Over the years, we have known people who have been injured, paralyzed even, and lost the lives of loved ones while biking. We are approaching the anniversary of a six year old’s death who would have turned 20 had an elderly driver not hit him on his bicycle with his dad. Yet, I’m always surprised when I hear about these accidents as recently as this week when a good friend was struck by a truck while on his bicycle. He will recover in time, but his injuries are profound, and to make matters worse, the person who struck him drove away. This did not take place in our community, but it easily could have given how many cyclists share the road with cars, trucks, and often irresponsible humans.
I continue to be baffled by families on bikes without helmets as well as ebikes on sidewalks. I reached out to one of the police dispatchers, also my friend JJ, only to learn that it was okay to ride one’s bike on the sidewalk, but walkers have the right of way. Ebikes on sidewalks just seem like a terrible idea given some of them go as fast as a scooter. Children up until age 16 are also supposed to wear helmets. Our local police stations always have bike helmets on hand to promote cycling safety in addition to preventing accidents. When I was eight, I took a spill on my bike, and we didn’t wear helmets in the 80s. I don’t remember so much about the accident itself (likely because I was concussed– we also didn’t go to the doctors back then) but I vividly remember my mom’s friend Kay who was a nurse picking gravel out of the side of my bloody blond braids. I remember my head being sore and sticky for days and my mom trying to keep me out of the water so the abrasion would heal. I was lucky.
I was also lucky today when, with only three miles left to go on my morning ride, a maroon SUV with VT plates choose a very stupid moment to pass me on the left as a semi truck was pulling out to go right. The man had been behind me for a little bit because I could hear that noise of an approaching car who slows down to wait until it is safe to pass a cyclist. I had enough time to notice the slowed car as well as the truck ahead whose driver looked left then right then left again before pulling his giant truck out onto the road. So that when his cab had to cross the yellow lines, THIS was the moment the man behind me chose to “thread the needle”, accelerate and push me off the road by sheer terror and loose gravel, and pass me by. The man in the cab of the truck slammed on his breaks thereby preventing a collision and likely my imminent death. Shaking, I was able to get off my bike without falling on the debris of the side of the road. I had colorful language and waved my fist in the air, but Mr. Maroon SUV was speeding away. Fortunately though, Mr. 18 Wheeler put his window down to check on me and make sure I was okay. “What an asshole,” we both agreed, and with a simple wave we were both on our wave.
Many teenagers do not wear helmets, despite it being the law, but I understand the police have far bigger areas to enforce as part of their job responsibilities. If your kid needs a helmet and you can’t afford one, please swing by the Police Department in either Lincoln or Woodstock. It’s never really about you or your kids’ cycling abilities; it is always about the idiots who make poor or distracted decisions while driving at speed which make a difference in how well someone may or may not recover from their injuries. When I see families on recreational rides or little kids learning to ride on cul de sacs, I try to educate on what places in town sell bike helmets. I do realize there are those who don’t wear them biking or skiing because they never have so why start now. Well, we didn’t grow up wearing helmets, but our kids have, and they are the only reasons I need to do my best to protect my melon and theirs. However, I would be lying if I wasn’t a little shaken up on the play after my mishap this morning. Keep riding your bikes! Share the road!