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 ...