Ok, I’ve been quiet about this long enough. It’s time for me to speak.
No matter where on the planet you are reading this, you may have heard about an event that occurred last week in our small corner of the world here in St. Louis.
Last Tuesday, my friend Randy was out for a bike ride in Sunset Hills, Missouri, when he had an encounter with a driver. I met Randy on my very first day at the new FLEET FEET inside of Swim Bike Run. He was doing some electrical work right in my little corner of the store. I remember thinking he was a good dude. At that time, I had no idea that he is one of the best cyclists in the state.
By Randy’s account, he was cruising along when a man in a red convertible began shouting at him, “Get off my …. roads!” and eventually swerved his car into Randy, knocking him off his bike. The driver then proceeded to drive away. After being pursued by another driver who had witnessed the incident, the driver turned around and went back to my fallen friend, Randy.
The police were called to the scene and an accident report was filed, but nothing further was done. Nothing. The driver just walked away, or drove as the case may be. Randy was left shaken, bruised, bleeding and with a broken bike. Later, Randy returned to the police department with his attorney to seek some justice, seeing as he did sustain injuries and damage to his bike, but no information on the driver who needed to make restitution. It was at this time that Randy learned the identity of the individual who had hit him. The man in the red convertible was none other than the Mayor of Sunset Hills, so you can understand his possessiveness of his own roads. However, you cannot excuse his demeanor and you might expect he would be slightly more familiar with the laws that are in place to protect cyclists on the roads.
Since the incident, the Mayor has denied that he intentionally swerved into Randy, saying that Randy grabbed onto the side of his car while yelling expletives at him. Side note, could you blame Randy for dropping an F bomb or two? I mean think about it…Randy’s trying to maintain balance on tires about an inch wide, on a road with no shoulder, and rather than the driver giving him “plenty of room” as is required by law, he is close enough for the Mayor to claim he grabbed onto his car. Think on that for a sec. And we wipe out all the time when there aren’t vehicles involved. I’ve had so many friends crash this year it’s scary. But I digress.
Eyewitnesses who were on the scene have come forward and corroborated every detail of Randy’s account. And the 911 calls have been released.
As soon as I learned of Randy’s incident, I went to the Mayor’s facebook page and posted a comment to the most recent photo of the Mayor. It has since been deleted but it went something like this…What happened to my friend Randy on Old Gravois Road today is a travesty! When the leaders of our community are modeling complete intolerance as acceptable behavior, I fear where our society is headed.
Randy commented back to me on that post and was appreciative of my support. By the next morning, our comments were gone. But the comments from others continued and ultimately lead to the removal of the mayor’s Facebook account since it was becoming a breeding ground for hostility, from both sides.
Now there is an investigation that the Sunset Hills police have turned over to the county in an effort to maintain integrity. While, in my personal opinion, the facts seem to be in Randy’s favor, there is a whole lot of “He said/He said” going on at the moment.
But, this is what I know. This kind of stuff happens all the time! I hear stories of friends who have been verbally attacked and even had things thrown at them (ie-cans of soda, a cup full of pennies, etc) while riding. I’ve seen videos of cyclists riding single file on the white line while cars trail behind them laying on the horn for no other reason than to just be a jerk. My friend Kerstin had a guy attempt to smack her butt one time as he cruised by in the passenger seat of a pickup. Clearly he had no idea how dangerous that idea was. This is assault! Plain and simple.
Personally, I get “buzzed” by cars all the time. And while the driver may not realize they are driving that close to me, the wind and the noise caused by the vehicle are enough to make me jumpy and throw me off balance.
I worry about going out on the road by myself, which makes getting my cycling miles for Ironman Arizona a challenge. I try to go on group rides, or ride with friends, since I am still trying to learn road etiquette, but that isn’t always an option. And sitting inside on a bike trainer got old after the winter we had, I want to be outside. But there is a total lack of mutual respect between cyclists and drivers which makes riding alone scary. I realize that not all cyclists respect the rules of the road and that ticks off the drivers. But here’s a point I want the drivers to just be aware of…the other day I was out riding with my friend Karen and there were a few times we were riding side by side that we just couldn’t hear the approaching car so we didn’t switch to single file. It wasn’t that we were being intentionally inconsiderate; we were just enjoying our ride. We made a mistake, oops. People do that. Regardless of why cyclists are using the road, or how they’re using it, let’s remember that no one has the right to use their vehicle as a weapon. Ever!
