Cycle commuting is part of my psyche, it defines and completes me, it makes me whole, and during the USA’s COVID fueled partial lockdown I’m ecstatic to declare that as I’m cycling my twisting, 22 kilometer, backstreet and residential route to my “Essential Services” job in a bike shop I’m temporarily sharing the road with far fewer cars and encountering a lot more people who are out and about, staying active, soaking up some Social Distanced, quarantine respite, walking, running, cycling and “other” activities. Among my many chance encounters on the morning of April 22nd. were a quartet of questionable “other” that caused my eyebrows to up-tilt my helmet as I whizzed by in my above pictured Easter Egg clad glory.
Seeing all the unfamiliar faces spending time outside as I travel the 13.5 mile route I’ve been following for the last 30 months makes me giddy. It thrills me to see folks on their bikes but like so many things we do some of us seem intent on pushing the Darwin Button and bringing a halt to our gene’s billions of years legacy.
Cycling is a far more complex activity than is driving a car and there are a few essential elements involved if we wish to be able to survive our pandemic and live long and prosper. One essential element of surviving as a cyclist is being seen, it ranks up there with wearing a helmet, keeping our eyes on the road, our head in the game and following the rules of the road and my first close encounter of the WTF kind was a papa duck cycling with his three little ducklings in tow.
The three kids were all wearing the legally mandated protective safety helmet that undeniably saves thousands of lives and helps prevent permanent brain damage as it reduces the concussive forces that shatter so many in a microsecond. Dad was savvy enough for his kids to wear a helmet but was living the, “Do as I say, not as I do,” rule of parenting. Can I get an amen on my WTF?
FYI- children under the age of five have developing brains that are still growing neurologically but those of us of more advanced years are done. That means that young children can actually develop new sections of their brains if part is damaged while those of us who are beyond kindergarten age can only ask an existing part of our brain to take on work it’s not intended to do. (DO NOT interpret that as a laissez faire attitude on kid’s helmets! Put a lid on those melons!)
My guess is that dad is an essential element of family life fiscally and otherwise and that his death or permanent disability would be a burden to his family, especially in light of the fact that said death or disability would be partially or wholly the result of his negligence in not helmeting up. Nothing spells love like taking cocky, unnecessary, valueless risks in front of one’s children and nothing lends more credence to insisting with one’s kids as they hit puberty that they must wear helmets than being a role model. Shaking my helmeted head I silently cycled on.
My next encounter almost got me off my bike and ringing a doorbell. I’m on a residential street and ahead in the distance I see what I assume is a dog or cat lying dead in the middle of the road. As I approach the “animal” stands and metamorphs into a child with a toy truck in hand who hurriedly steps nearer side of the road, my bright, flashing headlight having alerted him to my approach.
I am flabbergasted, appalled, amazed. During our quarantine inspired renaissance of outdoor activity I have seen a number of oblivious walkers, runners and cyclists treating the street as a their own private area but this is the most egregious example to date.
A three year old is sitting in the street. Alone. Unattended. No supervision. In. The. Street. As I cycle by he begins to run with me and I declare, “Whoa, buddy! You win!” and as I cycle on he continues to run with me. (!?) I repeat my, “You win! Go home now!” as I accelerate away and continue to work. In retrospect I wonder if I should have called the police for his safety’s sake.
My favorite of the four happened soon thereafter. I’m approaching an intersection where I have a stop sign and coming from my right is a woman dressed head to toe in black walking up the hill. I have sufficient time to reach the intersection, stop and proceed before she enters it and as I turn left she calls out to me, “I love all your colors!”
I reply, “Thank you! It makes it much easier for motorists to see me!” my heart and head full of the irony of our situation as I ride by clad like a clown, daytime bright head and taillights intermittently flashing in a full throttled attempt to make me visible so inattentive motorists don’t throttle me. Visibility for walkers and runners is just as important as it is for cyclists so leave the dark colored togs behind when you’re out and about.
My last encounter was a repeat of number one, a bookend of irresponsible parenting by a dad who just wanted to go out with his cooped up kids and have some fun! I get it. I do. But our kids need parents and they are constantly watching us. We all need to be the adult we wish our children to become so put your bloody helmets on and help reduce the risk of becoming a bloody mess and bloody burden on those you cherish.
(And be safe!)