First it was my collision with a blonde lady in an olive-green SUV. Then my son’s friend got hit by a black pick up one street away from the first accident. Today, a few blocks away from the other two accidents, my oldest son just got hit by a bus.
Obviously, everyone is okay or I’d be at the hospital instead of blogging. I’m amazed and grateful that somehow after three collisions we are all fine except for minor damage. I’m also appalled that in all three cases, including that which involved a school bus, the drivers left the scene. At least the school bus driver asked if my son was okay before he drove off leaving him stranded with a broken bike.
I ride ten miles a day on my bike and I have to dodge cars at least once a trip. I know three other people who choose bikes for transportation and they tell the same story. We have outfitted ourselves with special lights, neon vests, and stay on the sidewalks but careless drivers persist on not noticing us.
Besides battling drivers we have to watch for hazards on the sidewalks. My first major accident was because of some poorly repaired pavement in front of a Post Office. Along my path are barricades and signs advertising road work a mile away. Being attacked is a new problem as bikers are easy prey and the bikes can’t be retrieved by the police unless you have your VIN copied down… even if you know who took it.
The other morning I narrowly avoided being flipped off my bike by a large log that was obviously drug across the sidewalk on purpose as a trap. I saw it in the dark at the last second, hit my brakes and still collided hard enough to knock my chain off. If I’d collided full on I would have been flipped over my handlebars and landed on the concrete, stunned and helpless. Less than 10 feet away is an abandoned building where the homeless sit outside and drink. I can’t help but wonder if anyone was watching from the dark to see who would fall for the their trap.
Worried, friends are pushing us to get a vehicle so we can travel safer but I am starting to have a stubborn, angry feeling crop up in my chest. I choose to ride my bike so I can save money, get excercise and reduce our carbon footprint. I battle the heat, cold and rain to do this. I have bled on these sidewalks, gotten up and continued on my way. I have felt terror at shadows lurching across my path and once ran head on into a holly bush at 4 am. These things haven’t been able to discourage me.
Because we ride bikes we have been able to survive on my little paycheck. Because we ride bikes we are all getting fit. At 43 years old I just shed an entire dress size in a month and feel better than I ever have in my life. We are tan, healthy and have no fear of high gas prices. Even the recent season of torrential rains didn’t stop us. Because we ride bikes we have gotten closer as a family and my teenagers have learned independence and responsibility. Are we are supposed to give that up because of a few unobservant drivers?
I say instead of sinking more money into the streets for cars some money should be spent on establishing safe bike paths. The sidewalks where I live are plagued with broken pavement, potholes and debris. The bus system here is dismally limited or I would be glad to use it. There are more bikers than ever before as people choose to disengage from fuel dependence. Not all of us bike because we are poor. Some of us bike to avoid being poor.
Biking means less pollution and healthier, active citizens. Except for cars hitting us, biking means fewer accidents and emergencies. Biking reduces road rage incidents, traffic jams and makes for an interactive community that isn’t afraid to be outside. With an estimated 60% of the population reportedly obese, can we afford not to bike? If you can leave your car parked and bike more I urge you to.
Everyday I speed downhill over a bridge, racing gulls with the salty wind in my hair. At night the moon gleams across the waves and lonely little boat houses dot the darkness with their dim lights. During the day I dodge butterflies. Every ride is 45 minutes of peace and meditation. Stress melts away under my wheels. I’m feeling vital, lean and strong. Why would I ever want to give that up?
I agree with getting a small truck but I think we’ll continue to bike the majority of the time and there are many others thinking the same way. Cars are starting to stay parked as some of us are rediscovering the joy of freedom we first experienced as kids on our Huffys. Then it was the joy of mobility, freedom from our parents’ cars. Now we are free in a whole new way.
If the roads can’t accommodate us then it’s time to make the roads better. We have the right to be unmolested by either vehicles or thugs. We have the right to be healthy and free from dependence on oil. We have the right to bike.