It has happened to me twice in the past week and I don't like it. Bike riding is supposed to be fun, especially on small, low-traffic roads where you can enjoy the scenery and not have to worry about sharing the road with 3,000 pounds of metal. (BTW, I just saw a piece on Nova which reported that the weight of an average car has increased from 2,000 to 3,000 pounds over the past 25 years. Ouch. That's not very good odds when you are riding a sub 20-pound bike.)
But I digress. When I say that "Coasting Can Be Dangerous" I am not referring to the new line of bikes being produced by Shimano and others. What I am talking about is the totally illegal practice of turning off the engine in your car and coasting down the hill. As gas prices break through the $4.00/gallon barrier with no end in sight, it seems that some drivers are using what can only be called "guerrilla conservation practices" to save on gas. Did it ever occur to drivers to get a more fuel-efficient car or to use their automobile more efficiently by planning their trips out? Hey, what about using a bicycle to accomplish some simple errands?
To survive as cyclists, we have to have our antennae out. We need to be attentive to the sounds of approaching vehicles, especially on roads where cyclists must share the same space on the roadways as cars because there are no bike lanes or wide shoulders. When car drivers turn off their engines and coast down the hills here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, not only are they breaking the law but they are also putting me in danger. A lot of the best climbs here in the Silicon Valley like Old La Honda Road and Tunitas Creek are narrow enough that there is no center line and cars and cyclists must share the road.
And what about hybrids? It turns out that this is also a problem for pedestrians who have been hit stepping off of curbs because they didn't hear a car and so didn't feel the need to look first. Yikes. Who would have thought that going green would have such an adverse side effect. Be careful. It's a jungle out there.