Thursday, September 30, 2010

The danger is real

Hey. I don't mean to be a Debby Downer, or since I'm a male I guess that would make me David Downer, but I was reminded last night that we as bicycle commuters usually only get one vehicle/bicycle collision in our lives. Don't worry. I think it's obvious I wasn't in a vehicle/bicycle collision. My wife, however, was worried sick I was.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a fund raising kickoff event for the volunteer organization in which I participate. With the decreasing length of daylight growing these days, combined with the nature of humans to talk at length about virtually anything, well past the scheduled close, it's no surprise the kickoff event lasted well past sundown. I faced the prospect of commuting home, across town, in the dark. 

This was nothing I was worried about. I had several things increasing my visibility and my chances of avoiding a collision: a highly reflective vest; a highly reflective bracelet worn on my left ankle; a red flashing led in the rear; a white flashing led in the front; white reflectors in each wheel's spokes; and front white reflector, and rear red reflector, plus pedal reflectors.

I made it home safely, without incident. My wife didn't anticipate the extended length of the meeting. From the kitchen window where we do dishes in the sink and from where last night she bathed our oldest son, she can see a view of the state highway a block away which is the last segment of road I use before turning off of it, onto our own street.

Apparently about the time my wife was expecting me, and in the general vicinity of the highway I use there must have been a vehicle/vehicle collision. Emergency services were present on location including firetrucks and ambulances, and police cars. She could see a bevy of flashing emergency lights and hear the blaring sirens of the different vehicles from her vantage point as she completed our oldest son's bath.

She became worried I had been hit by a vehicle. Much like a person can scare themselves into hearing people walking in the woods once they get spooked a little, my wife became convinced I had been hit by a car. Her relief gushed out of her when I went past the window and she saw me come through the door.

This event made me think about my decision to commute by bicycle. I don't think I fully appreciated how my decision affects all of us, not just me. I don't think I fully appreciated how I am literally taking my life in my own hands when I ride. I need to take this seriously. I need to decide if taking this section of road is the best choice. I could go back to taking a different path, a safer, slower path. I know I have a right to take which path I choose. I now need to decide if it's exercising my rights that is most important or making sure I arrive safely.

It's food for thought. Be careful out there. A driver with good intentions can still make a mistake and wind up killing a person on a bike. The vehicle won't know the difference.

Keep on commuting by bicycle!

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