Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bicycle Deaths: Too Many, Too Much?

No, no close calls for me lately, and today I took a long and fun adventure ride. More about that below. But today's "headline" refers to a profusion of stories in the bicycle blogosphere this last week or two on a tragic series of bicycle rider deaths. Here a policeman plows into a group ride (Arizona) there a policeman plows into a group ride (California), here a motorist passes a rider and swings a baseball bat (also Arizona) there a motorist passes a rider and pushes him over by hand (Utah) and today: more cycling deaths in San Francisco. I suppose it is bound to happen that as the number of cyclists increases the interactions with autos increases and the number of accidents increases until we reach that critical mass that will change the infrastructure to insure safer cycling and a level of education and consciousness that will change driver attitudes. You'd thing that as we draw closer to $4 a gallon gas prices it might begin to happen.

But I have to say, as a rider, the profusion of stories is starting to have an effect on my psyche. As I began to prepare to go out for a longer ride planned mostly on streets today, I started to get more nervous. I really wanted to ride a different route for a change and I thought it would be a good day to try to reach RRC, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical college where I teach once a week, just for fun. I will probably never be able to ride on a day that I teach because my class starts at 8:30 AM and I'd have to leave too early to get there, but even to know that for sure depends on my making the trip and ascertaining its difficulty and how long it takes.

I guess there is no choice but to report all of these tragic events just as the newspapers can't just report good news despite some agitation that they should, but some days I choose not to read the newspaper simply because I don't want to hear it that day. I hope I will not have to skip a day or so of checking my favorite bike blogs for the same reason.

Now to today's ride: I left the house a bit later than I'd hoped and since I needed to be home before 2 PM and had no idea where I was going or how long it would take, I didn't know if I would have to turn back before reaching my destination or not. But it sure is nice to have a destination to be going toward instead of just riding the path all the time. (In light of the opening paragraphs above, I was wearing my new Road ID bracelet that Annie bought for me. She is worried that I would be identified when I go on longer rides without her.) Anyway, it worked out great. I arrived at the College in 1 hour and twenty minutes, total mileage, one way, 14.9. I forgot to take my camera, but there really wasn't anything to photograph; it was a pretty gritty urban ride most of the way. Of course the ride down Kelly Drive on the SRT was pretty as usual, as was the 15 minutes going up the Wissahicken Trail to Wissahicken Avenue. After that it was residential and commercial. The only scary part was riding about a quarter of a mile along the very busy street that either is at that point or is about to become Route 309. I did it, but also figured out a way to avoid it in the future. I avoided it going home. Despite the weather being overcast it was 49 degrees and getting colder as I rode. The wind was a definite factor as were some of the hills I hadn't anticipated.But I'd been wanting to do this for a long time and I'm glad I did.

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