I wrote this months ago. I dragged my friend to an open mic night because I felt like it needed to be read aloud. I’ve made some edits since then.
I have tried many tactics to make my commute more enjoyable — driving, walking, trains, etc. A few months ago, I gave cycling a chance. I figured it would be a good way to get in some exercise and couldn’t possibly be worse than sitting in traffic. I loved it! Everyday I saw other cyclists and pedestrians. I would zoom down the bike lane with my backpack and helmet on. The air on my skin as I weaved through the streets gave me a sense of freedom I never experienced with other forms of commuting.
I had a lot to learn about commuting on a bike though. I carefully observed other cyclists to learn the “rules of the road.” I found places to store my bike and learned where the bicycle repair stations were. My colleague instructed me on safety equipment. Mostly though, I had fun. I finally found a route to work that was enjoyable. Even when it was raining, riding through the streets on my bike was so much better than being trapped in my car during rush hour.
One especially beautiful day about a month ago, there were more bicyclists than usual. I smiled and enjoyed the camaraderie as I cruised down the bicycle lane. Faster bikes passed while slower cyclists stayed to the right. Some cyclists had lots of safety gear, others had less. After being passed by multiple riders, I decided it was my turn to pass the bike ahead of me. I looked behind me to ensure no cars were coming and began my approach. As my front tire advanced past the rear tire of the cyclist in front of me, a white truck appeared dangerously close on my left. It was about 6 inches from my shoulder. I could see myself in its rearview mirror. I applied my brakes to try and move back in behind the cyclist but I didn’t have enough time. I looked down at my front tire — it was mere inches outside of the bike lane. The space between myself and the truck was getting smaller. I yelled “shit!” as I went down. My body bounced against the truck and then the car to the right before hitting the ground. The truck didn’t stop. It just kept driving.
The cyclist in front of me hollered at the truck driver, “hey! hey! stop!” It finally stopped and pulled over at the next street. Someone helped me off the road to the sidewalk. My bike was mangled.
I was embarrassed. I was hurt. I just wanted to leave. So many eyes on me. I asked the truck driver if he would put my bike in his truck and take me to work. He said sure. I wanted to get out of there. I got up to leave as a man in a green uniform appeared. He told me I can’t go. He said he called the police and I have to wait. I have to wait for the ambulance — I need to be cleared by the medic. He said it was for my own good. I burst into tears. He asked me for my ID and about what happened. I told him my story.
The driver kept saying, “I didn’t see you. I didn’t see you.”
The officer said, “I saw everything. It looked like your head was going under the tire.”
Lucky. Here’s that word again. Lucky. I am lucky to be alive.
I let the medic clean me up but I refused treatment. The police came. One was a Marine Corps veteran. Between me and the man that hit me with his truck, I knew the Marine would have my back. Devil dogs stick together. He said he would write up a report — he had to.
Finally they let me go. I walked the rest of the way to work with my mangled bike. I wanted to throw it in the dumpster. I didn’t lock it up. I hoped someone would steal it. No one did. I arrived at work late. As the adrenaline wore off my elbow and wrist started to hurt. I finally went to a doctor for treatment. The doctor asked me to rotate my wrist. I couldn’t. I started crying. Again. “I can’t even move my wrist. What is wrong with me? I can’t do anything right.” She let me cry.
* * * * * * *
My wrist and elbow healed. My bike has been repaired. I have a new helmet. It’s bright orange this time. I want to be seen.
This week, I rode my bike to work again. I go slow now. When a bike passes me, I get startled. When a vehicle is too close I have to consciously focus on my breathing. When I ride past the spot where my accident was I have to remind myself, “I’m okay.”
As I ride though, I also remember that I survived. I remember that God put a shield of protection around me. There is no reason I should be alive right now. My head could have gone under the tire of that truck. And yet, here I am. Alive another day to bring glory to God. Is that cheesy? Maybe. Lucky? Is that better? I am lucky. Lucky to be alive.
* * * * * * *
When I started riding my bike, I was a naive and unexperienced cyclist. I didn’t really know the rules of the road or the inherent dangers. I just thought it was fun and I reveled in the thrill of the wind as I went as fast as possible. I trusted the other cyclists. I trusted the motor vehicle drivers. I thought I could learn about cycling by cycling.
Then, I was hit.
I didn’t do anything wrong. Cyclists are allowed to pass other cyclists. Motor vehicles are suppose to yield to cyclists on the road. I even looked. I looked to ensure there were no cars approaching. I looked before I started to pass the bike in front of me. I looked up the laws. I did nothing wrong. I followed the rules. And yet I was thrown off my bike. My body a rag doll. My bike mangled. My safety and sense of security challenged. My perspective shattered.
I took time to heal. My elbow healed. My wrist healed. My bike was repaired. I read stories about other cyclists and accidents. I fully understand just how lucky I am.
I’m on the road again but I am a bit more cautious. I know the rules now. I have flashing lights on the front and rear of my bike. I have a bright orange helmet. I am more cautious when I pass another cyclists. I am slower as I maneuver the streets. I could still get hit again.
I have to trust again. I have to trust the other cyclists. I have to trust the motor vehicle drivers. Trust is a necessary aspect of a bicycle commute. The only protection gear I have is my helmet.
I am proud of myself though. I could have decided to let this incident defeat me. I could have decided I would never ride my bike again. But I didn’t. I am back on my bike. I am learning to ride again. I am learning to enjoy the wind and the freedom and the camaraderie of other cyclists on my commute. I am trusting. Trusting the motor vehicle drivers, trusting the other cyclists, trusting myself.