Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Share the Levee is a Two-Way Street, Too

The weather was perfect for a ride Tuesday morning: 62° with a mild breeze out of the west. I went by Rich's house and rode out to Jefferson Playground with him. As we climbed the levee at Shrewsbury Ct., Rich announced for the record that only four vehicles had passed us on River Road. When we arrived at the start, we found the parking lot fairly full. About a dozen riders were in attendance with the notable absence of certain regulars, including HL and Ray.

Approaching Florida St. in Kenner.

It was a nice steady ride with everyone staying in the rotation all the way to Ormond and back toward town, right up to the point where the life of Brian B. (not MD), what little I know of it, flashed before my eyes.

Just east of the Big Dip, Brian went to the front and increased the pace to 27 mph. Our numbers had swelled to about 20 by that time with the additions of Movie Star Dave, the River Parishes Gang, and the Big Dude and his compatriots. Brian stayed on the front for a couple of miles. Pat F. was in second position and I was on Pat's wheel. As we approached the driveway bordering the upriver side of the gravel and sand facility in St. Rose, a dump truck sprang into view as it accelerated up the levee. Pat and I braked and began screaming, "TRUCK, TRUCK!" I could hear brakes locking up behind me, but saw Brian continuing apace toward the huge truck which was now topping the levee just 30 feet in front of us. I was certain Brian was gong to be hit. At the last second Brian braked and laid his bike down, literally at the edge of the driveway. During all the braking I heard the loud pop of a tire blowing. CA Rick had locked-up his rear wheel and wore a thumb-sized hole through his tire, tuffy, and tube.

While Rich and Randy performed multiple surgeries on Rick's tire, trying to fashion some sort of wrap-around boot from a cut section of tube 1, there was a rehashing of the incident by several of us with the truck driver and his supervisor, who had driven up from somewhere in the gravel yard.

Randy and Big Rich improvising a solution.

Truck driver offers his version to his supervisor.
The Big Dude reconsiders the wisdom of jumping onto our group as it passes him.
People who had to get to work began trickling off downriver, and once the jerry-rigged tire held enough air for Rick to limp home on, the group proceeded back toward town in several pieces. Randy rode with Rick, while Rich, Brian and I softed it a few hundred meters in front of them until we saw they had made it around the bend at the country club.

As for the discussions with the driver and his supervisor, no firm conclusions were reached, but it was clear from their rather conciliatory post-incident behavior (the driver offering to take Rick's bike to the playground in his dump truck) they knew the truck should have yielded in the circumstances.

We were not fault-free, however, since the access road is constructed in a way that makes it just as hard for cyclists approaching the intersection from the west to see trucks as it is for trucks to see cyclists on the upriver side. We should always slow or at least be extra vigilant when coming to that driveway, and certainly should have slowed Tuesday morning much sooner when we did see a truck on it. It's apparent, like share-the-road, share-the-levee is a two-way street.

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1. Randy's photo of the fix. Click on image for full-sized version:

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