Three Takeaways from getting hit by a Truck on my Bike.
Here’s the set up: I’m riding along in the bike lane on a three-lane stretch of University Ave, thinking about whatever I’m thinking about. I’m wearing a bright neon orange hunter’s hat, which I like to wear because I’m a big guy on a big bike and it helps car drivers see me. I’m wearing a red wool Pendleton coat, I think, and gloves and there’s little flags hanging off my bike. In the back I have a black milk basket that holds my laptop (my life, my business, which I can’t afford to replace [again—two weeks ago a gent spilled coffee on it and booked it, leaving me without a functioning laptop for better part of a week, and $1,000 the poorer]) and my big oversize un-cut 100-inch or something Manduka yoga mat. I’m on the way to the Yoga Pod, where I, Natalie (elephant’s part-time staffer) and our six interns are doing yoga, sponsored by elephant and the Yoga Pod.
A truck wheels out of an alley to my left, crosses one lane of traffic, headed right at me. There’s 20 feet between us, so I figure he’ll see me. I am in a bike lane. 1/2 a second later, he still hasn’t seen me, he’s only 10 feet away, I let out the loudest yell I can. He must have his windows closed, cold day, he doesn’t hear me. Somehow he still hasn’t seen me, though I’m directly in front of him. 1/2 a second later, he’s crossed the lane of traffic to my left and is crossing me, heading into right lane to take an immediate right turn. I’ve begun veering to the right, seeing this madman is heading straight for me (in a big delivery truck).
He hits me. He hits the back of my bike, since I’ve begun veering away. The truck hits the bike basket with the Manduka yoga mat in it. Luckily, it’s snowy out a bit and my bike just slides and is pushed off the street. If there were more traction, I might have been a b-bump dead man. I’m knocked over into a pile of snow, heroic yoga mat on the street.
Pedestrians and another truck-driver are screaming at the truck driver, “I got his license plate!”…who, oblivious, has stopped at a red light 50 feet off. One is banging on the truck driver’s window. Another is standing in front of the truck, preventing him from driving away. Someone else is helping me up, I think. I’m shaking like a leaf. I walk forward and backward and seem fine. I wheel my bike around, it seems fine. It’s a Christmas miracle. They bring the truck driver over to me. He’s freaked out…not about me, but probably about getting fined or insurance or police. I tell him “Happy Holidays, drive carefully” and he promises me and drives off. As usual when I’m hit I’m weirdly thoughtful of others, and don’t think common-sense about myself. I don’t even get his driver’s license or anything.
I bike off and go to yoga. I feel like crying. I ride slowly and am freaked out by alleys and cars and streets for days.
1. Life is a bubble. Life can stop happening at any moment. Your to-do lists, my to-do lists, don’t matter.
2. Make sure you tell people how you feel about them. Not just love, but clarity with everyone.
3. Bicycling, driving a car, driving a truck—they’re all incredibly dangerous. Driving, for most of us, is by far the most dangerous thing we do.
We forget that we’re hurtling along in a tin can and others are doing the same. Please ride and drive carefully, and slowly, and don’t do two things at once: texting, smoking, listening to music all the time, talking…focus on what you’re doing. Car accidents account for annual holocausts, more dead good people than a hundred 9/11s put together.
Make a practice of being aware of what’s around you as you bike/drive. Instead of what most of us do, the opposite, which is trying to distract ourselves from the present moment with phone, book-on-tape, music, conversation. Instead, look around, out the window, enjoy your day.
Enjoy your life. Merry Christmas!
Bonus: A video replay of the accident: