Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Close Call

It is summer and the weather is fine, the breeze cool and the sun warm. It's a perfect time to start bicycling.

There is a change in the bicycling population since last summer. Gasoline has been over $3.85 a gallon for months, and this might be having an impact. A few more cyclists are out during rush hour. The cycling outfits look more planned, the panniers a little more worn, as if they get used regularly. It isn't like biking is even close to the norm, but bikes are a tiny bit more of a presence. I feel almost jaunty in my yellow reflective windbreaker, flying past the cars that are lined up for the lights. Then ...

It's 5:30 on a busy road and there are many of us waiting for the light to change, dozens of internal combusters, one bicyclist and one pedestrian. When the light turns green the intersection is blocked by cars that didn't make it through. Everyone impatiently inches forward. When the intersection clears, the pedestrian and I ease into the crosswalk, just as a large pickup roars it's engine and heads for us, turning right. Ahhh!

Phew, he sees us, and brakes in time. Safe again.

The driver avoids my eyes when I grin in a friendly, no-harm-done kind of way. I wonder if he saw us from the beginning and was just being obnoxious. My heart thuds, my hands shake.

Bicyclists who ride by choice rather than necessity take a big risk. And for what? I try not to think about it. It's not so hot for walkers, either. A May 2011 news story reported that the Eugene/Springfield, Oregon area where I live has the worst record for pedestrian fatalities in the state.


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