Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Returning to the scene

After my near-crash yesterday at Payne Street and Charlton Street in Louisville, I thought more about what happened. One experienced urban cyclist told me that he had recently ridden through the intersection from Charlton Street. He noted that a driver stopped at the stop sign on Charlton could have difficulty seeing up the hill on Payne Street, the direction from which I approached. Dirk Gowin, Metro Louisville's chief transportation engineer and a commuting cyclist, disagreed. In his memory, a driver at that stop sign should have a clear view east on Payne Street.

This morning I rode through that intersection as usual, and then I looped back to see it from the perspective of the driver who almost hit me. Stopped at the stop sign on Charlton Street, I looked left and right to find how well I could see traffic along Payne Street. The view southwest toward Spring Street and Lexington Road was clear. To the east, I could see clearly for at least 200 feet. As I approached the intersection yesterday at 24 mph (or 35 feet per second), the driver at the stop sign should have had roughly 200/35 or about 6 seconds to notice me before I rode into her path. Six seconds sounds like a short time, but it's much longer than the 1 or 2 seconds needed to see and respond to an oncoming vehicle.

In other words, a careful driver at that stop sign at Charlton Street would have easily avoided any conflict with an oncoming bicyclist on Payne Street. The intersection can certainly be reconfigured to improve safety, but my first reaction was probably correct: the driver who nearly hit me had no excuse for causing this close call.

1 comment:

purple haze said...

Perhaps my memory for that intersection is flawed, as I thought the sight line from the stop sign facing east on Payne awkward--at least at the "bumper line" I see so many motorists ignore so much of the time. I agree that once one gets closer to entering the intersection, it is easy to see a good section of Payne, and that the motorist was simply ignoring your presence.