My wife was nearly taken out the other day by a driver who saw her but still buzzed her at speed. She was visible, she was in the bike lane, she was well within the speed limit – basically doing everything she should have been doing. This was a sad reminder that what happens out on the open road isn’t always in our hands – but damn it, that still isn’t going to keep me from riding.
All sorts of emotions went through my head when she recounted the story upon arriving back home, still visibly shaken. At first, I was mostly relieved that while she almost got hit, she didn’t actually get hit. But the more I thought about it, that sense of relief was wholly replaced by anger – rage, even. That someone could be so callous as to essentially threaten someone else’s life while sitting safely behind the shield of a steering wheel was simply beyond comprehension. She wasn’t just almost hit – she could have been killed, leaving me without my beloved wife and our daughter without a mother.
That dust thankfully settled after a bit and in its place came a lot of thinking about the pitfalls of bikes and automobiles co-existing.
Road safety is a topic I’ve devoted plenty of personal attention to over the years; sharing real estate with much bigger, faster, and heavier objects tends to have that effect on you. While some may find the concept to be fatally flawed, I still firmly believe in stacking the deck as much in our favor as possible by being visible, predictable, respectful, courteous, and – most importantly – unyieldingly vigilant in preserving your own well-being.
There are lots of things you can control while riding on the road but unfortunately, the behavior of the drivers around you is not one of them:
Clear lines of sight, generous shoulders, and good pavement should be the makings of a safe day on the road but unfortunately, there are no guarantees
Try as I might, though, this incident serves as a stark reminder that I can’t control what happens around me and as uncomfortable as it sounds, that we’re all ultimately at the mercy of others.
Given such a dire reality, it’d be all too easy to hang up the cleats, stay off the road altogether, and simply not pull up a chair to the table instead of rolling the dice and hoping that Lady Luck is on my side that day. But much as I relish long days in the woods on a mountain bike, I do still love riding on the road and I have to remind myself that the vast majority of my interactions with drivers have been overwhelmingly positive. It’s only a handful of nutjobs that are actually out to do harm.
I’m incredibly thankful that after 25 years on the road – knock on wood – I haven’t been hit. I’d be naïve in saying that those years haven’t hardened me somewhat, though. Other friends haven’t been so fortunate; some have been killed.
That said, the one thing I refuse to do is let any of this take away from my love of being on my bike. I’m aware, but I’m not fearful. And while I’m steadfastly conscious of the horrible possibilities, I won’t let them drown out all of the good stuff – and neither should you.
See you all out there.