Caught in the crush of Finals Week and errands and the various pressures of life, I took to the streets in a car Wednesday morning, my beloved bike riding on the bike rack, when a massive black SUV plowed through a red light before crashing into the side of the car I was driving. The impact threw my bike completely off the rack and shoved the car into the next lane, and oncoming traffic.
I am alright, as is the SUV driver, but my bike suffered significant damage. After exchanging information and formalities with the other driver, I took my bike directly to City Bikes, and tonight it sits at their shop waiting for a welder and frame builder to see what might be done.
Had things gone only slightly differently, I would be dead. Had that happened I would have died doing something that conflicts with my core values and belief, and which steels the planet from future generations in incriments.
The good folks at City Bikes, after giving me a cozy chair and making sure I was ok, observed how lucky it was that I had been in a car, rather than on my bike. Strictly speaking this is true, there no way I would have survived such an impact, it is a miracle I survived it in the car. But I don't believe I would have been in the collision had I been on my bike, for a number of reasons, and am in no way grateful for having been in a car.
Absent a car I would not have been trying to fit so many errands into a single morning. Even if I had been running the same errand I was on when I got hit, I would have been using a different rout in order to take advantage of bike lanes. As a cyclist I am hyper vigilant in watching for cars and other dangers, in a way that it is not possible to be in a motor vehicle. As motorist we travel in these metallic bubbles that insulate us from our communities and even our own senses.
Hurtling along in these missiles of steel and glass, our ability to see and hear is compromised, as is our connection to the surrounding environment, while our sense of protection and invincibility is heightened. Children and pets are killed every day because they couldn't be seen in rear view mirrors or over the hoods of a cars, or because the driver could not stop or change trajectory in time.
Approximately, 6,000 pedestrians and cyclists are killed annually by cars, another 125,000 people are injured, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Those 6,000 pedestrians and cyclists are among the 42,000 + people killed annually in traffic fatalities; meaning that in any two year period more Americans are killed by cars that were killed during the entire Vietnam War -and those are just the deaths resulting directly from collisions and accidents.
I guess all of this is a long-winded way of saying that I don't believe in driving cars, for all these reasons and more, and yet I nearly died while doing so, and it has me reevaluating the choices I make --and fail to make-- in my life. It has me noticing how easily we are lured away from those things that matter to us, even when we are cognizant of all these facts and and reasons for doing the right thing.