Bicycling should be a pleasant commute

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I left this morning around 7:00. I could have been seriously injured for the first time around 7:06. I was biking south on Rockwell, and I admit, in my mind I was lamenting the loss of my favorite bicycling scarf.  I know I wore it home yesterday, but I couldn’t find it this morning, and I was in a rush to get out the door. It’s perfect for biking because it is wool and it’s short enough just to wrap around once and cover my neck but not make my whole body too hot and bulky. I knit it in only about 30 minutes because it’s so short and the yarn was so thick.

The yarn was from Renegade Handmade. I don’t think they carry it any more. All I remember was there were only about 30 yards in the skein and it was called Dulce.

And I think it was probably about $30. Anyway, I know the scarf is somewhere at home, most likely in the closet which is where I found it the last time I lost it. So that’s what I was thinking about when I was heading south on Rockwell about to cross Lawrence. Usually I am keenly aware of the cars going my direction, coming toward me, parked to the right of me in case they swing their doors open, and the potholes in the road. But with my mind on my scarf, I didn’t see the black car as quickly as I would have liked.

When I was half way across Lawrence, a black car stopped at the red light facing east on Lawrence decided to make a right on Rockwell, turning him south (just like me) and in the right lane (just like me). Unfortunately two people can’t occupy the same place at the same time. So I hit my brakes, avoiding the collision. The driver still didn’t notice me, though I tailed him the rest of the way on Rockwell, adjusting my blinking light to make sure it hit his rearview mirror. His 90 year old passenger in the back didn’t notice me either. I have a good idea about her age, because when he turned I was close enough to the back passenger window to count her wrinkles, or to spit on his car, but I did neither. I just continued on my way to work, my heart now pumping blood more effectively. I wonder what he was thinking about. I doubt it was a scarf.

I don’t remember the details of the other times I could have been seriously injured today. I was lucky enough to really only have one super close call (above), one minor close call (below), and several “Watch it!”s.

So after being at work for 9 and a half hours, I left. (I still have work to do this weekend, but that comes with being a teacher). Three minutes later comes my next chance to get seriously injured. Diversey has a bike lane. It is for me and people on the same type of vehicle as I am on. It is not for motorized vehicles. It is not a turn lane. It is not a great place to park. It is not a fast lane to get around cars in front of you. But as I’m coming up to a stop sign, the truck with me in its blind spot decides he will turn right at the stop sign, and now is a good time to merge into the bike lane to get ready for the turn.

Luckily, the driver saw me after he had only swerved partially into the bike lane and I had braked enough to avoid getting hit.

 I love riding my bike. I love that over half of my commute is on bike-laned streets. I love that it was still nearly 60 degrees now in early November. What I don’t love is drivers who can’t see bicycles. I  stay doubly vigilant paying attention to much more than drivers need to pay attention to, and still many drivers act annoyed with me either obviously or subtly. I wish that bicycling wasn’t seen as a threat to drivers and a threat to America. I wish it was as common here as it is in other countries. I wish it was accepted as a normal means of transportation. It is frustrating to get home in the evenings and recount with my husband the number of near-misses and almost-dieds we had that day. That said, I still feel safe on my bike, but only because I stay so fully aware of my surroundings. And wear my helmet. So I end with a PSA: please watch for bikes and share the road.

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9 responses »

  1. thanks for the psa! i used to get really excited about drivers, especially cab drivers, in chicago, slapping cars and yelling a lot. i wasn’t the best bike diplomat… i’ve gotten better, but i think that’s because i mostly walk these days. i’ve learned that sidewalks are no safer in my town – lots of angry yuppies and trucks rolling over people in crosswalks. 😦

    • Yikes. Sidewalks are at least safe here. It’s just crossing into the streets that cars come at you full speed (when you have the right-of-way, by walking in the crosswalk at a stop sign) and they slam their brakes, and give you one of those wave-byes, motioning you to go. It’s like, Oh, really? Thanks for not killing me.

  2. You need to write books !!!!!! I love this !!! The word amazing keeps coming up,,,, I read this and the peanut butter and jam one to Uncle George …He said , She is amazing !! I said I know and Alex agrees with us !! lol

  3. It always saddens me how bad apples spoil the bunch for everybody. As someone who used to commute by bike, I’ve had enough close calls to make me a hyper-aware driver. Ultimately, there’s room for everyone, and it’s not that hard to pay attention when everyone on the road is following the rules.

    • It’s true. A lot of “bad apple” bicyclists make a bad name for everyone, and the same goes for drivers. I just wish everyone would pay attention.

  4. I have had quite a few days where commuting by bicycle was much more aggravating and stressful than it should be. The hostility by so many drivers just astounds me. And don’t even get me started on the sheer lack of observation by many others! It takes what should be a pleasant commute and turns it into a gauntlet to get through on the way to work. I’m glad you are ok and still able to ride in November though. (Also, did you find your scarf?)

    • Yeah, what should be more joyful than riding a bike. Instead it’s fearing for your life half the time. And yes, my scarf was in my bag the whole time. The bag that was on my back while I was riding that day.

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