We were having family game show night on our vacation, a homemade version of the Newlywed Game with all the cousins, aunts, and uncles. My husband responded to this question: “what really, really scares you?” with this answer: “car accidents.” The next day we learned that our neighbors, the ones from whom we love to hitch rides whenever we are in a pinch; the ones that showed their gritty side and took the train and hiked the trail to camp last week on their own. Those very good friends of ours were in a serious car accident.
It was a head-on collision on Route 9D; the road that frequently scares the shit out of me when i am on my bike. Ironically, it’s also a road that scares the shit out of people driving in cars, because it’s one lane each direction, winding, beautiful, and oftentimes moving very fast.
Ninety percent of the road is marked by a double yellow line (which means do not cross me). It is the road that travels between the three towns of my own Cinque Terre of the Hudson Valley It is a road that seems to bait reckless drivers to tempt fate and cross those “do not cross me” lines to gain a few extra minutes toward their destination. Two days ago, an SUV crossed those yellow lines; the driver fell asleep at the wheel. The SUV hit my friends head-on. Everyone survived. Amazingly, everyone was relatively unscathed. The mom (the driver) attributed her family’s aliveness to the brilliant engineering of her Volkswagen Jetta. “I will definitely be getting another one of those cars!” she reported via text when I was chatting with her from the ICU of a nearby hospital. Their six year old got some internal injuries, which meant she had to stay a few cautionary days in the hospital. When I heard the news, I started bawling; uncontrollably sobbing.
I worry about dying in a bike accident much more than I worry about car accidents. Statisticians claim that the car is by far more dangerous. But if we are honest about it, a bike accident is nothing more than a car accident that happens to also involve a bike.
I’m not suggesting that the driver of the car is always responsible. Accidents are never intentional. If my bike hits a pothole and throws me in front of a moving vehicle, I will get hit by that car. Not much that car can do to prevent that. On the other hand, if the driver is texting or drunk and they oh so inadvertently veer into the shoulder where I am riding my bike, well, that’s also an accident, but one that could have been prevented if the driver was actually paying attention to operating several tons of steel on wheels. Imagining this story is one of many that sends my heart racing right at that moment when I am trying to fall asleep but am instead picturing all the terrible ways in which the people I love may come to an untimely end.
I do what I can to garner some sympathy on the road. I know that lots of drivers hate cyclists. I don’t want them to hate me. I am just trying to get from work to summer camp to pick up my kid.
When riding on busy roads or roads with tight shoulders, I always wear a long skirt. A skirt?! Yes, a skirt. If I am in spandex or shorts, then I become one of the cyclists that some drivers love to hate. They hate how we ride in the middle of the road for no apparent reason; aka just to piss them off. When I ride in the middle of the road, it’s usually on a blind curve, because I want to make sure a car sees me, especially if they are texting or not fully paying attention. Or the shoulder is filled with potholes and I am scared. I figure if I am wearing a skirt, you might consider that I am a mom. You might give me a pass and not assume I am a dick.