King of the Reclaimed Road

June 20th, 2010 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Yes, eight days ago, a hit-and-run driver smashed me and my bike to the asphalt. No, I’m not going to stop cycling, quake at the sight of cars or stay off the road.

Sore as my right knee and left gluteus are, I’ve been on the bike a few times since. Today, I rode that same road…to reclaim it emotionally.

Who’s a Monkey?

Aren’t we humans peculiar that way. Something bad occurs and we reprogram ourselves, forever looking for that negative outcome. That’s very much unlike my cinnamon ringtail monkey Sam of decades ago. I remember her sneaking behind me when I was rewiring a wall light switch. Before I could grab her, she thrust that agile paw into the plateless frame and got the full jolt  through her three and one-half pound body. I thought that might kill her, but she only looked very surprised. Less than two seconds later, I pulled her back as she went for the frame again.

I’m not sure the human reaction is any more sensible. We are wont to  say, “I know from experience that if you x, then y happens.” It makes no difference that y only happened once and did not happen hundreds or thousands of times before.

That seems the basis, the sole basis, of Scientology with its talk of engrams. If something bad happens, you will permanently alter your behavior.  Of course, in that specific case there is the solution of paying many thousands of dollars to hold tin cans or some other galvanometer connection and get cleared by one of theirs.

Long before this iteration though, clichés had it covered. To those who admit defeat, there has been once burned, twice shy. To the gut it out sorts, there has been when you fall off the horse, get right back on.

The distinction goes to one of my regular routines about literalism. Those of us who in fact become so crippled by a single bad experience that we are immobilized or afraid are just too literal. Those think differently. Too bad.

On the other hand, there’s another version of silly behavior by those who eschew analysis and can’t learn the obvious. My monkey was in that class and she has human company.

What Can We Learn?

As my head cleared from the shock and pain of the wreck last weekend, I did wonder if I had done all I could…short of hiding at home…to avoid getting hit. I have to say I did, with bright clothes, flashy colored bike, riding in the shoulder to the right of the fog line, constantly using my side-view mirror, signaling all turns and lane changes, and on and on. Even someone playing by all the conventions of safety can lose at the hands of the inattentive, malicious or drugged driver.

So, those who have not lost skin and blood to a reckless driver might ask, how is it to be back on a cycle on the same road? It’s a little nervous making, particularly in light of my not having any behavior to modify to make me feel I’m doing more to ensure my health and life.

I saw again on Route 138 what I generally see in road biking. Jerk behavior can include:

  • Intentionally coming inches from a cyclist (illegal as well as vicious)
  • Coming right on the rear wheel of a cyclist and blowing the horn (certain to startle, possible even cause a crash)
  • Playing drama queen by veering two or all four wheels over the center line even when the cyclist is in the bike lane or shoulder (very dangerous for both lanes and highly illegal)
  • Swinging past a cyclist and cutting two or four wheels into the shoulder or bike lane (also illegal and danger, as well as seeming to be a mindless overreaction)

I was slightly more aware of the drivers’ crazy behaviors. Those reminded me that unless drivers are also cyclists, they aren’t likely to get it. They are not trained to apply solid geometry and physics to passing, accelerating and sharing. They are also sure to not notice the field of broken glass in the bike lane or shoulder that will require the cyclist to avoid it. They may even behave as though if they blow their horn, the cyclist will disappear off the road so the drivers don’t have to obey the laws about passing safely or slowing as necessary. They don’t seem to understand that horns do no substitute for brakes.

Regardless, I did feel some kinship with drivers in one way. As those who veer into and travel in bike lanes and shoulders, I understand claiming territory. They seem to be marking the lane where the despicable biker will travel with their wheels when they drive there. That really isn’t much different from a cat or dog using scent glands or urine to mark turf.

In my case, I was back on 138. I briefly stopped by where the driver hit me. While I hoped to see a broken mirror I could take to the police, I figured Officer David would have seen that last Saturday. What I really wanted was to ride and walk that same stretch of road, making it mine again.

Back up on the horse, or in this case, on the bike…either way, in the saddle…is a damned sight better than paralyzed by events.

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One Response

  1. Jay & Jasper says:

    Michael,
    Sorry to hear about the hit and run. We;re glad that you are back biking. As a pedestrian I have notice an increase in drivers not obeying traffic lights and signs
    J & J

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