I got hit by a car while riding my bike yesterday, but before I get into those details let me start by saying that I love being on my bike. The sound of two wheels spinning beneath me. Wind sweeping around my body. Blood flowing, heart pounding, the sights, sounds, and smells of mountain air, pine, farmlands, and pavement. Yes, even pavement has a distinct smell. Cycling makes the senses really come alive, as though you are part of the land, living, feeling, breathing it, and not just passing by from the comfort (and safety) of a car.
Just like people find joy in art, music, and various hobbies, I, like many others, find joy in being on my bike. But that doesn’t come without risk. Every time I get on my bike, I am putting myself at risk and making myself vulnerable to my surroundings. It doesn’t matter how skilled or defensive I might be – when you are at the mercy of others, you can only do so much to secure your own safety.
I am writing this post with a lot of emotion and reflection, so bear with me if I seem a little sensitive and upset. Something inside of me just felt as though these words need to be shared, if anything to bring more awareness to both drivers and cyclists as we attempt to coexist on the same pavement.
Two weeks ago I started a blog post sharing my thoughts regarding a scary incident I had while out on my bike. During one of my solo training rides a driver in a white van intentionally approached me at a slow speed, crossed over into the bike lane, got uncomfortably close to me, and then proceeded to speed up quickly leaving a cloud of exhaust and loud rumble in my path. The act was completely senseless and uncalled for, and for the first time in a while I was filled with trepidation while on my bike.
Although I did not share the experience with anyone at the time, I was upset over the situation. It was too close for comfort and I felt like my space and my safety had been violated. Instead of letting everything stew inside me, I started writing some thoughts regarding the complete disregard with which some motorists treat cyclists.
Too often in our circles of friends, on social media, or in the news we hear about cyclists getting injured or even killed by drivers not paying attention or not obeying the rules of the road. While I have always been mindful of my surroundings, the incident with the white van left an unpleasant feeling in me, and a fear that I could become a victim some day.
That fear became reality yesterday when I was hit by a car. The driver was a female teenager who made (and was ultimately cited for) a dangerous left turn as I was approaching an intersection from the opposite direction and had the right away. She turned into me fast and hard, hit me from my left side, causing me to land on the hood of her car, roll up the windshield, and land hard on the pavement. My bike was a broken mess. And my head was saved by my helmet. Helmets save lives, people!
As I lay on the pavement, a few other passing motorists rushed to my side. Coincidentally, these people were cyclists as well and knew how to take care of me and ease my mind before the paramedics and police arrived. I felt comforted and protected knowing that these people could relate to me. My coach’s wife was among them, and covered me with her coat as I lay shivering on the ground. One of the witnesses had to explain to the driver why she was in the wrong, which makes me wonder how many other drivers out there are naïve, clueless, or just plain ignorant about sharing the road with cyclists. As the cycling community grows larger, perhaps the education offered to drivers should expand with it.
I was taken to the hospital where I received treatment for road rash and bruising. After the shock faded and adrenaline wore off, my body was examined for internal damage and broken bones. The x-rays came back negative and somehow I managed to walk away from the emergency room with only minor injuries. It should have been a lot worse. Someone was looking out for me… and my family.
The outpouring of support from friends, family, and fellow cyclists in the past 24 hours has reaffirmed my love for this sport and for the community of cyclists I am proud to be part of.
As a cyclist, I try to be very cognizant of the vehicles around me and show respect when a driver acknowledges me on the road. Whether it’s a wave when they drive by and give me extra room for comfort, or a smile when they take the time to wait for me to pass through an intersection. To me, I am just reinforcing those proactive behaviors drivers take to show respect to cyclists. When I am on the other side of the equation as a motorist, I try to act in the same manner and treat cyclists with the respect and equality they deserve. While I don’t believe my accident was anything more than that – an accident – too often I have seen firsthand or heard of drivers acting with malicious intent toward cyclists.
It makes me sad and angry that any motorist would feel the need to threaten or instill fear in cyclists. I witness this all the time during my rides. There is no logical reason, in my mind, for the honking, throwing the middle finger, engine revving, exhaust blast, and reckless swerving, other than to exhibit your own hatred and disrespect for other human beings. In my opinion, this type of behavior is nothing less than another form of road rage and bullying and has no place in an otherwise civilized society.
I’m sure there are drivers that have had a bad encounter or two with a cyclist not obeying the rules of the road, such as riding outside of the bike lane when one exists, riding three abreast on a narrow shoulder, etc. But the actions of a few should not dictate how all cyclists are treated. Some of the most amazing people I know spend hours each week riding their bikes, and do so in a safe, law abiding manner. A cyclist has just as much right to the road as one who is driving a car. Their life is no less important than the life of a passenger in a vehicle. These cyclists are my friends. These cyclists are like family.
Just like drivers maintain a sense of anonymity inside their vehicles, cyclists have a sense of anonymity hidden by their kits, helmets, and sunglasses. But behind all of that clothing and protection is a human being. That is someone’s wife, husband, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, or best friend. It might be your family doctor, the waiter at your favorite restaurant, the person who delivers your mail, or a teacher to your children. And most of them, unfortunately, have a similar story as mine about a close call with a vehicle, an encounter with an angry motorist, or an outright collision with a car or truck.
Life is precious and we should all get to enjoy doing the things we love without fear for our safety or of how we will be treated by others. If this post even reaches one person that has a negative stigma toward cyclists, and makes him or her rethink the actions he or she takes while driving, then my voice has been heard.
My story is one of miracles. I can’t say the same for many others. Please, be courteous toward others, respectful of human life, aware of your surroundings, and patient behind the wheel. And above all, share the road.