Transit Thoughts #1 – Close Calls

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Well, I got the idea for this blog about 7:20 this morning, but by 3 p.m., when my beautiful bride called me, it took a sudden turn, my original anecdote having lost to a more dramatic one.

I’ve been thinking for some time that I want to do periodic blogs on transportation, more particularly on bus transportation and the bicycling and pedestrian time I spend linking it all together.

This morning I got off the bus at 8th and Grand, and started the half-mile ride to work.  That involves going one block downhill to Walnut and then another block downhill to Main. I’ve only once caught the crosswalk at Walnut Street green, and today wasn’t that day. But I often coast down the hill to main and sail across the crosswalk there without stopping. Today was one of those days.

As I started down the hill, I saw the crosswalk light turn green. Two cars were coming in the far lane, I watched as they slowed down and stopped at the light.  I reached the near side of mainstreet at about 20 MPH and the crosswalk hadn’t even started counting down the time. Suddenly, the nearest car, which had been stopped for at least 5 seconds, suddenly went through the red light, went up to the turning/uturn lane and turned into the parking garage at 810 Main.

Me, I braked as hard as I could until I saw the car turn, and continued on my way.

Usually I’m watching in all directions to make sure I see possible dangers, since I don’t expect drivers to see me.  Make sure drivers at stop signs actually see me before crossing in front of me.  But I never would have worried about a stopped driver suddenly just running a red light right in front of me.

I planned on telling my wife that story some time later in the day.  But before I could, she called me.  Seems she’d gone to the Applebee’s in Liberty for lunch with her mother — a birthday lunch, and then they’d gone over to the JCPenny to do some birthday shopping. As they were leaving, my mother-in-law in front, and my wife in the car behind her, mom-in-law turned left to head toward rout 152 when a motorcycle that wasn’t there a moment before barreled over a little rise. She almost hit him, and pulled over into the left lane and stopped with what little momentum she had.

The guy got off the motorcycle, mom rolled down the passenger window, and the guy yelled at her while she apologized. After finishing his rant, he headed toward the light.  Mom-in-law followed behind, since she was headed the same way, and they both turned on to 152, and got backed up in the long line of cars at the light at Church Road.

The guy saw her still behind him, got off his bicycle, and came back to her car, pounding on her window for her to open it, breaking the side-view mirror.  My wife pulled out her phone and started talking to 911 — got the Liberty dispatch, but since they were technically in Kansas City, got transferred to that dispatch.

In the meantime, mom-in-law, who would not roll her window down this time, finally pulled out her phone, and when the guy realized, he went back to his motorcycle, and drove off between two rows of stopped cars and disappeared.

This was the point that my wife finally got to KC dispatch, and said since the guy was gone, police weren’t needed anymore. And of course none of them were able to get a good look at his license plate.

Now, as a bicyclist and pedestrian, I’m well aware that people need to watch out for motorycles, cyclist, pedestrians, etc. But I’m more aware that I need to watch out for the people who won’t be watching out for me.  Even so, I can still get surprised — like the guy who stopped at a red light for several seconds and then suddenly ran it.

That motorcyclist told mom-in-law during his first rant that it was the closest he’d ever come to getting hit. I doubt it.  If the stunt he pulled when finally getting away is any sign, he’s probably endangered himself and others many times before, but never noticed it, because he couldn’t see the chaos he created behind himself.

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