Bike Commuting Hazards – Road Debris You Can’t Forget


Last year it was coat hangers. Five of them distributed across the bike lane in the middle of an awkward 3-way intersection. Perhaps they were laid there by some disgruntled dry cleaner or the person who jettisoned an assortment of blue children’s bathing suits a mile or two up the road. The hangers sat there for months defying street sweepers and car tires to move them.

I started to wonder if they were being replaced and repositioned each night just to add another obstacle to the daily commute’s challenge of nails, sheet metal screws, pull hooks, pins, nuts, bolts, bungee cords, broken glass, batteries, assorted plastic cutlery and the occasional left shoe. (why left, always left?)

Call them the occupational hazards of the professional bicycle commuter. You watch the road and stay sharp or the sharp bits get you sooner or later. I’ll tempt fate by saying that since having a bad stretch this summer, I’ve gone three months and 1500 miles since the last flat. The breakaway will get caught tomorrow morning then, guaranteed.

Of course, it’s always the bullet you don’t see that kills you. I’m reminded of that famous line by all the stuff that crackles, pops and pings beneath our tires, sight unseen. My favorites are the gunshots that go off sending projectiles sideways into passing cars (never react), unsuspecting friends or once, spectacularly, hitting the front window of a house 30 feet away.

Stranger still is the invisible but audible debris you trigger several days running. Given the width of a road tire that wouldn’t seem possible, but mystically it is. I guess my line of travel is just that precise. It’s that confounding precision you experience after repeatedly running over the same sunken drain camouflaged in the shadows of a tree-lined street. And don’t get me started about the blue lizard sunning himself in the road on Mondays and Tuesdays.

You tell that to the young people of today, and they won’t believe you.

2 Responses to Bike Commuting Hazards – Road Debris You Can’t Forget

  1. BR says:

    In my commute I pass through one particular neighborhood that is exclusively inhabited by immigrants. This area is home to many authentic shops, street vendors, a red 61 Impala ragtop that I would love to own, gardeners, a gang, skaters, domestics, and a Chihuahua mix that fears nothing. Several times over the Summer I also encountered a pair of roosters walking in the middle of the road. One time there were several young boys in the street trying to coral this bird back home. Weeks later I coaxed the birds out of the street much to the amusement of the same 4-5 boys that probably owned these birds. Unfortunately one morning I made the left from Willow to Palm and there lay one of the cocks – flattened. I was struck by the colors of his feathers and how much I was going to miss him and his side kick which was nowhere to be seen. I immediately suspected the Chihuahua.

  2. DPowell says:

    The strange things you run over… I once “ran over” a frat boy who wandered too far from his front porch while trying to retrieve his wooden, toy wind-up plane from traffic. Unaware that I was approaching in the bike lane, he back stepped into my line of travel, and THWAP, I ran over him. He on the ground – me 3 or four feet in arrays, but still upright and pedaling.
    ….never seen a blue lizard in the wild…