For the second time in my cycling career, a career that spans about 45 years (granted with a lot of fallow years built in there), I was mowed down by a rampaging motor vehicle. The first time was nearly 30 years ago when I was a freshman in college. During that unfortunate event I was scorching down a long hill on my recently upgraded Gitane 10-speed. Way down at the bottom of the hill was an 80 year old woman waiting at a stop sign. Of course I was unaware of her age but, it seemed obvious that she would get herself across the intersection as I was at least a quarter of a mile away. When she stayed put, I assumed she was waiting for me to pass. When I reached the intersection, however, she decided to cross and plowed into me. The last thing I remember was flying through the air over the roof of her car. The next thing I remember was being attended to by emergency personnel.
This morning’s inconvenience was not quite as dramatic, but ended up with another destroyed bicycle. Today, I left home about 20 minutes after 8:00 (Why couldn’t it have been 21 minutes after 8:00?), and of course it was still pitch dark. We have been through a warm spell in Anchorage that is just starting to cool back down and the bike paths and sidewalks are covered in ice. I have enjoyed my imperviousness to the hard clear liquid as a result of my studded tires and have been getting more and more comfortable riding in icy conditions. Not long before the incident in question I was looking at my cyclometer and noting that I had increased my average speed by 2 mph over the past two weeks and was feeling like quite the winter commuter. I was moving right along and had come up to an intersection with a stop sign for cross traffic. There was a car at the stop sign and I slowed so that it could make its’ right turn and clear the intersection. Behind it was a Chevy Suburban that began to pull up to the stop sign and slowed down for an apparent legal stop. Seeing the deceleration, I assumed the scoundrel had seen me and proceeded to cross in front. The driver did not see me, however, and proceeded to accelerate through the stop sign and into my innocent aluminum steed. As the rear wheel taco’ed and the frame bent far out of specs I was tossed to the pavement in a startled lump. As in all such things “it happened so fast.”
Unlike my bicycle I was fairly unscathed. A little problem with my right hip and some scrapes and bruises, but nothing to call the lawyer over. The gentlemen driving his granddaughter to school was appropriately aghast at what happened and said he would pay for the bike, though I am sure he spent the rest of his morning telling anyone who would listen about how wrong it is that anyone would ride a bike in the dark in the winter months. He came close to saying that to me, commenting that my headlight should have been in flash mode. “If it had,” he said, “I might have seen you.” Never mind I not only had the obligatory head and tail light, but also a road construction reflective vest that lights up like a Christmas tree when hit by the slightest amount of light and is neon yellow to boot.
Let’s face it my cycling friends, day or night, we are invisible. It’s a fact of life and the sooner we learn and live by the meaning of that, the fewer of us will be picking ourselves up off the pavement. State Farm says they will be replacing my bike. As soon as I am on the new one, I will be back on the streets of Anchorage. Hopefully it will be at least another 30 years before my next introduction to the bumper of a motor vehicle. As for you, be safe out there.