I nearly made a trip-to-the-hospital mistake at work on Tuesday. I was checking the chain tension on a fixie by springboarding my fingertips on the top as I turned the crank. As my fingers were bouncing off the chain, the tip of my thumb began to get sucked in. I reflexively jerked back my hand before the drivetrain trapped it.
A fixie differs from a single speed in that the cog is tied to the motion of the pedals. Single speed bikes have a freewheel that allows you to coast downhill without pedalling like the devil to keep up with the spinning rear wheel. Ergo, the force generated by the spinning rear wheel of a fixie is strong enough to gobble up a digit or two.
I told a co-worker about the accident that almost was, and his response was: “Oh, yeah, that would have been really bad. People lose their fingers. There’s a website featuring photos of mangled mitts that were fed through the drivetrain.” (I’m paraphrasing.)
I don’t touch fixies often (they’re not as popular in Victoria as in Montréal), so I had let my guard down.
Yann says his shoelaces once got sucked into the drivetrain while riding a fixie: “My shoelaces broke, but my foot turned blue.”
Then, Wednesday morning, on my way to work, I nearly found myself in a visit-with-the-police situation.
I was riding northbound on Wharf St, which has a dedicated bike lane divided by a raised concrete barrier, except at intersections, which are marked with green paint:
The construction of this bike lane was only completed last year. Before completion, any regular cyclist could tell that it was going to cause a lot of problems because many pedestrians (especially tourists) don’t have the habit of looking both ways before crossing or using the designated crosswalks.
As COVID-19 has dried up tourism in this city, absent-minded pedestrians haven’t been a concern this summer. But, when I use this path, I still have to be vigilant about cars turning in and out of the parking lots that line the inner harbour. Cyclists may have the right of way, but the law doesn’t protect us from motorists who don’t believe that our safety is worth them being delayed by a few seconds.
I hit my brakes in time to avoid being hit by a pickup truck making a right turn into one of the parking lots. I made eye contact with the driver, who was now blocking the northbound lane, to see whether I could proceed. I got my answer when she flipped me off and began to roll her truck forward. As she did this, another cyclist came up from behind me and slapped the hood of the truck, further enraging her. It was like when a rodeo clown comes running into the arena to distract the bull from its target. I was then able to make my slow, dazed getaway.
Then, I realized that the sidewalk overlooked the parking lot she had pulled into. I had enough time to grab my phone out of my bag and snap this picture:
Two people at work suggested that I contact the police to report the incident. Hard pass.
Ten years ago, a Translink bus merged into the lane I was cycling in without waiting for it to be safe to do so. I filed a police report; the police turned over the investigation to Translink, who, to my astonishment, determined that I was at fault.
If you read the comment section of any Victoria news article, there will be at least one scathing comment about cyclists/bike lanes or homeless people. Even if it’s not relevant to the article.
As long as I choose to get around by bike, it will always be my fault. There’s not much I can do now other than leaving an ominous note on the windshield should I come across this truck parked downtown.
(I’m not sure the driver is even old enough to get the reference, though.)