A friend of mine had a close call the other morning. She was backing her car out of her driveway, and nearly hit a cyclist.
The incident was unsettling to my friend, of course. “There’s nothing worse than being hit by a car with a ‘Be Kind to Cyclists’ bumper sticker,” she said.
Now, in defense of my friend, she had trouble seeing the cyclist, who was dressed in gray on an overcast morning. “If she’d been dressed in something a little brighter, I would have seen her sooner,” she said. But she added that if she had hit the cyclist, it would have been her fault, and not the woman on the bike’s.
Her story hit a chord with me. Recently, I was driving down a twisty, hilly two-lane road near my neighborhood. Speeds there easily hit 65 mph, although the posted speed limit is 55. I avoid the road on my bike, because I consider it too dangerous, although my club will ride on it for a short distance during one of our regular routes to the west. But we’re on a stretch only about a hundred yards long, and we turn off onto a residential street.
As I drove down that same stretch of road, I noticed another cyclist coming toward me. He was alone. He was riding the same route we do, and I knew he was going to turn onto the residential street. But for a moment, I found myself debating what to do. I could speed up, and get to the intersection before he did, thus asserting my dominance as a motorized vehicle, or I could slow down, and let him turn safely in front of me.
I’m ashamed that I even considered speeding up.
I slowed the car, much to the dismay of the driver behind me. The cyclist made his turn, and I continued on.
When we’re on our bikes, situations like that are no-brainers. We expect the oncoming car to slow, although we’re careful enough to have an alternative move in our minds if they shouldn’t. And when riding down a residential street, we expect drivers to look carefully for us as they back out of their driveways.
It’s not so simple, is it? There seems to be a difference in mentality when we’re behind the wheel as opposed to on the bike. If anyone should be at their safest around bikes when we’re in our cars, it should be us. Wake up calls like the one that happened to my friend and I are good reminders to be ever vigilant while driving. And they’re reminders that when we’re on our bikes, we should take nothing for granted.
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