistake and should not have passed. This is what haunts me.

    Thanks for the knowledgeable comments from people. It helps. I won't be bike commuting any more, but I will keep riding on dirt.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by notb View Post
    In regards to the speed limit, I'm well aware that it's 15 and that is about how fast I was going initially. However, I don't have a speedometer and wasn't using Strava. I ride at the lowest assist level and it was into a stiff wind.

    Once I passed I picked up speed on the downhill so I wouldn't piss the other rider off and FORCE her to pass. That would be a dick move and I've done enough road riding to know that. Once she picked up speed I realized I had made a mistake and should not have passed. This is what haunts me.

    Thanks for the knowledgeable comments from people. It helps. I won't be bike commuting any more, but I will keep riding on dirt.
    You definitely did not do anything wrong. People are stupid and you unfortunately came across a good example of this. She could have easily waited in your draft until it was clear and passed, or just backed off and maintained the pace she was doing when you passed her. If it was ok with here at that moment then it should have been just as ok with her after you passed.

    I agree with the general crux of the MUP speed limits but I also commute and I am sure I regularly go over that speed limit on my bike, especially if I have a tailwind but I definitely don't do so on a crowded MUP, but then most smart people don't do that.

    I see plenty of SV people commuting, many are fast, and I have not seen many doing dangerous things. However SV certainly is awash with cash and cash bring entitlement and entitlement brings bad behavior. It isn't the only thing that brings bad behavior but it certainly helps. A person on a carbon race bike with deep dish wheels and spandex kit should know better than to race on the trails, this person should have known better. Definitely not your fault and depending on where you are going SJ has great commuting trails separate from surface streets, which is really nice, don't eschew this resource just because of this incident, bike commuting is much better than any other means in that area (I get to spend too much time on the 101 during commute times, I hate it).
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockcrusher View Post
    I am going to go on record, maybe somewhat controversial, and say that trisports people are not cyclists. They ride their bikes like runners. They zoom around, run race pace on MUP's and tend to only look as far ahead as a runner would. I used to hang out with a lot of Tri folks and they were all to person this way. Never saw why being in their aero bars on the MUP was a bad idea, never saw why riding in traffic looking at their front hub was a bad idea, and were just generally clueless about bike, traffic, MUP and street etiquette.
    Put a "most" in there and I'm ok with it. I used to do sprint tris and rode a tri bike but I got into it from being a cyclist first. And I didn't ride on the aerobars where there were a lot of others using the MUP. A friend of mine came across a bad accident on that MUP where a guy on a tri bike collided with a kid on a bike. Even on my road bike, I usually drive to a further out trailhead where there are a lot fewer users on the path and almost all are cyclist or runners. And if I get to an uncomfortable pinch point on a pass, I simply slow down.
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    Passing on blind corners is seriously dangerous. Heck, I'm even scared of going around blind corners sometimes, because I fear exactly what OP just had happen, some idiot on my side leaving me nowhere to go but right into them. The more I commute, the more I slow down when I can't see what's ahead if I want to pass someone. It's just like a stop sign - stop for the darned thing. Having to accelerate is good for your heart.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockcrusher View Post
    I am going to go on record, maybe somewhat controversial, and say that trisports people are not cyclists. They ride their bikes like runners. They zoom around, run race pace on MUP's and tend to only look as far ahead as a runner would. I used to hang out with a lot of Tri folks and they were all to person this way. Never saw why being in their aero bars on the MUP was a bad idea, never saw why riding in traffic looking at their front hub was a bad idea, and were just generally clueless about bike, traffic, MUP and street etiquette.
    Wow, that's some straight up stereotypical bullshit there. I've done 4 Ironmans and countless 1/2 IMs and under. Whether riding road or trail, I try to be as absolutely cognizant of others and safety as a #1 rule. I absolutely feel like I am not the exception here. Some of the best people I know also do Tris.

    A douche is a douche, on a TT or a Tarmac, or a Ibis. I try not to judge a books by it's cover, you know, how the equestrians like to judge us, but to each their own...
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    Quote Originally Posted by notb View Post
    I won't be bike commuting any more, but I will keep riding on dirt.
    Hello, Notb.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. That definitely sounds like a terrible thing to go through, and it's a useful lesson/reminder for all of us.

    It doesn't sound like you're at fault in any way, and even if that cyclist felt you were in the way, it was that person's responsibility to pass in a safe way or to ask for space to do so. It's very sad that two people were hurt and their bikes were probably damaged to some extent, but it's not on you.

    It's your choice, but I'd say: Don't let someone else's bad judgment take your preferred way of commuting away from you. Just keep riding in a responsible way, as it sounds like you've been doing.

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    When my daughter was around 10 she was hit by a guy in DC. The path split and I told her to go right, just as I said that, some asshat at full speed passed on the right and took her out. Had the path been closer to the Potomac I think he would have gone for a swim.
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    Echo some of the posts above, on continuing to commute. In fact, you may find returning to bike commuting helps you deal with this traumatic accident.

    It's clear from your post that you are a stand up guy, and that the injuries of others has affected you.

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    The flashing lights that are like a strobe light suck. Horrible for oncoming riders and not necessary on a MUP.
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    thanks for sharing. I guess it was one of those days where everything turns out bad. A few seconds earlier or later and it wouldnt have happened...I hope the lady will be ok in the end.

    I had a few close calls with cars and other cyclists myself, one even quite similar to the on in the first post, so I definitely dont judge it - it goes something like: You are doing some nice riding and suddently you are lying on the ground and you are wondering how you got there.

  19. #19
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    I'm not gonna deny that I sometimes go really fast on my bike path. But I'm proceeding under the assumption that someone going my speed is going to be oncoming around every blind corner. Or maybe two guys riding side-by-side. I've heard many accounts of head-on crashes, and while they usually happen on busy summer weekends, I gotta build in a margin for error even on a rainy winter weekday.

    Hence, riding quick on the bike path involves slowing WAY down, over and over again. It also means slowing down to yield to other path users who (I can promise you from years on the same route) have never, ever, slowed down to yield to me.

    I'm okay with that, dealing with people who refuse to be cautious is part of the cost of doing business. The bike path is still the best and fastest route through the city... I can slow down for a whole army of bike path users in the time I spend stopped at one red light on a road route.

    And in spite of the ugly incident the OP witnessed, IMO everything is still a whole lot worse when cars get involved.
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    I also know the MUPs around here all have speed limits, and none of them are up around 20mph.
    I wasn't going to speak to speed limits on the bike path. I know some that DO have posted 20mph speed limits. And others with no speed limit whatsoever, which utterly baffles me. Regardless of what's posted, though, you go the speed that's safe for conditions. If the path is completely empty, whatever, go for it. I don't care. But once other trail users are around, you've gotta dial back.

    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruiser View Post
    And in spite of the ugly incident the OP witnessed, IMO everything is still a whole lot worse when cars get involved.
    Very true. I wouldn't stop riding the bike path because I observed an incident like this. I might make some changes to my safety gear and/or my riding as a result, but that's the limit. When it comes to headlights on the bike path, at most I run mine on the dimmest setting aimed downward when I need lights to see in the dark. The flash setting is limited to daytime use on streets with cars. And I prefer a setting that's more of a pulse like motorcycle headlights than a distinct on/off flash at that.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the lady who made the stupid pass, in addition to not liking that she was passed in the first place, got grumpy that she was passed by an ebike. She probably drives that way when she gets passed by a Nissan Leaf or a little hybrid or something, too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    I wasn't going to speak to speed limits on the bike path. I know some that DO have posted 20mph speed limits. And others with no speed limit whatsoever, which utterly baffles me.
    The insanity flows the other way here. The newest waterfront trail in east Toronto, which is 10' wide and perfectly straight, has a posted maximum speed of 15 kph.... That's 9 mph. Nine. I sometimes average faster than that on a run, and I'm a crappy runner.

    The "highest" bike path speed limits we have are 12mph, which my kids starting complaining about when they were maybe 7 or 8 yrs old.
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  22. #22
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    MUPs I've experienced should be double width. They go to all the trouble of making them; might as well make them correctly. It keeps people off the roadways which makes everything safer and less stressful so it's worth it.

    The way I've found to get a workout is to ride a fs mountain bike. The upright position and draggy tires keep you pretty slow, and the knobbles make a terrorizing whiny sound that everyone hears a hundred yards away.

