Thursday, August 8, 2013

Embrace Safety . . . Release Fear

I lived in Atlanta metro for nearly 30 years and while living near Brookwood Station spent about 6 months without a car. I rode a 10 speed Puch about 3 miles to work following half a mile of Peachtree Road before passing through some appealing intown neighborhoods. While not wanting to sound like an authority on urban commuting I do have a keen appreciation for the dangers of riding a bike among two ton vehicles. Especially since the ride lasted only 6 months when I did a face plant on the side of a FedEx truck.

Stop me if you've heard this one . . . I was riding home about 3:30 and was n the middle lane of Peachtree Road anticipating a left turn when I did a face plant on the side of a FedEx truck when it shot unexpectantly across P'tree. The driver brakes to a stop and comes running to where I am sitting in the middle of Peachtree, bleeding, hurting and, literally, seeing stars. "I didn't see you," he says excitedly. I blink trying to clear my vision and find that shaking my head simulateously is a bad idea, but manage to reply, "I certainly hope not."

The point? In any close encounter with an automobile (or larger vehicle) the one on the bike will generally lose. So, it's important that we not enbrace any car as our friend. G'ville is a much easier place to ride than truly large urban areas, but being aware of potential danger makes riding anywhere more successful.

One of the important things about G'ville drivers is their awareness of bikes. That doesn't always translate to safer riding and an exchange of cordial greetings with drivers. Fortunately, G'ville does have a large portion of bike-friendly drivers who make concessions and smile or smile when I yield at an intersection.

There are also a lot bike-tolerant people, the ones who wait for an on-coming car then after it passes, swing out and make sure we are aware of their sacrafice by belching exhaust from their poorly tunes engine.

When you allow yourself to believe that the driver behind you is friendly or tolerant you take a step toward one of the sometimes fatal flaws or drivers; indifference. Too many drivers are indifferent to their responsibilities as drivers of potentially deadly weapons. I think they are at least as dangerous as someone who nakes an effort to do harm, mostly because indifference is unpredictable

A year or two ago (is that "back in the day?") regularly after work when I road west in the bike lane on Archer Road a SpUte (sport utility vehicle) would intentionally pass close to me so the driver's dog could bark as it passed. Most of the time I'd be startled and pissed, but at least he wasn't being indifferent. He was unlikely to hit me because the fun for him was scaring me, not hitting me. I can accept that passive level of dislike because he probably gets a big laugh from his buddies when he tells the story.

I work at not being complacent when I ride, kinda like when I owned an MG-B in the late 60s. I was so aware of the potential for something to malfunction that was probably a much better driver. We can't potect ourselves against all the idiots, but we can behave on our bikes as if our limbs depended on it. Doing what we can to stay out of trouble: be-seen lights; sidewalks where discretion is the better choice; using the backside of malls like Butler; bike trails and urban trails; alternatives offer us more control.

I work at being safe and aware, but for me part of the appeal is the challenge. I blame Colin Fletcher for making me want to walk the App Trail and it was REI where I bought the book and to which I have been a member since then (1972) and how I ended up accepting his attitude toward challengesI wanted to kick and fight rather than surrender to aging.

But if you judge safety to be the paramount consideration in life you should never, under any circumstances, go on long hikes alone. Don’t take short hikes alone either—or, for that matter, go anywhere alone. And avoid at all costs such foolhardy activities as driving, falling in love, or inhaling air that is almost certainly riddled with deadly germs. . . . Never cross an intersection against a red light, even when you can see that all roads are clear for miles. And never, of course, explore the guts of an idea that seems as if it might threaten one of your more cherished beliefs. In your wisdom you will probably live to a ripe old age. But you may discover, just before you die, that you have been dead for a long, long time.
—Colin Fletcher, The Complete Walker, 1968

I haven't quite reached the height suggested by one of his other notable statements, “Every walk of life falls under the Testicular Imperative: Either you have the world by them, or it has you.”

Ride like you give a damn and make nice to tolerant and indifferent drivers.

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