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Just a bike...

"You shouldn't ride that recumbent in Prague, it's dangerous, you're hard to see..." I hear this quite often, but I don't quite agree. Here is one real-life report for illustration: a ride during which more unsafe situations occurred than during the whole past year.

February, Friday, half past four PM, plenty of daylight, five degrees above freezing point, slightly overcast and it looks like it is not going to rain, at least for the next few hours. Ideal weather by my taste. At last, I can take my lowracer out of company's underground garage in Prague, where it has been waiting for ice-free roads since December, and ride it back to my hometown. Soon I'm descending along a main stroad, smiling at other cyclists (relatively many of them came out in this relatively nice weather), blissfully unaware of what's going to happen.

While I'm whizzing down at 50 km/h (legal speed limit here), a car starts to overtake me. Berth is wide, speed difference is minuscule, good, nothing dangerous. I hope it's not going to turn right into that highway tunnel. No, that would be impossible, we have already missed the turn, solid white line begins here, then crosshatched buffer and then guard rails. Hey, are you kidding? The car swerves right over the solid line, without even indicating, and directly into me. Fortunately, I still have enough time and space to dodge right, slow down and return across the buffer area to my lane.

Is it possible the driver didn't see me? No. In that case they wouldn't bother with overtaking, would turn right away and run me over from behind. More probably they thought "it's just a bike, bikes are slow, I'll pass it" and forgot about me as soon as I disappeared from their field of view. OK, that happens.

Several hundred metres further a bike lane begins, as well as a parking lane along it. My speedo reads 46 km/h and mirror shows empty road behind me, so I stay in the middle of main lane to make sure I don't get hit if the parked taxi over there opens a door. It didn't. It leapt out of the parking lane, with squealing tyres and unused indicators. Two seconds later it was braking hard before a speed bump. OK, that happens - I would brake before that bump anyway, so I just begin a little bit sooner.

Is it possible the driver didn't see me? No. I doubt a cabbie would abuse their tyres and brake pads like this when entering an empty road. More probably they saw me, thought "just a bike, enough time to get in front of it... oops, it's fast!"

Another half kilometre later I switch lanes to continue straight ahead. There's a red light and one car is already waiting there, so I approach slowly, preparing to stop. Suddenly, someone in the left lane realized they didn't want to turn left after all, blinked right and inched in front of me. Not the polite type of inching where you stick out one wheel to say "I need there" and then wait if they let you. The whole car stuck out and waited if I splat on its doors or not. OK, that happens - I was going to stop anyway, so I just did ten metres sooner.

Is it possible the driver didn't see me? Hard to say, but I think not. If they thought my lane was empty, they wouldn't have stopped there in an awkward position across two lanes, there was plenty of space ahead to fit into. So, more likely "just a bike, it will for sure let me, I don't want to bother with passing it later", but when I stopped in the blind spot where they really couldn't see me, they were afraid to start moving.

Oh carp, first raindrops. But nothing serious, there is not enough of them to make the asphalt wet or affect visibility. I take on another nice straight descent with a bike lane, speed slightly over 30 km/h, I switch between main lane and bike lane as needed (according to available space and cars' speed), we are all aware of each other, keep safe distances, easy and happy. I stop briefly to let a car get out of a parking spot. The jeep over there is so big it doesn't fit into main lane, but that's OK, wide vehicles are allowed to stick out into this "light" type of bike lanes. I passed it after it stopped in the queue before the last stoplight. So far it's red... yellow... green, good, I don't have to stop. The queue on my left is not moving yet and I see no right indicators, which means the first car at the front is probably going to turn left and is yielding to oncoming traffic, which in turn means I'm free to go. I release the brakes ten metres before the crossroad, speed goes up to 20 km/h and suddenly the first car starts blinking right, although still not moving. Is the driver waiting for me to pass, or is he going to drive into my path, unaware of me? After the previous experiences I assume the latter and pull my brakes hard. I stopped exactly where I wanted, just wrong side down because the freshly raindrop-sprinkled white bar of pedestrian crossing was slippery like hell.

And the driver? After all, he actually did see me and was yielding, just forgot to turn on the indicator in time (please please please to all: begin indicating when stopping before a crossroad, not when starting to move!). And he didn't leave before seeing me alive, well and out of the way. Today's first who didn't think "just a bike..."