Riding into Szentendre yesterday morning, I got broadsided by a motorist who didn't bother to look before coming out of a grocery store parking lot. It had been just over a year since I was hit by a truck on the same morning commute, that accident also a result of the driver not looking before accelerating out of a parking lot.
I was riding north on Route 11, the main road into town, and, as is my preference, on the carriageway rather than the broken-up sidewalk, which is what passes as the designated bike route here. I was on the right edge of the curb lane going an estimated 28 kph, and was passing by the north entrance to the Lidl market parking lot. A compact car exiting the lot was waiting to turn right into my lane. If the car had waited as expected, I would have passed 2-3 metres by its front bumper. But at the last instant, I could sense in peripheral vision that it was accelerating right into me. It hit the rear of the bike, knocking it out from under me while I tumbled to the pavement. The bike was sent scraping across the pavement about 10 metres away into the middle of the next lane.
I got myself up and turned toward the motorist, who had already pulled to the curb and was out of the car. I was so stunned by what had happened -- there was nothing to explain it. It was broad daylight, and there are no visual obstructions at that entrance, nothing but clear sightlines hundreds of metres in both directions. I held up my hands, as if to say, "WHAT ... THE ... FUCK!!!?"
I wanted to rip someone's head off. However, the driver -- a women in her late 50s -- appeared more shaken than I was. She asked if I was hurt, should she call a doctor? I told her I wasn't hurt -- just scraped up. I said we were both lucky and asked why she didn't look before she came out of the lot. She said she didn't see me ("Nem latom!"). And then she broke down into convulsions of tears. I ended up having to console her -- although I didn't go so far as to tell her it's alright. It's not alright to drive a 2,000 kg vehicle without watching where you're going.
This morning, as some deeper aches and pains are coming to bloom beneath the scrapes, I'm struggling to draw useful lessons from the incident. When I was last hit, I was on a separate bike path next to the road and I drew some lessons from the incident, one being that when motorists are turning onto a road, they pay more attention to traffic on the carriageway proper than they do to the sidewalks and bike paths.
But in this latest collision, I WAS on the road. The driver simply didn't look before she turned.
Not to excuse this driver, but a general problem in Szentendre is that very few bicyclists are on the roads. And when drivers aren't used to looking for cyclists, they tend to miss them.
Just the day before my accident, I was cc'd on a citizen's complaint about the poor cycling facility along Route 11 within Szentendre. What's needed, the writer said, is an allowance for cyclists to ride on the carriageway.
The official response -- from the Magyar Közút Zrt. -- was that Route 11 is being used to its capacity, that cyclists would cause an unacceptable "interruption of traffic flow" and that, anyway, "parallel cycling infrastructure exists".
Well, the "infrastructure" that exists is a sidewalk, nothing that was created specifically for cyclists. Not only is this "bike path" unsuitable in its conception, it's in horrible disrepair: badly broken up on some segments, riven with cracks elsewhere and merely a mud track in others.
The only known way to improve safety conditions for cyclists is to increase the levels of cycling. This happens not by shunting them off onto dirt paths, but by prioritising them on city streets and giving them all due consideration for their safety. On the five-lane-wide Route 11, this is easily achievable. The only obstacle is political will.
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