I was having an exceptionally great ride in beautiful Hunterdon County, NJ yesterday. As it was early afternoon on a weekday, traffic was exceptionally sparse making the already lightly traveled country roads in the area all that much more bicycle friendly.
I was heading south on County Rd 579 just north of Ringoes, NJ. I had just passed County Rd 609 (Rosemont-Ringoes Rd) as a large semi truck heading north was coming towards me. I could also hear that there was a vehicle coming up from behind. I held my line riding no more than 2 feet from the white fog line. Simultaneously as the semi truck passed, the vehicle from behind suddenly overtook me as significant speed. It was a black mid 1990's Chevy pickup. I don't know how I wasn't hit by the passenger review mirror as the Chevy passed me by a mere SIX INCHES!!!
I know for sure that it was only 6 inches because I smacked the back of pickup truck as it passed. Doing so my elbow barely extended before the back of my knuckles hit the sheet-metal of the side of the truck bed. I also remember my hand never got more than 10 inches away from the outside of my handlebars which also means that the truck must have missed my shoulder by no more than 6 inches.
View Larger Map Site of my near miss on County Rod 579 just north of Ringoes, NJ.
This was by far the closest NEAR MISS I've ever experienced in my 20 years and 50,000 miles of riding. But what is sadder even still was that this was the second of three scary close overtaking maneuvers that I would experience over 2 days of riding. On Tuesday I was passed dangerously close on Canal Road in Griggstown and later on Thursday I would be passed by about two feet on Amwell Road just west of Neshanic. In all three situations the driver of the overtaking vehicle decided it was his right to pass despite oncoming traffic making such maneuvers nothing less than reckless. Also in all three situations, traffic was very light and overtaking drivers could have safely passed me if they only slowed down and waited a few moments.
It is my opinion that dangerous passing maneuvers by overtaking drivers is the most serious threat to experienced cyclist and is something that should be address immediately by those at NJDOT and at the NJ Bike Ped Resource Center. There is very little that even an experienced cyclist can do and one cannot see the dangerous pass coming. Yes, as an experienced LCI, I know you could take the lane but that is Russian Roulette of another sort and takes an extremely high level of "fortitude" to stick one's 12mph derriere out in front of 2 tons of 50mph metal traffic. All that one can realistically do is hope and pray.
So what can be done on the state level? Well here are a two simple suggestions:
- Pass a New Jersey version of Pennsylvania's "4-foot Law" that also clarifies many aspects of how to properly and now legally pass a bicyclist.
- Start a message campaign on NJDOT variable message boards that inform drivers how to safely pass bicyclists in the vein of "Click it or Ticket" or "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaigns. Something like "Drive fair, Pass Bicyclists With Care." This would a nearly expense free way of quickly getting the message out. It should be followed up by a TV and radio PSA campaign by NJ Highway Traffic Safety.
Oh yeah! Regarding the driver of that six inch passing black Chevy pickup, despite "coming in contact with me" (my hand made a loud notable thud) the driver didn't even slow down.