How many of you had a bike when you were a kid?
My first bike was a Schwinn Sting Ray that my Dad custom spray painted; orange with silver sparkle. The anticipation of riding that bike was so sweet, I could hardly wait.
I still feel that way now every time I get on my bike.
About a year ago I was riding home from my office downtown when I got in an accident with a Mercedes Benz. Most people worry about being hit by moving cars, but I managed to get hit by one that was parked. Thinking back, the accident was the result of a series of unfortunate mishaps. I was riding legally in the street, cruising at about 15 miles per hour. A car approached from the rear on my left and as I glanced behind to judge its proximity, my front wheel grazed the edge of a manhole cover. I swerved slightly, lost my balance, and there just wasn’t enough space between me and that Mercedes. Next thing I knew I was flying head first into the rear window.
I rolled myself off the back end of the car, pulled some broken glass out of my cheek and nose, and moved my broken bike to the sidewalk. The women driving the car pulled over and made sure I was alright and called 911. An aide car arrived within minutes and the paramedics asked me if I was OK – but I waved them off. My arm hurt, but I was in shock! I felt fine! I filed a police report with a couple of officers, and hailed a cab home.
But a few days later I realized something was really wrong with my leg – I couldn’t lift it – and after seeing an orthopedic specialist, I learned I had a torn Quadriceps tendon that would need surgery to fix.
I was devastated. I just wanted to get back to riding. But reattaching tendon to kneecap is not minor surgery. And recovery from knee surgery is a slow and painful process. What kept me motivated all those long, slow months was the desire to be able to ride again. I was driven by that same sweet anticipation I knew as a kid, to feel the wind in my face, riding through the streets on two wheels. I am happy to say that I am back on the bike saddle again, but this experience gave me a new understanding of the importance of advocating for improved infrastructure, safety, and education for everyone on the road.
I want more safe travel space for everyone who uses our streets – for cars, bicycles and pedestrians – and I believe we can do better than we are doing now. We need slower speed limits on shared streets so that it is safer for everyone. We need traffic laws that make sense for all users of the road. And we need enough space that a rider can have a series of unfortunate mishaps without crashing into the back of a car or getting run over by a semi.
All bicyclists should to be able to feel the wind in their faces, and to then to arrive home safely.