Saturday, January 03, 2015

Bicycle v Car

Much has been written about the Episcopal cleric who struck a cyclist in her car this week.  I don’t know the facts about that case, and we probably won’t know about them for a while.  But I can say this for myself.
I’m a cyclist.  I love riding my bicycle.  I am fortunate to live near the Katy Trail, where I can ride on a trail and have very little interaction with four-wheeled vehicles. 
I also live just 1.5 miles from my office.  I could ride my bicycle to work, but I don’t.  Because there are very steep hills, on which I could easily gather up a great deal of speed … and I would be sharing those streets with 4-wheeled vehicles that are equipped with seat belts, air bags, side curtains, and hundreds of pounds of metal.  As a cyclist, I am protected by nothing more than a little helmet. Frankly, I am afraid to ride on the streets. 
As a cyclist who is also a driver, I am very attentive to cyclists. I give them the right of way. When I pass them, I give them a wide berth, for I know that a cyclist feels closer to a car than the car driver does to the cyclist.
In short, I think of myself as a very bicycle-friendly car driver.
Last week, I was driving my car out of an alley onto the street.  As is usual, I looked left and right, then left and right again, to be sure no cars were coming.   I pulled out, believing it safe to do so.  To my horror, as I pulled out, I saw a cyclist falling on the sidewalk to my right.  I hadn't even seen him!  He was so small on the sidewalk, when I was looking for cars on the street. Despite what I thought was my careful look, I had utterly failed to see him cycling down the sidewalk.  I immediately stopped, rolled down my window, shouted my apologies, then shouted my concern as to whether he was ok.  He was.  He had managed to stop before striking my car and before hitting the ground.  I hope he heard the concern and grief in my voice.
I was utterly shaken.  After getting out of the car and being sure he really was ok, I proceeded on.  But not easily.  And not without anxiety about “What if …?”  I could so easily have injured him had our paths been just a couple of seconds different.  Cars are so big and so easily seen.  Cyclists are so small and not so easily seen … even for someone like me, who cares for cyclists.  
Please, let’s be careful out there.