    As for triathlete-people, I caught a warning on another site for calling them tritards. They're the most dangerous things on two wheels.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schulze View Post
    MUPs I've experienced should be double width. They go to all the trouble of making them; might as well make them correctly. It keeps people off the roadways which makes everything safer and less stressful so it's worth it.

    The way I've found to get a workout is to ride a fs mountain bike. The upright position and draggy tires keep you pretty slow, and the knobbles make a terrorizing whiny sound that everyone hears a hundred yards away.

    As for triathlete-people, I caught a warning on another site for calling them tritards. They're the most dangerous things on two wheels.
    Most MUPs I've used have been wide enough for a minimum of 2 people going opposite directions to pass each other safely. Also happens to be about the same width as the pickup trucks used by maintenance crews. Many (esp in busier areas) have been even wider, oftentimes with crushed stone on both sides, for runners who prefer that surface over hard pavement.

    Most triathletes I've ever met are runners or swimmers primarily, and they only ride the bike because they have to. Therefore, they've got TERRIBLE handling skills. Even dedicated roadies who do group rides with pacelines and such usually have decent handling skills, because riding in a tight paceline requires them. But tri riders who don't do other cycling disciplines? Keep them away from me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rockcrusher View Post
    I am going to go on record, maybe somewhat controversial, and say that trisports people are not cyclists. They ride their bikes like runners. They zoom around, run race pace on MUP's and tend to only look as far ahead as a runner would. I used to hang out with a lot of Tri folks and they were all to person this way. Never saw why being in their aero bars on the MUP was a bad idea, never saw why riding in traffic looking at their front hub was a bad idea, and were just generally clueless about bike, traffic, MUP and street etiquette.
    this got me thinking about our situation here in town, and it seems to me like the most dangerous people I encounter on the trail, besides ANYONE with ear buds, and those damned ridiculous double-wide stroller RV's that soccer moms use, are the ones who are NOT tri/roadie/racers, but think that they are. They have the look and the gear, but none of the wisdom. I rarely see a dish wheeled bike, but i am always passed by the 35-45 year old guy in full regalia, granny gearing it, and barely in control on some carbon framed Bianchi, or Trek, or Colnago. Passing in the grass on the right; not signaling, or speaking...usually doing the unintentional nose manual when having to slam on the breaks at the last minute to avoid a wreck

    In hockey, there is the running joke that the guy with the mirrored visor and $700 stick is the wanna be d- bag...and these same types where the mirrored glasses on the MUPs' as they cut and dodge in and out of the other "contestants" in the race. It makes me laugh...I always think "there goes "Mirrored Visor guy"
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    Quote Originally Posted by str8edgMTBMXer View Post
    this got me thinking about our situation here in town, and it seems to me like the most dangerous people I encounter on the trail, besides ANYONE with ear buds, and those damned ridiculous double-wide stroller RV's that soccer moms use, are the ones who are NOT tri/roadie/racers, but think that they are. They have the look and the gear, but none of the wisdom. I rarely see a dish wheeled bike, but i am always passed by the 35-45 year old guy in full regalia, granny gearing it, and barely in control on some carbon framed Bianchi, or Trek, or Colnago. Passing in the grass on the right; not signaling, or speaking...usually doing the unintentional nose manual when having to slam on the breaks at the last minute to avoid a wreck

    In hockey, there is the running joke that the guy with the mirrored visor and $700 stick is the wanna be d- bag...and these same types where the mirrored glasses on the MUPs' as they cut and dodge in and out of the other "contestants" in the race. It makes me laugh...I always think "there goes "Mirrored Visor guy"
    The more money than brains guys are ever present in all sports. I think tri is very attractive to them because there is a lot of gear to buy, and often they are into their bodies and such and tri certainly works for that. However Cat6 dudes on Pinarellos DI2 bikes with HED wheels also fall easily into that category. Sometimes they are kitted out and on an old Battaglin but always seem to prescribe to the more money than brain segment of male society, though as the OP's posts shows it is not limited to the Y carrying chromosome segment of our species. Dollars over brains is not limited to sex or race but just a nice and unfortunately not restricted by darwinism as money takes time to build do many of these genetic dead ends tend to reproduce and pass on their money to their spawn but unfortunately they also pass on that great narcissistic brain to them as well.

    Either way the best time to commute is in the rain and inclement weather when these douchebags are all firmly ensconced in their leather teslas, bimmers, and mercedes benzes.
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