Friday, October 11, 2013

An Open Letter To The Woman Who Nearly Killed Me Last Night


I spent most of yesterday like usual: slaving away in front of my Mac, deadlines approaching faster than the words were appearing on the computer screen. Needing a break to clear my head, I hopped on my bike and headed east for a short ride.

Minutes later, I’m pedaling down 500 North, preparing to cross onto one of my shorter training routes. As I approach the turn, I hear the familiar growl of a gas engine approaching rapidly from behind. A quick glance over the shoulder, I spy your silver minivan … but there’s still plenty of room between us. I extend my left arm for several seconds and prepare to make my turn.

I’ve been cycling for the better part of a decade now, but in all those years, no one has ever done what you did at that moment. After I’ve signaled my upcoming turn, you gun the motor to pass me. By the time my left hand returns to my handlebars, your minivan is in the opposite lane of traffic about parallel to my rear wheel, and I’m none the wiser. As I begin to lean into the turn, I see a flash of silver in my peripheral vision. I barely have time to jerk the wheel back to the right, feeling the woosh of your passenger-side mirror as it misses my head by mere inches. You -- big sunglasses, blondish hair cut in a bob, just above your shoulders – look at me for the briefest of moments, then speed on down the road. I pull over to the side of the road, shaken.

I wish I could have seen your eyes sans sunglasses as you passed. What would your expression have been? Fear? Shock? Anger? Hatred? Regret? Or, worst of all, apathy? Do you know how close you came to actually killing me?

For a moment, I think about sprinting after you to get your license plate number or perhaps confront you for your nearly deadly decision, but you’re already too far down the road. I wish we could have had a conversation. I’d love to know why were you in such a rush. Was the three seconds you saved worth risking my life and potentially ruining yours? Have you done this before to other riders? Will you do it again?

While I’m thankful I managed to avoid being splattered across your windshield like a much larger, lycra-clad bug, I fear for the next cyclist who crosses your path. Every time I go out for a ride, I realize it can easily be my last. As a cyclist, I’m in a particularly vulnerable position out on the road. I have friends who’ve been hit by inattentive or angry drivers before, but luckily no one close to me has ever been killed on a bike. I hope to never know that feeling, or worse yet, have my friends and family mourning me.

You might be asking yourself why I ride, knowing the potential hazards. I ride because it keeps me healthy, mentally and physically. I ride because even though I know you’re out there, I refuse to live in fear.

I hope that our encounter scared you as much as it did me. Maybe the next time we see each other, it won’t be as close.

2 comments:

  1. Sadly, this is why I don't ride to work. It's a ten mile ride, mostly on bike paths and bike lanes, so it'd be very doable. But the inattention of drivers on the road (even if I were in a bike lane) is terrifying to me.

    It's also why I hated my husband's motorcycle. Inattention is a killer and I see far too much of it.

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  2. I share your frustration, but I guess I always try to remind myself of two or three things - first, I know that bicycling is still safer than so many things people do all the time, including driving; second, I'd rather be an advocate for sharing the road (and a dozen other Don Quixote -esque causes) than surrender to the takers; third, maybe most of all, there is real joy in riding my bike, and so many things that bring joy also come with real risk. I'm really glad your peripheral vision saved the day and that you kept, and keep, riding.

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