Terminal Velocity

Posted: November 14, 2013 in Bike Culture

Terminal Velocity (N) – The state of being at ones maximum speed given the physical effects of drag, gravity, and other contextual forces.

It also can be defined to mean the speed at which one is approaching death (Sub-definition: Velocity 3a and Terminal 5).

Today I was riding my bike to Diridon train station in downtown San Jose on my way back home to San Francisco. It was a normal morning like any other, I was stopping for lights and obeying the traffic laws. I was homefree, within two minutes of the train station; truly, the last road I was on before getting there. Today was a day like any other, but then it became a day unlike any I have experienced, a bicyclists worst-case-scenario.

Here is where it all goes wrong. Out from between two parked cars, not even a car length ahead of me, a homeless man strolls out right in front of me. I begin to brake and yell, doing everything I can to avoid him while not swerving into oncoming traffic or the parked cars he jumped out from. As I knew the second I saw him cross my path without even looking I hit him. He went down and I went down with him, even now my right wrist is in a brace and I wait to go in for an X-Ray. I asked him, bluntly, “Did you even look?” My response was a zombified moan, not a moan of pain so much as a moan of “God I am really high and have no clue what happened.” At that he got up and walked off without saying a single intelligible word.

I had to stop and do some road-side repairs but was soon back on my bike and got to my train on time, with minimal injury to myself or my personal effects (my Canon Rebel XT).

I tell this story for pedestrians, drives, and bicyclists alike to all learn from. As a pedestrian, if you are jaywalking into traffic the onus is on you to check and make sure it is safe. As a car or cyclist, you need to be looking out for pedestrians, even if they are not paying any attention at all; but sometimes there is no good option. Would it have been better for me to swerve into oncoming traffic and get killed myself? Our homeless man is very lucky I was only a bike going 20mph, not a car. As I mentioned in a previous post, cars are 4,000 pound death sledges; I would have flattened him had I been in a car, instead we were both able to walk/ride off. 

Please, be safe on the roads, no matter what transportation you use. A pedestrian breaking the law in the wrong place at the wrong time is as bad, maybe worse, than a car or a bike. We all only have one life.

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