Monday, June 11, 2012

a cautionary tale ...

I might be extremely slightly paranoid about riding my bike on the open road.

I don't like throwing in a slew of variables into something that already makes me uneasy. The possibility of poor road conditions, riding downhill and around sharp turns and the presence of vehicles all freak me out. So, unless someone invites me to ride, I ALWAYS choose my trainer over the open road.

There's something about having someone else there that makes the whole process less scary. Like, they are going to keep me safe. Or at least if something happens to me, they can go call for help.

On Friday, my friend D and I decided to tackle the roads for 30 miles. Since D is just as uneasy on her bike as I am, we planned a route with as little traffic as possible.

Five miles on moderately congested roads. Twenty miles (3 loops) through office parks where there were ZERO vehicles since it was after the start of the work day. And then five miles back on those same moderately congested roads.

Once we settled in (and got off the moderately congested roads), the ride was awesome. We looped the office park side-by-side, chatting away. We were feeling strong. And confident.

As we headed back on the five mile stretch to our start point, we separated. I pulled ahead slightly, but always had a feel for how close D was.

With less than two miles left, we hit a traffic light. D caught up and when it turned green, we eased back in to our ride.

About a half a block later, I rode past an entrance for a shopping center. As I did, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a car coming our direction from the median. I didn't know where D was in relation to me. She could have been right on my tail or a few bike lengths back. I wasn't really sure.

A split second later, I knew exactly where she was, because I heard her scream.

I stopped as fast as I could and unclipped. When I turned around D was on the ground, half way under her bike. A passing runner was helping her out. A car (the one I noticed out of the corner of my eye) was less than two feet away from D, parked across both lanes of traffic.

The driver, who had cut across two lanes of traffic to make a last minute turn into the shopping center, was sticking her head out of the window asking if D was OK. She never saw her. I'm not really sure if she ever saw me. Maybe she was texting. Maybe she looked in her mirror, didn't see any cars and cut across never considering someone might be biking, running or walking by.

Fortunately, D screamed as the car approached (the car windows were down). It probably saved her.

D's OK now. She had a few scrapes and was severely shaken up, but she got back on her bike and finished the ride. For me, the whole situation was scary and surreal. It was like I was watching it happen in slow motion, but could do nothing to change the outcome.

I think both of us rode away asking, "What if?" A million scenarios played in my head. I'm not sure if any of them made me feel any better, but they all reminded me that when you are out on the roads (on bike or on foot) you can never be too careful. You can't assume someone else is paying attention and let your guard down. It's your own responsibility to stay safe.

And when you are driving, focus on DRIVING. Nothing else. It might just save someone's life ...

18 comments:

Mustang said...

Amen.

sfesta said...

just got chills! my mom was in a biking accident when i was in 2nd grade. She laid on the side of highway 35 right next to the entrance of her job until someone from her work pulled in and stopped to help. We'll never know what really happened because she was knocked unconscious. So scary!

MCM Mama said...

Glad you are both ok! I often feel like I take my life in my hands every time I go for a run around here. It's big part of the reason I don't bike - I think I'd have to drive to a trail before I'd be willing to actually bike outside.

Shawn said...

yep....gotta have eyes everywhere!!

ajh said...

Scary! I am glad she is okay. Wow!

Amanda@runninghood said...

Ahhh, this is one of my worst fears and one of the biggest reasons I am scared to ride my bike. Especially in suburbia where these minivan moms (like me) aren't used to cyclists as much as you'd be in the city of POrtland and the east side where everyone rides a bike. ...the hard core cyclists and the Portlandia peeps with rainbow banana seats and dark edged glasses that are as thick as goggles. But you expect to see them. Here, you have to be alert. And so many aren't. Thanks for the reminder Tonia. Glad your friend is okay.

Runner Maybe said...

Glad she is ok...I have a fear also, but that was because my step mom was hit by someone pulling out of there driveway. I won't go into details but it was bad. I am not sure if that feear ever goes away once an accident happens. At least not for me.

Ginger said...

That is terrifying! I'm so sorry you experienced that. I am fortunate that although I live in a busy city we have a lot of access to great bike lanes. I definitely recommend looking into local group rides. I always feel that there is something to the "safety in numbers" theory. As well as learning from other riders the hidden gems of wide shoulders and bike lanes that you may not have found yet.
Good luck in all of your training, indoors and out!

All-American Jogger said...

Biking on the road scares the heck out of me. A marathon-winning woman got hit by a car while biking a few blocks from my house. You may have read about her in Runner's World: http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-243-297--14319-0,00.html
This is a nice, safe part of town, but accidents like that can happen anytime, anywhere.

Marlene said...

Worst nightmare!! So glad you are both OK and I hope D is not too shaken up... I would be!

Two of my friends actually went down on our group ride on the weekend. Everyone is okay but it was just horrible to see. Ugh!

Running Ricig said...

So glad everyone is alright!

Rene' said...

and this is why i am so scared to ride my bike. i am glad that you and D are okay.

Shannon said...

I am a huge chicken when it comes to biking on the roads. Drivers really aren't paying attention, and I don't know that I trust myself to keep a good enough eye out for them either. :/

Alex said...

Crazy! Glad everyone was okay

Erika said...

That is so scary! I am terrified of road riding too, especially when people are super distracted these days. I'm glad everyone is ok!

Jason said...

That is some scary sh*t there. Glad D is safe.

Interestingly enough is that I feel more comfortable alone than with a bunch of people. I'm not really good with people riding up along side of me to chat. In a race its different because that chat is only a few seconds. Having somebody right next to me for any length of time makes me uneasy.

A friend of mine just posted pics on Facebook of her accident. No other cars around. Just her going around a speed bump and hitting algae and having it wipe her tire out and down she went. She has scraped everywhere including her face.

Be safe and wear a helmet always.

track coach and adorable wife said...

Scary, glad she is ok!

Colleen said...

Oh my gosh Tonia... that's so scary!

I've always been leery of riding with cars. I used to be so lucky in that I could ride for miles and miles on country roads and see no one. Now I'm in Atlanta and I have yet to find a road that Tom and I can ride side by side on. I feel like I'm always on high alert... where he is, where I am, where cars are, where cars might be. It's sad that it's such a dangerous sport.

I'm so glad that D is alright. You know... there's nothing wrong with bike 99% of the time on the trainer. Just saying... :)