Monday, August 08, 2011

Wake Up Call: Biking is Dangerous

A biker got killed in Chicago on Friday night. She slipped under a garbage truck and wasn’t able to get out fast enough. The driver didn’t see her.

I love riding my bike everywhere and wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the exercise and the freedom to get from point A to point B without having to wait for a train or bus or pay oodles of money for a cab. And even though I am one of the safest bikers I know — I always wear my helmet, have bright front and back lights, and anticipate that drivers won’t see me anyway so bike proactively — it’s still dangerous. This biker’s horrible death reminded me of that.

The following night, I was biking to meet up with friends and feeling a bit skiddish for obvious reasons. I was being extra special careful, and just as I was about to pull up to the bar, a cabbie suddenly pulled over and cut me off. Stuff like this happens all the time. If you’re paying attention, as I was, it’s not a big deal. He didn’t come close to hitting me, but that’s because I knew if I didn’t get out of the way, he would.

I was perfectly fine, but annoyed and angry. I’ve had much closer brushes with injury, but his lack of concern pissed me off. He’s a cabbie, I know. I can’t expect otherwise. But because of the recent death of the biker, I felt especially irked. Normally I would forget about something like this, but this time I decided to say something to the dude. Before he had a chance to zoom away, I walked up to him and said calmly, but sternly “Hey. You just cut me off. You can’t say you didn’t see me, because I know you did. I’m trying to be careful out here. You need to do the same.”

He said he was sorry. I said “Okay. Well it’s my life. And ‘I’m sorry’ won’t save it.”

I didn’t really feel better after giving the cabbie my two cents. Maybe he’ll be more careful for a few hours, but it’s his job to get places fast. He’ll forget. Also, he’s only one cabbie in a city of thousands. I’m not going to stop riding my bike, but I’ll do my best to be even more careful, if that’s even possible.

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