Monthly Image: Left Cross

It’s the start of a new riding season and we’re returning from a concert at Vassar. I’m cranking 20+ mph, pushed by a gusty tailwind.

T minus 7 seconds:

Cedar Valley Rd - Left Cross - T-7

Cedar Valley Rd – Left Cross – T-7

The white car approaches the intersection a bit faster than usual, which leads me to expect a New York State Rolling Stop-and-Go right turn directly in front of me.

T minus 5 seconds:

Cedar Valley Rd - Left Cross - T-5

Cedar Valley Rd – Left Cross – T-5

The white car slows enough that I now expect a stop with the front end well onto the shoulder. A quick check in the mirror shows no traffic behind me: I can take the lane if needed. This intersection always has a large gravel patch spanning the shoulder, so I must move closer to the fog line anyway.

T minus 2 seconds:

Cedar Valley Rd - Left Cross - T-2

Cedar Valley Rd – Left Cross – T-2

The white car comes to a full stop, not too far onto the shoulder, and my fingers come off the brakes. I gotta work on that fingers-up position, though.

Whoops, a classic left cross from the black SUV!

T minus 1 second:

Cedar Valley Rd - Left Cross - T-1

Cedar Valley Rd – Left Cross – T-1

I’m now braking hard, barely to the left of the gravel patch.

T zero:

Cedar Valley Rd - Left Cross - T-0

Cedar Valley Rd – Left Cross – T-0

Well, that was close.

Somewhat to my surprise, the white car hasn’t crept any further onto the shoulder.

The SUV driver gives me a cheery wave, as if to thank me for not scratching the doors. I never make hand gestures, but I did tell him he does nice work.

It’s hard to not see a faired long-wheelbase recumbent, head-on in bright sunlight, not to mention that I’m wearing my new Sugoi Zap Bike Jacket in Super Nova retroreflective lime green with retroreflective lime green utility gloves.

I. Am. Visible. In. Any. Light. Dammit.

It is, apparently, easy to mis-judge a bike’s speed, although driver-ed courses used to recommend that you err on the side of not trying to beat an oncoming vehicle. Perhaps that recommendation has become inoperative?

The corresponding maneuver by a car passing you is known as a right hook.

Memo to Self: Always look at the license plate to give the camera a straight-on picture.

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  1. #1 by madbodger on 2015-04-15 - 10:08

    They do this to me all the time. However, I’m driving a large and heavy vehicle, and most of the clowns doing this are driving flimsy Japanese imports. I have come to the conclusion that either they think they’re so important they have to be first, or they don’t think at all.

    • #2 by Ed on 2015-04-15 - 10:22

      I’d put money on “they don’t think at all”.

    • #3 by Red County Pete on 2015-04-15 - 10:43

      On a two-wheeled vehicle, it was a fairly safe bet to assume I was invisible at all times. I got this attitude after somebody did a left hook on a Harley rider in my college years. I think the rider broke a leg… A time or two, it was active hostility/assault, but that was SF Bay area traffic.

  2. #4 by Simon on 2015-04-15 - 13:39

    When I was rather younger and riding to college daily through city centre traffic and negotiating roundabouts (can’t remember how these translate!), I rigged up a yachtsman’s fog-horn – the variety with an air canister – to my handlebars in place of the drinks bottle. One long blast on that horn ensures that everyone is instantly woken up, especially the idiot trying to drive straight out in front of you – mind when they discover it’s just a kid on a bike, they were often less than amused (British understatement here).

    Most car drivers don’t see you I am convinced because they are geared up to looking for rectangular objects that are increasing in size at a regular rate, whereas bikes, recumbent or standard, don’t fit the profile.
    I also learnt long ago when driving fast in a car that the fastest way to remove someone from the lane in front of you on a highway was to slightly ‘twitch’ from side to side – clearly the side to side movement is far more effective at gaining attention than a simple increase in size in the mirror. On the too rare occasions when I cycle these days, I find that an intentional and controlled wobble instantly gains attention – perhaps because they think I will fall or as I suspect, because I achieve attention grabbing side-to-side movement…

    Anyway, my 2c (Euros) from this side of the pond.

    • #5 by smellsofbikes on 2015-04-15 - 15:43

      A number of bicycle safety writers have advocated purposeful erratic riding, to make drivers more cautious around riders. This presumes they actually notice.

    • #6 by Ed on 2015-04-15 - 16:23

      an intentional and controlled wobble

      And here I thought being predictable was a Good Thing… time to get my wobble on! [grin]

  3. #7 by William on 2015-04-15 - 14:41

    “New York State Rolling Stop-and-Go” Around these parts we call that the St Louis Slide. ;)

    People perform close call maneuvers in front of my full size crew cab truck so I’m in the “don’t think at all” camp. Stay safe!

    • #8 by Jim R on 2015-04-17 - 11:17

      I had that rolling stop explained to me one evening while riding around on Long Island. The driver slowed a little for one stop sign, and stopped completely at another. I asked if that intersection was more dangerous than the first. She pointed at the sign post and said “See, that one says Stop All Way – the others are just stoptionals.”

      Certainly an interesting point of view…

      • #9 by Ed on 2015-04-17 - 12:48

        the others are just stoptionals

        My head. The pain.

        Verily, there exists no set of instructions so simple they cannot be misunderstood…

  4. #10 by tantris on 2015-04-16 - 01:29

    When you’re busy to not get hurt, the last thing you remember is the license plate, and the license plate somehow is always to small to read on the video later.
    Do you know of any software that can combine a series of frames to get a readable license plate?

    • #11 by Ed on 2015-04-16 - 07:30

      The short answer is no, but the long answer is that it might be an impossible task.

      A vehicle passing at 40 mph relative to me moves 1 ft/s, so only one or two frames have a good view. Worse, the compression that lets the HD-AS30V records 1920×1080 video at 60 fps thoroughly blurs fine detail in things like license plates, so there isn’t much imagery to combine.

      Passing license plate 1

      Passing license plate 2


  5. #12 by Mike on 2015-04-19 - 04:42

    How about a second camera mounted “looking” into a pair of mirrors angled to view towards the left and the right ? This way if your helmet camera missed a license plate of a car that just “hooked” you the side view camera would have a good chance of getting the plate in at least one frame. The camera could even be mounted vertically behind the seat and pointed vertically / upwards into the mirrors to view towards the side, periscope style.

    I saw something like this many years ago – a piece of large diameter plastic pipe, a video camera slid into the pipe and looking into a elbow fitting where a mirror was glued in place.

    You could do the same thing – only looking into two mirrors mounted in a V shape. Mirrors scavenged from HP slide adapters would work real well – see


    • #13 by Ed on 2015-04-19 - 08:35

      I’ve often observed that the more the bike looks like a UFO, the less hassle I get, but that would fast-forward me across the next three Circles of Dweebdom…

      What I really want is a camera with human vision: be aware of everything at low res, then automagically zoom in on the Really Exciting Object to fill all the pixels. I’m sure there’s an app for that. [sigh]

  6. #14 by tantris on 2015-04-19 - 15:08

    I like the split picture idea. Add some lens to that. Either a zoom or a fish-eye for each side: A cheap cell-phone zoom adapter to narrow the camera’s view to the area where license plates usually live. Or a zoom/fish-eye combination: same viewing angle, but higher pixle density in the middle (like with the human eye). For viewing, one could even correct that into a high res movie with a high-res center and blurry borders.

    • #15 by Ed on 2015-04-19 - 17:49

      New York being a two-plate state, a left-rear-facing camera on the seat frame (about elbow height on a ‘bent) would capture nearly everything of interest. Except, of course, left crosses. So it goes.