Tonight’s International Ride of Silence is a stark reminder that hundreds of bike riders are killed in our public spaces known as streets each and every year. I was almost one of them yesterday when a driver affirmatively and intentionally targeted me and tried to hit me not once but twice. I happened to capture my primal scream in the moment on my Go Pro camera, and I used numerous bike handling/hazard avoidance maneuvers I was taught by the League of American Bicyclists to save my life.
This happened as I was returning home from a less-than five-miles-each-way ride to the global headquarters of Cox as a test during National Bike to Work Week. I wanted to see what it would be like to ride to work in the area with the largest concentration of Fortune 500 headquarters in the southeastern United States. Cox is an environmental leader and even awards Cox Conserves heroes each year, so I thought I’d start there before trotting on to the headquarters of other nearby environmental leaders such as Newell Rubbermaid and UPS. The security guards at Cox had no idea where a bike rack was, I ended up finding only one on the entire campus, and there was not one bike parked there. After almost getting killed on a road leading up to the campus, I’m not surprised. And, no, I never made it to the other places. I was lucky to make it home.
Cities such as the two neighboring ones where these corporations are located (and perhaps your city as well) may want to consider becoming certified Bike Friendly Communities. The application process forces them to address these five Es: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation/planning. Improvements made as a result tend to be comprehensive and connected. At least one councilmember in my city does not see the value of this certification, however. Desirable Millennial employees and 53-year-old moms like me tend to think otherwise. When I tried on my League Cycling Instructor jersey that just arrived today, I cut off the tag and noticed it said, “Primal.” That’s the only primal I want on my bike — no more primal screams.
To those family members of fallen riders, my thoughts and prayers are with you tonight. To other bike riders who have had near death experiences (which is most likely most of us), thank you for all you do to pave the way forward, even after sitting on the side of the road in tears wondering if it’s even worth it anymore. And to city leaders who question the lived experiences of bike riders on your city’s streets, please trust we are telling you the truth and remember that the time to make changes is now, before the first (or next) ghost bike arrives.