Travel Update and Cycling Safety
Well, at this point, I can really only hope that I made it safely to Colorado! If all goes well, I will have arrived in Denver on Saturday evening and I should be in Buena Vista at the opening ceremonies for Transrockies today!
Unlike popular belief, these posts often aren’t written day of, but where ever I can snatch the sit down time to get them in. In today’s case, it is at the Houston airport on a lengthly layover – which is what happens when you redeem travel points for flying instead of buying it outright.
I left on Saturday morning at 3 AM to catch a morning flight.
I really do not mind travelling if everything goes smoothly. With long stretches of time, I have breaks in my normally crazy schedule to write and catch up on books and movies that I have been wanting to check out.
Right now, I am reading Andie Mitchell’s book and absolutely love it. I am trying not to rip through it because her words are an absolute feast.
Speaking of feast, I am not a person who loves meals but much prefer grazing all day. For this reason, I often opt for snacks when travelling instead of dropping my life savings as the airport Panda Express.
Now I know that this post has been a bit disjointed so far but bear with me. The real reason I wanted to post today has nothing to do with travel, Transrockies or running at all for that matter.
What I really want to talk to you about is cycling safety which has been arguably beaten to death but for good reason. Right now, it is hitting a little closer to home.
Let’s back up a bit. The last year of high school was a rough one for me. It was year two into my youngest sister’s eating disorder and instead of getting better, it just seemed to be spiralling out of control. Everything had changed and I was floundering for stability so I reached for the very thing that had tore my life apart – eating. Or the lack thereof.
It wasn’t that big of a deal at first – I just started exercising a bit more so I could think. I still believe nothing clears my head like a long run but it is so vital to make sure other aspects of your life are balanced so it is a healthy exercise. Soon, I was doing daily double runs and had halved my intake and dramatically cut my weight. People noticed but no one really spoke up until one day, my biology teacher, who I openly adored, pulled me aside and said:
You know, Jessica, it is the summer time and you are wearing a lot of clothes.
I was tempted to make a snide joke about the fact that I was Mennonite but she continued.
I just want you to know that I see what is going on. I notice. And I care.
And she really did. She called me at my house when she noticed my focus was off in class due to lack of proper nutrition. She took me to universities to scope out my future and a healthier place to place my passions. And she was one of the people I had in my life to make sure I put all that behind me.
Training alone on a bicycle gives one a lot of time to think. I first started to script this “letter to the editor” in my head last summer, while out on my bike on the roads in Huron County. I wanted to write because I was thankful for the polite and considerate drivers who slowed down and gave me (and my bike) enough space to keep traveling safely. Many trucks passed with care, local business that I recognized such as Sparling’s Propane, Grey Eggs and Gardener’s Dairy, I thank these drivers for following the traffic laws and passing properly.
Then, in August 2014, I stopped writing this “friendly thank you letter”. Instead the letter in my head became a “how to pass a cyclist while driving a car” letter. What happened was this: while travelling east on Blyth Road (between Auburn and Blyth) I was passed by a transport truck so closely it made me scream. I was already on the white line on the right side of the road and this truck’s rear tires were also touching the white line. It was nondescript transport with a white trailer with no identifying markers. Remembering the license plate was not even an option because it scared me so much I could hardly think straight. It really frightened me.
Fast forward to July 27th 2015. I never did write that letter, but now I have to. I went out on my bike on this Sunday afternoon for what was to be a 2 hour training ride. I usually ride early in the morning, before the busy daytime traffic, but on this day my time available was in the middle of the afternoon. I was travelling west. I knew there would be a lot of traffic coming east, heading home from the cottage. I was right, but decided to keep my head up and keep going. Not 2km into my ride a vehicle travelling east and towing a camper pulled into my lane to pass not one, but two vehicles. This meant that there were vehicles in both lanes coming toward me. The passing vehicle made it into their proper lane only just before they got to where I was on the road. I thought – holy cow, what were they thinking? I may have also given the appropriate hand signal for that kind of inconsiderate driving. Less than 2km later, the same thing happened again – except this time, the car doing the passing was still in my lane as it came by me. I was just on the inside of the white line, had my elbow been out this car would have hit me.
There are many reasons that this scary near-death experience happened. Here are a few. One – people are in a rush – everyone is. Two – drivers of cars and trucks think that they are the ones with the right of way, to hell with cyclists, horse and buggies, and motorcycles. Three – Drivers think they can get away with it – and don’t know that killing a cyclist will send them to jail. Four – I was by myself on my bike and perhaps was not a big or bright enough presence on the road.
Say, for example, you were driving behind a vehicle you wished to pass. You pull out enough to see there is a car coming toward you, so you decide to wait. You would do the same thing if there was an on-coming truck, motorcycle or horse and buggy – so why would you not do the same for a cyclist? In no way was I in the wrong. Under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, a bicycle is a vehicle, just like a car or truck.
I am going to keep riding. On the day this happened I turned around, went home and got on my mountain bike to ride on the rail trail, greenway trail and the back roads where I knew I would be safer.
Share the road.
Two days later, while out on a training ride, she was struck by a vehicle that broke her neck and back. She is getting intensive care and her family is hit by an additional burden of travel and child care. It’s going to be a long road to recovery and my heart hurts to think about the ramifications this will have on her.
So if you have a moment, consider donating to support her family. Just to say that you notice that cycling safety needs to be a priority. And that you care.