Whether you admit it or not, we’re hanging on by a very fine thread.
There’s a regular descent I take to get to work or, actually, to get anywhere, because I live near the tip-top of a big hill. One morning my buddy G$ was coming down the lower section of this descent on a street called Via del Monte. It was just past the stop sign past the 180-degree hook past the sweeping left-hander. There was a car parked on the opposite side of the road, which is narrow and demarcated with a do-not-pass solid line down the middle.
In order to legally turn around go the other direction, the car would have had to continue up the hill and add another minute or two onto his drive, or make a left-hand turn into a driveway on the opposite side of the street, then back out of the driveway and head back down the hill. That maneuver might have cost him an extra fifteen or maybe even, dog forbid, twenty seconds.
But this dude was in a hurry, too much of a hurry to use his blinker even, so he just whipped a curb-to-curb u-turn, and he did it without checking oncoming traffic. The “oncoming traffic” happened to be my buddy, sailing down the hill at a solid 25 mph. It may not seem fast to you, and I suppose it’s not, unless you have to decelerate from 25 to 0, with your terminal velocity terminating in the side of a steel car door. G$ survived the crash with “only” some broken ribs, a totaled bike, a concussion, and a broken collarbone. The driver had some terrible scratches and even a dent on his car door.
And as every cyclist says, lying in the ER with tubes coming out of his chest and dick, “How’s my bike?” followed by “It could have been worse.”
Yes. It could have.
It could also have been better
This morning I was coming down that same stretch of road and thinking, like I always do, “This is not far from the place where G$ almost bought the farm.” Why do I think that every time I go down the hill? Because the injury and near-death of friends is almost as traumatic to me as it is to them.
A big, fat, black Jag had pulled out just past the stop sign and I was about two car lengths back. I love it when I have a big, fat, expensive German or British millionairemobile in front of me, because they clear the road better than a snowplow. On the hill hardly anyone is afraid of hurting or killing cyclists, but everyone is afraid of scratching a 500-series krautmobile.
As the Jag flew past the exact point where G$ went down, an incredible thing happened. One of the women who cleans floors, toilets, shitty diapers, and dog poop for the rich white folks in PVE pulled the exact same curb-to-curb maneuver that had taken out G$. She never even looked.
But I did.
And what I saw was the side of a Honda Civic a few feet from the front wheel of my bike. So, like the pro I am, I did what I always do when confronted with catastrophe on my bike. I screamed.
It’s a scream that people who ride with me have heard before. It’s a throaty, roaring, “Heyaaarrrghhhhaaaaeeehayyyy!” and it’s amazingly loud for such a skinny guy with a big stomach. At the same time I screamed, I leaned the bike over into the oncoming traffic lane in which, thankfully, there was none.
My front wheel and the bumper of her car avoided contact by a foot. She stared at me, gape-mouthed. “Where did that bicycle come from? Gosh, how scary. Gee, he could have damaged my car.” I know that’s what she was thinking.
When I got to the office, my chamois was a tad browner than usual. The thread, however, was intact.
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