Over the weekend, Jasmine Herron, an artist and regular city cyclist was killed when she was knocked into the path of an oncoming bus by a careless driver’s opening car door. Reading about the tragedy in BikeBlogNYC made me rethink my principle of not sharing stories about cycling accidents. Should I send this to those who follow me on Facebook and Twitter? Should I link to it from my blog?
Less than two weeks ago, I was waiting on my bike at an intersection when a pedestrian stepped out in front of a fast-moving truck. As a cyclist, you learn to be on guard for everything going on around you–you just can’t take anything for granted. As the cross walk signal turned, I saw a truck coming, not slowing. The pedestrian saw the light turn, stepped forward, and looked down, lost in thought. For about a second I watched him, thinking he would look up and see the oncoming truck. Nothing. He marched forward, lost in his own thoughts.
I don’t remember thinking, I just remember doing. I called to him. Watch out. WATCH. OUT. He froze, a few seconds before the truck gassed it through the long-past-red light and passed him with what looked like inches to spare. The pedestrian, an older man in work clothes, stepped back onto the curb, turned, and stared at me in disbelief. He didn’t say anything.
“That truck just blew through that light like it was nothing.” I said to him out of a need to say something. He continued to stare.
“Thank you.” He said, emphatically, weighing the words in hopes that I would understand what he didn’t, couldn’t say for fear of fully realizing his own mortality… for saving my life.
Out of necessity, cyclists train themselves to be hyper aware of what’s going on around them. I can feel a car coming up beside or behind me. Cyclists and pedestrians are more exposed, more at risk, more underprivileged on the roads. But we’re also more in tune, more aware, more adept at recognizing our surroundings. We wheeze in the exhaust, but we also smell the flowers–without even having to stop. We break and we bleed, but we live and breathe in a way you just can’t inside a car. In my opinion, it’s only a sacrifice when others don’t respect our space or our lives.
I don’t retweet accident-related obituaries, even when they touch me, because I’m unwilling to give anyone an excuse not to get on their bike. I’m simply unwilling to link to a story that could lead someone to hang up their bike in the garage and grab the keys to their car instead.
Life is fragile. Fate is fickle. Ride like your life depended on it, smell, sense, feel your surroundings, never stop relishing the moment you’re in right now. Cancer might get you. A heart attack might get you. Yeah, a car might get you. But a life lived in fear is no life at all.
So get out on your bike and ride for Jasmine. I think it’s what she would have wanted.