Something Worse

What’s worse than being hollered at for pedaling on the street?  Not being seen at all.

Last night I was pedaling three blocks to a friend’s place.  I was stopped at a red light at the end of our block.  The sensor didn’t notice me so I was waiting for a car to come up behind me or for a break in traffic.

As I waited I watched a family leaving what I imagined to be their mother’s home after an early dinner.  They got into three cars and waved goodbye.  The third car headed my way then turned left onto my street.  Rather than turn into his right lane, he cut the corner and very nearly plowed into me (into the left hand lane for oncoming traffic).

I was standing over my bike.  Could not have moved fast enough.  For a moment I was sure he saw me.  It was broad daylight!  Then it was clear he didn’t see me.  I hollered “HEY!” as he was within 10 or 15 feet.  He heard me and swerved.  Phew!

His mother was standing in the drive and heard me shout.  She was looking right at me from half a block away.  She must have seen her, I’ll guess, son swerve to avoid running me down.  She turned and walked inside.  I was still there waiting for the light.  I pedaled to the corner and pushed the cross walk button, traffic stopped, and I pedaled the last two blocks to my friend’s place where I played two reasonably strong games of Scrabble (came in second in both).

I am very used to close passes and getting hollered at.  So common that I am not really afraid.  More frustrated, usually.  It is rare that I feel seriously threatened. Last night was one of those times.  I am 100% sure that if I hadn’t yelled I would have been hit.  He was going slow.  Maybe 10 or 15 mph.  I probably would have been ok (assuming he stopped as soon as he hit me rather than continuing over me).

I am glad I was watching out.  Folks in cars often check their phones at lights.  I learned in motorcycle safety classes to sit with the bike in gear and to be looking all directions including behind.  I do that when I pedal.  My helmet mirror really helps.

I wonder what impact the near collision had on the driver?  How about his mom? Will it ever be mentioned again?  Will he be more careful in the future?

I am now, for a time anyway, more scared to do something that in theory could be a wonderful and relaxing way to move around the city.  I’ll still do it.  I’ll be even more vigilant.  But I can’t help but think there may come a time when I grow tired of assuming the risk presented by inattentive motorists.

I really believe in bicycles.  They’re good for me.  They’re good for everyone. Imagine half the cars on any street being replaced by bicycles.  Quiet.  The air smells better.  You can say hi to travelers and they’ll hear you–maybe say hi back. Every outing a little more like a Sunday morning.  Seems nice to me, anyway.

We can do this.  All it takes is that we all watch out.  As we should even if no one walked or biked.  That’s the thing–I don’t expect special treatment.  I don’t need special lanes.  I just ask that you really look when you motor.  No auto pilot.  No texting.  No drinking.  Driving is serious business.  Imagine how the mom would have felt to watch her son drive over me.  Imagine the son.  A nice dinner.  Headed home.  Then you kill someone.  Serious stuff.

Too heavy?  I hope this makes you laugh as much as it did I.

Over and out.

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10 responses to “Something Worse

  1. lougriefburg@gmail.com

    in this context, that guy on the unicycle with the bagpipes and darth vader helmet seems highly pragmatic. i look forward to seeing how you learn from his example.

  2. The unpleasantness has already driven me off my bike for the most part. Motorized bikes, scooters and motorcycles as well. I am to the point where I hesitate to even get into the car, the anxiety and fear is just not worth it. I am dismayed by the lack of concern about the carnage on our roads. After every firearm tragedy there is a call for more gun laws. Ex mayor Bloomberg is spending $50 million to curb gun violence. Even though there are many more dead and maimed on our roads, no call for legislation, no lobby, no concern publicly voiced. “But, I NEED my car” People feel that their need to drive outweighs others right to live. As long as the prevailing view is that driving is a right, and that responsibility belongs to someone else, we are stuck here, and it will only get worse.

    • Thanks for taking the time to write. You are not alone. All I can count on is my ability to get out of the way and as I have more close calls I begin to doubt even that. I’m not ready to hang it up but I don’t doubt for a second you’ve made the right choice for you and those that count on you. I hope the world changes in a way that will allow us all a few more carefree rides, but I am not holding my breath. Quite the opposite. Deep breathes! Take care.

  3. I also feel your same anxiety and concerns when biking about town. I want to be able to bike all over town and am always hyper-alert when doing so (which is draining in its own unique way). I’ve had two family members hit by cars while biking (one a minor parking lot bump, but another similar to your situation where the driver didn’t see the biker). I agree that this needs to be a cultural shift and more drivers need to be cautious. I’ve had so many near misses with CDTA buses of all things.

    • Thanks for writing! Sorry to hear about your family members. That’s terribly unfortunate. Also sorry to hear about your anxiety. Shouldn’t have to be that way, but in the end it probably helps keep you safe. I’ve also had many problems with CDTA busses. I’ve contacted the CDTA and they once sent a manager to my house to assure me they cared and would take steps to address the problems (generally close passes). That it still happens to you and I could, charitably, be chalked up to new drivers who’ve missed the memos that were sent around when I raised the flag. That, or some bus drivers are just careless and/or mean. I’d encourage you to reach out to the CDTA with your concerns, too. It couldn’t hurt. Thanks again for writing. Don’t give up pedaling but be safe!

  4. I’m more surprised that you just sat there at the light knowing that the sensor didn’t pick up on you… waiting… and waiting… as if your good behavior was going to be rewarded by anything other than the furrowed brow of the driver who would inevitably come up behind you and trigger it, yet have to wait on you. I know the law says to obey all traffic laws, but I’d rather risk the ticket and cross when I feel it’s the safest (no cars) vs. waiting for the intersection to fill up with cars. All of that aside, I’m glad things didn’t amount to anything more than a scare.

    • Thanks for writing. Unfortunately, I don’t know when sensors pick me up. If a car has recently tripped it, my tripping it soon thereafter will not immediately change the light. Also, I think drivers understand why I am stopped at a red light and they won’t get mad at me for doing so. Finally, sometimes when pedaling and sensors don’t pick me up I do go through red lights–if the way is clear. Western can be very busy and it was on this occasion, so I couldn’t go without the help of the light. Thanks again for writing! Be well.

  5. I have to admit that on certain streets like Delaware Avenue, I hop on the side walk and often go out of my way and pedal on the side streets to avoid scary road situations. I understand that riding on the sidewalk is illegal and dangerous for a number of reasons, but sometimes it’s safer even if just for a moment or two.

    • Hello! I’ll bet so long as you know riding on the sidewalk has its own set of risks and watch out for them you’ll do ok. Whatever it takes. Just keep at it and watch like crazy. Thanks for stopping by!

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