While we all know rain, painted lines and bicycles don’t mix, I found out the hard way on Sunday during a ride.
I’m not the most aware person, as Jobst Brandt once showed me on a ride up Page Mill Road. He said, “Watch out for the black ice.” Two seconds later I was down.
Jobst never let me forget that. So I probably had it coming when I fell on the paint lines on Tantau Avenue in Cupertino next to the fabulous new Apple headquarters under construction.
It was the perfect mix of wetness and bad luck as I moved left to enter a left turn lane at Pruneridge. Both wheels must have been on the bike lane as I looked back.
The bike went out from under me in an instant. Then I got a ride to the same hospital where Jobst once stayed after his fateful accident in 2011.
I won’t say the helmet saved my life, but you won’t see me riding without one. I’ve had too many incidents — broken cranks, slippery roads.
After checking the paint lines, I think they’re old enough to have been put down before better paint-grit combinations came along.
As for the green paint swathes, I think they’re safer when wet because they have grit in them, or they conform better to the pavement. They’re an issue in Australia though.
The slippery white lines were a problem in Portland, Oregon, and had to be re-striped.
Finally, if you’re seriously hurt by a white paint line, there’s always someone willing to represent you in court.
Follow-up: After talking with the eyewitness and carefully reviewing the scene of the accident, here’s what happened. I was riding southbound on Tantau in the bike lane prior to moving left to turn onto Pruneridge. At the location I was observed falling there are patches of green paint designating a bike lane. These have become worn from constant sweeping by a street sweeper assigned to keep dust down where the Apple campus is being built. The combination of light rain, dust and finely polished green paint made this surface an extreme hazard.
I reported the accident to the city of Cupertino via email and letter.
After this incident, I believe the green paint swathes constitute a hazard once they become worn. Not good.
Follow-up 2: I took my wheel and some water to test my theory about the slippery green paint. After testing, I found the issue to most likely be one of a slurry of mud accumulating on a white paint line, not green.
The green paint is a lot like sandpaper in consistency. Although it loses some traction when worn, it didn’t seem any worse than regular pavement.
However, the white lines definitely had less traction when wet, especially with a slurry of mud, which you can see below. A thin layer of mud is deadly for bike wheels. Because this street is in a construction area, there’s a lot of dust being generated. Sweeping helps, but there’s still a layer of fine dust.
I also tested some concrete next to the curb. Surprisingly, even when wet it seemed to have better traction compared to the white paint line. It may be that sweeper does a better job of removing dust from concrete compared to the white paint.
Conclusion: My front wheel went out from under me on a white “paint” section, not green, although I can’t say for sure since I don’t know the precise location.