All is well. It is a great day.
You are riding smoothly with friends along a rolling hillside road. It is a peaceful spring morning; there is steam floating off the farmer’s pond, the warmth of the sun warms your body. For the moment life is just right.
Then it is not.
Suddenly, without warning an oncoming car swerves towards you. Seconds before the moment of impact the driver awakens from his slumber, looks up from his cellphone, and somehow, arbitrarily, does not smash you.
Your heart races. Life comes alive. You think of your childhood, your family, your life.
We all live precariously on a fine line; one moment there is life, the next there is not. Doctors know this well, and so do cyclists.
Each time a cyclist clicks in, waves to a loved one on the way out of the driveway, and ventures out to share the road with autos, there is an unspoken acceptance of fate. As a rule, cyclists like to keep such actuarial risk assessments locked in the basement of their minds, for it is too depressing, too scary, too real to let escape. We choose to look askance at the elephant in-the-room.
Will this be my last ride?
What would it be like to be gone?
Is it worth the risk to ride?
These questions are with us each and every ride?
Unfortunately, in the past year our cycling community has seen a rash of fatal car-versus-bike collisions. A dear friend’s step-dad, a teammate, and a local police officer have all been forever lost as a result of distracted or inattentive driving.
All would agree that riding a bike makes the beating heart stronger. But when friends or family are killed, our non-beating hearts–our soulful hearts–get broken, and this hurts, badly.
So we (cyclists) say…
We know that our society has changed, and there is no going back. We realize that folks are more rushed, more impatient, more inflamed, more sleep-deprived–life is lived closer to our limits. “My son is waiting; he doesn’t like to wait.” “I am late for an appointment; I’ll text them.” We get this.
But in the rush of life, please don’t consider cyclists as mere obstructions in your way. We are your brother (or sister), your doctor, your kid’s teacher, your minister, your firefighter. We are you, only we are on a bike, on the same roads, without bumpers, airbags and seat-belts to protect us. Our hearts race when scared, like yours.
When we are buzzed at high speed, or turned in front of, our adrenal glands secrete adrenaline, our nervous system awakens, like yours would. We may yell or gesture emphatically, but really we are just proclaiming that, we are you. We are human. If you end our life, you will end so many other lives as well; our parents’, our kids’, our spouse’s lives will be forever diminished.
When a cyclist is killed they are not just ‘cases’ or statistics, rather, they were fellow mankind. They may have waved goodbye to a loved one when they left their driveway on that fateful last ride. They were expected home for dinner.
Behind those sunglasses, helmets and spandex, we are like you.
We are you.