It was 0-dark-thirty (5:30 a.m.) this morning as I just finished opening the hangar and turning on the coffee pots for the EAA pancake breakfast. As I drove along the airport service road putting up the breakfast signs, I saw lots of strange bright lights on the race track but no roar of any engines. It was an incredible number of bicycles racing along the track and they were moving right along. It was impressive.
About an hour or so later I had to make a run into town to pick up some extra blueberries for the pancakes. On my way back, the gaggle of bikes was now headed west on Kenilworth as I was headed east. I had a clear lane and saw many different types of bikes and riders whizzing by in the opposite direction. One bike caught my eye. It looked like a short little yellow and white torpedo, not more than 15 inches high and small window slits for what I hoped was a person inside. It looked like something that could have been on the Bonneville Salt Flats for a record speed run. Little did I know that later, the yellow torpedo would make my day very interesting and my heart rate hit some new levels.
Before I go any further, please understand I’m all in favor of having the bike event in our city. Most of us are used to seeing them and take it in stride to slow down, give them room and share the road. As drivers, we do our part. There needs to be more.
The breakfast is done and I am on my way home going west on Kenilworth. There is a steady stream of bikes headed east back to the track. I must now be aware of a car passing a rider and moving into my lane. This is normal, almost.
Approaching the first major road joining Kenilworth from the south, I’m traveling just under the speed limit and a car coming east is doing the same. Just as we get to the intersection here comes the yellow torpedo from the road to the south without slowing or stopping and pulls out in front of the other car. The other car has a choice to run over the torpedo or swerve into my lane. Now facing the other car head-on, I’m forced off the road.
My flight training has trained me to always anticipate the “What if?” I saw the yellow torpedo approaching the intersection and it was not slowing. I knew something bad was about to happen. As the yellow torpedo moved into the east-bound lane, I knew I was going to be off the road in a few seconds or be a statistic. You know the one that says it is more dangerous going to and from the airport than flying on a plane.
My situational awareness (SA) saved my butt. As a pilot, you develop “SA” over time to where you really don’t think about it, it just is how you look at the world around you. It has been said many times, there is nothing inside the aircraft that will hurt you, but things outside can. On the ground, there are things inside the car that can hurt you, such as cell phones and texting while driving. That is a topic for another day.
This incident could have been a tragedy if either of the cars did not react quickly enough. What should have happened,is the yellow torpedo should have stopped or slowed enough so as not to bolt out in front of oncoming traffic. Having a police car with flashing lights and an officer stationed at this significant intersection would be another solution. Putting up a big sign saying “Bike Race Today” is not enough.
So, all is well, and as you read this, five days have passed, and my heart rate is normal. I’m writing this only an hour or so after arriving home. It was not hard to identify a topic for this week’s column and noting some of the recent discussions going on about bikes sharing the roadways.
Tomorrow is a “project day” at the EAA hangar as we get organized for the AirCam build. We start at 9 a.m. and go to noon with a cookout lunch. All are welcome to help. Let me know if you are coming so we have enough food for lunch (email@example.com 273-0522).
Next month in addition to the pancake breakfast on March 11, we will be conducting Young Eagle flights for youth 8 to 17 years of age. Come and join the fun!