That was awful

I just came so close to getting hit by a car that I’m considering giving up bicycle commuting.

I am one of the safest cyclists I know. I wear bright colors. I ride with traffic. I signal. I always have my lights on. I wear a helmet. I respect traffic lights and signs. Even my commute is pretty safe, residential and then downtown. Lots of stop signs and stop lights, no stretches where anyone can really pick up much speed.

On my way home, just now, just 15 minutes ago, I approached an intersection with a two way stop. I had a stop sign, the driver across from me had a stop sign, and cross traffic didn’t have to stop. I checked for oncoming traffic from either direction, then proceeded to cross.

The driver, in a silver honda, looked left, looked right, and pulled out a little into the intersection. I stared into the windshield trying to make eye contact to make sure I was seen.

I watched the driver look left and right and left again, inching out the way you do in these residential neighborhoods when it’s a little hard to see past parked cars. But while looking right and left, the driver never looked straight ahead to see me, not fifteen feet from the front bumper.

I saw that moment of decision, that instance when you go from creeping out into the intersection to when you decide you’re clear to go, and I watched the bumper get closer to me, wondering in that instant if I’d be completely broadsided or if the car would just hit my back wheel. Calculating our speed, I thought to myself this is probably going to hurt a lot, but it’s very unlikely you will actually die.

My finger fumbled for my bell–it’s pretty loud–and in the meantime I let out the shrillest, loudest, longest scream of my life. I shrieked with every effort, I screeched like I was in a horror movie, hoping the driver would hear me and it would trigger a reflex to hit the brakes.

I veered to the right, and finally made eye contact with the driver, who seemed a little startled, and looked quizzically at me, but, having missed hitting me by just a few feet, continued down the road.

I vibrated with adrenaline and my legs felt noodley. I considered walking the few blocks home, but even though my legs were shaky, they still seemed to be able to pedal.

I got home and promptly poured myself a whiskey. Chris isn’t home to tell my story to, so I’m writing a blog post. My throat still hurts from screaming.

That was awful.

Bike Safety

I live about a mile and a half from where I work. I used to walk to work, and now I ride my bike, almost exclusively. (There are about two weeks in the winter when I will walk or take the bus.)

There are a lot of advantages to riding my bike. It’s faster, it’s more fun (wheeee!), and I also think it’s safer. I mean, obviously riding safely on the roads is a whole ‘nother blog post, but in the not getting mugged/murdered/raped/generally harassed sense, I feel a lot better on my bike.

I have long listed this as a great reason for me to ride my bike, to work or around the neighborhood, but this weekend I really, really felt safer on two wheels. Chris and I were riding home from City Park. We came to a stoplight and were spaced out so that while he went through just fine, I felt like I should stop. I sat at the light, it was raining a little. There was a group of men standing on the corner. I was wearing a bright fuschia dress and a bike helmet.

One of the men looked at me and said “Hey, girl!”

I gave a tight smile and looked back at my light.

“Heeeey girllll!”

“Um, hey.”

The man opened his arms wide and started walking toward me. He said something, but I didn’t understand it. My impression was he was coming in for…a hug? I was almost as worried about a strange man coming towards me as I was that, if the light changed, we’d suddenly be blocking traffic.

I stammered, “I…uh…NO!”

And took off on my bike. I am a rule follower, so I didn’t run the red light, but I did make a completely safe and legal right on red.

I felt so happy I was on my bike, not trying to outrun someone.

Later, in typical girl fashion, I worried I’d overreacted or even been rude.

But then the Awesome Mel inside of me was like, “Listen, Meek Mel. People can’t just start yelling at you and walk up to you in the road and not expect you to get the eff out of there. You are allowed to be rude to people who are making you feel unsafe.”

I don’t know how to end this story. That’s how it ended. I probably would have been fine if I stayed put until the light turned green. But I’m glad I could, and did, ride away.