Friday, August 02, 2019

That which does not kill me...

That which does not kill me provides adrenaline and a bit of draft. Sometimes it provides quite a bit of draft.

As much as I resent being a disposable citizen because of my cycling habit, I can’t stay pissed off all the time, and constant paranoia is exhausting. If you really want to avoid all risk of collision, don’t go out there at all. Good riding habits will save you from most causes of cycling mishaps. The rest is up to your fellow road users. You may learn that certain places or times in your riding area are best avoided.

Commuting puts us all on the road at the same time. That increases traffic density and impatience. I used to think that drivers would see that I was having a better time out there than they were, and that it would inspire them to give biking a try. Instead, it only inspires resentment. In 40 years as an adult bike commuter, I have inspired four or five people to take it up. None of them still do it. Most of the people I used to ride with have quit.

Sometimes I’ll hear a vehicle behind me and wonder if it might be the last sound I ever hear. You have to find a balance between insouciant denial and hypervigilance. You might not hear the one that gets you. Or that snarling truck could turn out to be as bad as it sounded. All this goes through your mind. Is it worth it?

Rear view mirror users recommend them, but the mirrors for a bike are either dinky or obtrusive. And you have to be looking at the right time. Much of the time, the view in front of you is far more important than trying to assess the shrunken image of what is overtaking you. The worst parts of my commute are where I would have nowhere to go to escape an attacker coming up behind me.

My experiments with lane control have led me to abandon it for the most part. Drivers are single-minded idiots when it comes to overtaking a cyclist. They routinely swing far over into oncoming traffic to pass without slowing, rather than take the hint and wait behind me for a good gap. The worst of them make a point of squeezing me at the same time.

Here in the Land of the Free, getting hit by a motor vehicle launches you not only into the pain of the crash and the complications of treatment and recovery, but the financial disaster that goes along with it. When perpetrators routinely flee, you won't get compensation from them or their insurance -- if they have any. Reports of cyclist injuries in Canada and Great Britain conspicuously lack the usual links to GoFundMe pages to try to defray a tiny fraction of the medical expenses. That's always hovering over us as well.

When I sit in the car day after day, I can feel myself dying of the inactivity. When I ride the bike day after day, I can feel the pace taking its toll in a different way, with the threat of a crash also looming and fading in my awareness. I am forced to ride harder than I want to when I'm dealing with traffic. By the third day I feel fatigue. By the fifth day I'm really ready to take a couple of days off the bike. The distance matters. Riding just under or over 30 miles a day in hilly terrain takes more out of me than short hops in a fairly flat town would. All of this contributes to my mental state.

I do my best to appear as emotionless as a machine. A driver sits inside the bodywork of the motor vehicle, screened by glass that is apparently hard to see through from both directions. A cyclist is the bodywork. Masked perhaps by sunglasses, and topped with a helmet, the rider is the larger part of the total machine. Eyes front. Cadence steady. React to nothing. Appear invulnerable, even though we all know it isn't true.


ktache said...

The vehicle that hits you sounds exactly the same as the one that passes you too close. I'm guessing it looks pretty much the same, until the last moment. A mirror will not help.
Good luck and don't let them win.
You will be healthier, live better and longer and have to pay less medical bills because you will not have obesity and the diseases associated with it.
And when you do have to drive, because you ride you will be a better driver, far more aware of everything that is going on around you.

Steve A said...

Actually, the problem with "If you really want to avoid all risk of collision, don’t go out there at all" is that you can still collide with stuff inside your home. Slips and falls in the shower are a major risk, even compared to cycling. I think the only way to avoid all risk of collision involves some sort of suicide, which involves other dangers. Have a happy day!

cafiend said...

Years ago I wrote something about how you can hide at home and never get out of bed, but you're at risk of spider bites and infected bed sores.