Almost fifteen years ago, a car hit me while I was riding my bike.
I was going forward and a black Honda Accord was trying to turn into a drive way. He nailed me and I flew into the air, spinning, landing. My house key went into my thigh like a knife. My knee dislocated and then relocated in a three second span. Minor cuts and bruises. I walked with a limp for about two weeks. If you’ve never been hit by a car before, it’s hard to describe the experience properly. It feels like getting hit by a car.
I was 20 then. I’m 35 now. If I was supposed to learn a lesson back then, I didn’t.
Riding your bike is a lot like driving a car in the city, except it is a lot more fun. The first time I rode my bike in the city, I extremely nervous. People in this town drive like maniacs, making u-turns in the middle of the street (The DC U-turn), stopping in the middle of traffic for no reason, running lights that are as red as blood, every horrible traffic habit you could imagine. Washington DC isn’t special in this regard. No one can drive anywhere in America. I’ve traveled enough to know that nowhere is safe, that everyone is a horrible driver, that no one pays attention. One town is not worse than another town. No one that calls themselves an American can drive a car properly, myself included.
So, once I remembered that people can’t drive, it made riding my bike much easier. I just stopped caring. I was able to go around cars at stop lights and then, once I saw there was no cars coming, I just ran the lights. I rode my bike between cars that were jammed up in traffic. I rode down one-way streets. When the street got to crazy, I rode on the sidewalk. I acted like an insane person. My finest moment was when, using a combination of street-riding and pedestrian dodging, kept pace with a S2 bus going up 16th, headed to Silver Spring. I’m horribly out of shape, though. I haven’t gotten to the point where I can charge up a hill and not feel like someone is trying to murder me. And I’m not nearly as spry as I used to be. I’m not dead, either.
Of course, I’ve almost been hit by a car. But, to be fair, I almost go hit by a car just walking, driving, on a bus, on a Metro. You almost get hit by cars every day. You, somewhere along the line, just stopped worrying about it so much. And, to be honest, if you spend your entire life worrying about if you’re going to get hurt or not when you walk out the door in the morning, you probably won’t walk out that door. You’ll just put your head under the covers and cry. It is dangerous out there. But it’s also fun out there, too. It’s a pretty honest trade off.
And, before you become overwhelmed for my safety, please refer to the title of this blog. Yes, I wear a helmet. It is ugly and absurd and makes me sweat, but it’s there, this plastic and foam monstrosity that ensures that I feel safe. Like when you go through security at the airport, and then tell you on the plane to wear your seatbelt. For safety. 30,000 feet up. But don’t worry. This thin nylon seatbelt designed in the Sixties is going to save your life. The illusion of safety.