"Some day I will be in a horrible accident. Today is not that day."
Aka: I will be damned if one of my readers dies in a bike accident. Not on my watch.
Yesterday when I was getting a late lunch at my fave local spot, the guy behind the counter — who knows I bike to work everyday — told me a woman cyclist in her 60s was killed by a commercial dump truck on Friday afternoon at 23rd and Madison. The intersection is blocks from my office. I bike it frequently. After obsessively googling the accident, I took a moment to pause, reflect, and remember my macabre bike riding mantra.
According to onlookers, she was not wearing a helmet, but it probably wouldn’t have helped her. She was clipped as the truck pulled out and she rolled under his tires. He was apparently completely unaware it had happened until onlookers shouted at him to stop.
It is just devastating for her loved ones, and a sobering moment for all my fellow urban bikers — who, in my opinion, are largely cavalier about their safety. I see terrible habits every single day.
What can we take from this?
1. Remember, once again, that bike-riding — and walking! — in New York City, and every American city, is a dangerous endeavor. Drivers generally have much stronger legal protection than bikers or pedestrians — and they certainly have stronger physical protection, in the form of thousands of pounds of steel. Hence my mantra, which is intended to focus your attention on the reality and risks of the task. In other words: put away your fucking cell phone. And slow down. Don’t recklessly pass. Don’t run every light. You will get there.
2. Commercial trucks — specifically dump trucks — are involved in a LOT of fatal accidents. When you see one, beware. Slow down. Be very careful when passing them. Assume they are not even bothering to look for you, and act accordingly.
3. Wear bright or light colors at all times of day, and especially during the darker winter months. I am grateful to my kelly green coat, because not only is it chic as fuck, it’s really functional on the road. It’s definitely hard to miss. So many commuters wear their usual NYC black. Not ok. I can barely see you! (And if I, as a fellow biker, can’t see you, you can bet the drivers cannot.) Always add a ridiculous safety orange vest (which I wear on top of my coat … I look amazing, let me tell ya).
On a related note, I don’t think lights are as important as wearing bright clothes and reflective vests. I can often miss a biker with a measly little white or red light. You’ve gotta go all-in.
Those are my reminders to myself. Take ‘em on your own terms, and stay safe, friends.