Close Encounters of the Leafy Kind

Your ears are like an extra pair of eyes when road cycling. You not only learn to audibly distinguish all kinds of approaching vehicles, but also their speed and proximity. It’s pretty uncanny how well your ears function as your rearview mirror, that is until today.

My normal 30 mile ride down Treeline takes me past the entrance to Southwest Florida International Airport, so not only do I experience road traffic sounds, but also the sound of low flying jets making their approach to RSW. The sound of  large turbofans overhead are easy to disregard and screen out leaving your focus on the normal vehicular traffic sounds, but today, while passing RSW I was absolutely startled by a sound that I can only describe as a mix between a jet engine and George Jetson’s spacecraft. Worst of all I couldn’t even tell where it was coming from.

As the sound became louder, I just tensed up and rode as close to the curb as possible, hoping I had cleared enough room for whatever was making the unearthly sound to pass me by. When to my surprise a diminutive odd shaped blue vehicle passed me by emitting the sound.

As it turns out, it was my first encounter with the new Nissan Leaf. Being an all electric car, it is virtually silent at lower speeds, much like a golf cart. This apparently worried engineers (more likely their legal department) as pedestrians may not notice a car was bearing down on them, so they created an artificial sound. Now you’d think they would have used familiar sounds like say a car engine noise, but instead they created a space-age sound that leaves you wondering if you should duck and cover, or just run.

I guess in retrospect, the sound does warn you something is approaching, but frankly your reaction will be more a “WTF is that” reaction vs a “car is coming” reaction. Don’t believe me? Just click on the video below.

Here are today’s numbers from this close encounter of the Japanese kind.

Route: Treeline
Activity: Cycle
Started: May 9, 2011 8:46:47 AM
Ride Time: 1:52:04
Stopped Time: 29:02
Distance: 30.18 miles
Average Speed: 16.16 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 49.15 miles/h
Ascent: 135 feet
Descent: 154 feet
Calories: 1749
Official: No

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