My apologies if, on one of my cycling escapades, I have ridden too far into the lane, or I haven’t used my right arm to signal long enough (my balance isn’t great that way), or if I made you 30 seconds later to get where you were going. Please forgive me. But allow me to offer a truce. I am a cyclist. I am also a driver. But we’re all people. So what I propose is very simply, mutual respect and understanding. Tolerance. Acceptance. And above all, Forgiveness.
On Saturday, Randy and several other folks I know rallied at a peaceful demonstration on bike safety in Sunset Hills. I wanted to be there, but I knew Randy would understand that I needed to take advantage of my opportunity to train and get a lot of miles in. I was there in spirit. The theme was I AM HUMAN. We are all people. Like I said, I am a cyclist. And a driver. I’m also a mom. And a daughter. And a sister. And a friend. And an aunt. And a cousin. And the list continues.
All of this reminds me of a post that I wrote about a year ago when I got buzzed by a truck pulling a trailer on 109. That experience left a lasting impression with me, so I feel the need to share that post again. So, if you will indulge me, here it is once again…
A LETTER TO MY FRIENDS WITH CARS
Dear friends with cars:
I know you don’t like to wait for cyclists. Believe me, I get it. I’m not particularly fond of it either, especially when I’m running late to get somewhere. Which is pretty much all the time with me. But humor me, for a minute, if you will.
This morning I went out for a ride. I only went about 16 miles because I didn’t have a whole lot of time before my doctor appointment that I ultimately missed because I had the time wrong. Duh. But something occurred to me while I was out on the bike earlier when some guy in a red pickup truck pulling a trailer nearly scared the crap out of me as he sped past in very close proximity. I’m not really sure what he was trying to prove, since it was pretty obvious that he and his means of transportation were way bigger and faster than me and mine. If he was trying to prove that he’s a jackass, he succeeded. Anyway, I think we all know I’m a pretty fearless chick, there’s not a lot that truly scares me. However, this caused enough fear in me that I began shouting at the driver of said pick up. It is entirely possible there were obscenities involved.
As I rode on I started thinking, if that guy was a friend of mine, he wouldn’t have been as likely to do that. No, I’m not planning to use his license plate number to track him down and make friends (nor for any other reason, for that matter). Actually, I have a favor to ask of all my driving friends.
My confidence on the bike has grown leaps and bounds over the past couple months, but I still consider myself a novice and I’m still figuring out the rules of sharing the road. I typically try to ride with company, so I can learn from my more experienced cyclist friends, but that’s not always an option. The runner girl in me is used to sidewalks and jogging paths, or being able to jump out of the way without the risk of too much damage, so trust me, I don’t love riding in your driving lane, but I also don’t love riding over all the gravel and potentially hazardous junk on the shoulder of the road. If I had my way, I would ride strictly on bike paths or country roads where the only traffic is an occasional tractor, but I have to get to those venues somehow. I’d rather not be scared or killed in my attempt to get there.
So, here’s my favor, you ready? Next time you are out and about in your car, and you happen upon a cyclist, pretend for a moment that it’s me, your friend. I’d like to think that most, if not all of you care enough about me that you are concerned with my well-being. I’d like to think that you wouldn’t want to cause me any harm, such as paralysis or death or at the very least the humiliation of soiling myself in public (although a few of you would probably enjoy that last one). There is a reason we wear helmets, and it’s not about the fashion statement, I assure you. It’s to protect ourselves, and I’m hoping you all like me enough that you would be willing to protect me too. So, please, use the brakes, slow down, take the extra 30 seconds to let traffic clear before you give me plenty of room as you carefully go around me, and I promise we’ll both have a better day because of it. Think about it, wouldn’t it mess up your day a whole lot more to have to make that call to my mom and my kids? That’s what I thought.
So next time you see “me” on the road, instead of thinking that I’m some egocentric cyclist who is out there being a jerk with the sole intention of messing up your commute, please remember that I’m really just out there doing the best I can.
Thanks, Friends. Now get out and enjoy this beautiful day!
Rambling Runner Girl
Note: If I have ever offended or harmed you in any way and you would in fact like to run over me, please disregard this message.