I almost got hit (again) recently.
Two weeks after moving to Boulder, a driver took a right turn over a two-way separated walking and biking path and into me. The impact knocked me off my bike, onto and over the hood of the car and onto the ground. My shifter broke off into my leg, I broke a finger, and ended up getting stitches in my right leg. I was sore and bruised for weeks. It could’ve been worse is what I always say when people ask about that day. But then, it shouldn’t have happened at all.
^^^ My friend gave a friendly ‘Jersey wave’ to the distracted driver. It made my day.
This second incident was all too similar to the first. A distracted driver was turning right, not paying attention to other cars or cyclists as she merged without caution or hesitation into traffic and my right side. My friend was further up the road and avoided the car. In a moment of sheer panic, I screamed, but she didn’t stop and didn’t hear me. It’s all I could do—it’s all any cyclist can do when a 3,000-lb. vehicle is barreling toward him or her. Terror surged through my body and my heart pounded through my jersey. The world moves in slow motion. Time nearly stops until the driver notices…or doesn’t.
I wasn’t hit this second time, but I could’ve been like so many have recently. Colorado. California. New York. Seventeen cyclists have been killed in New York already this year, which is up from 10 for all of 2018. And we’re only in August. (source) Mid-July, two cyclists were hit and one was killed while riding in a bike lane in San Jose. “Traffic laws say the driver should have yielded to all traffic.” (source) More recently, a woman and mother was hit and killed by a driver while riding near Denver Country Club. She was riding in a designated bike lane when he hit her going only 20 mph. (source) And finally, but not finally because unfortunately there are more and will always be more, a local Boulder rider was left for dead here in Colorado after a hit and run. The cyclist was taken to the ICU thanks to a driver who called 911 when he noticed the rider’s crumpled up body on the side of the road. (source)
What do we do? More partitioned bike lanes are proposed in New York and Critical Mass rides are happening in Denver as a pseudo peaceful protest slash memorial for lives lost. (source) But will that make drivers more aware? Will that encourage them to put down their phones and pay attention to the road and the bike lanes? Maybe for a little while. But maybe not forever.
Before a group ride one weekend, one of my riding friends gave me a great piece of advice. He told me to ride like every car is trying to kill me when I’m on the road. I make sure to do what I can to stay safe, obey traffic laws, and make myself visible.
There’s only so much I can do as a cyclist to stay safe because some drivers just downright hate cyclists and they want us to know it through reckless driving and threatening language. They don’t believe they should have to share the road and that we’re making ourselves unsafe by simply being there. I hate those drivers, but they’re not going anywhere. They’re here, they’re the most vocal, and they’re the reason I take certain precautions like:
- Wearing bright, high-vis clothing
- Bringing ID with me even on short rides
- Using hand signals, always
- Riding with friends when I can
- Sharing my location with family
- Bringing lights if I’m riding in the evening
- Using one headphone if I listen to music
The recent rise in cyclist deaths is upsetting and confusing. I hope more separated bike lanes in busier metropolitan areas prevent accidents. I hope drivers educate themselves on cyclists’ privileges while on the road. (This is sometimes the reason drivers get angry at cyclists—they aren’t aware of what cyclists can and cannot do while riding. They’re often wrong when they think they’re right.) I hope cyclists take the initiative to obey the rules and ride cautiously and intelligently in traffic.
I hope this makes anyone who reads this more aware.