Unwelcome Answer to My Question

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At approximately 7:25 a.m. on Thursday, October 24th, I was struck by a car while riding my bicycle. It was after daybreak, it was light out. I was riding in a bike lane with traffic on Fairfax Drive crossing a side street ( Wakefield St.) and preparing to enter the sidewalk to connect to a multi-use trail.

I was wearing my usual gear- my bright, yellow and reflective safety vest over my bright fuchsia rain jacket. My lights were on, I have reflectors and reflective tape in all the right places. The light was green for me. I obeyed all traffic signals, stayed to the right within the lane, scanned the intersection to make eye contact with any persons in stopped vehicles.

Despite all of my efforts to be predictable, alert, lawful and highly visible; the accident came down to a disturbing and unwanted answer to the question from the blog post I wrote 24 hours prior to being hit, entitled “Can you see me now?”.

The answer came directly from the driver of the car that struck me. She said to me, ” I was only looking for cars. I didn’t see you. I wasn’t looking for bicycles.”

Another answer to my question came to me while waiting for X-Ray results in the hospital bed in the ER:

A person cannot see what they are not looking for. If you do not believe you are going to encounter something, you will not see it.

So, this left me wondering what was missing from the equation. I had done everything right and still I was hit. I was being a PAL ( Predictable, Alert, Lawful) but the driver was not.

The driver was turning right on red from the side street and because she was only looking for an opening in the car traffic, she did not see me in my ridiculously bright clothing as I crossed the intersection ( no “A” for alert).

As she hit me, her car was going too fast to have been stopped behind the crosswalk and I did not see her car when I initially scanned the intersection. This leads me to believe that she had NOT come to complete stop before proceeding to turn right on red. ( no “P” for predictable or “L” for lawful. )

How do we demand that people pay attention? Especially in a world where people are traveling through the environment more and more distracted. I am not sure.

How do we raise awareness about how important it is to look for EVERYONE, especially pedestrians and cyclists, when driving?

I imagine the woman who hit me with her car will look out for cyclists for the rest of her life. Probably everyone who knows me or has heard my story has had their awareness of bicycles on the road raised to a new level. Maybe this is part of the “something good” that can come out of me being hit by a car. Although, I don’t think this kind of accident martyrdom is a sustainable model for raising awareness.

I certainly can’t recommend the experience of getting hit by a car. It really sucks ( a lot more than riding without incident on a cold, dark rainy morning).

I am grateful that I wasn’t killed or that my injuries aren’t more severe. But I can’t say I feel lucky. I am in pain and dealing with the shock and trauma of being hit by a car.

I will get back on my bike ( assuming it is ride-able). I might hesitate at first to go that particular route again. Although, it is a heavily traveled pathway for cyclists and pedestrians. Perhaps, Wakefield Street would be a good candidate for one of those “No Right Turn on Red” signs.

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What to Wear?

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Getting dressed to go out  into the world is so different without my climate-controlled,  Swedish chariot awaiting my every travel whim. Weather becomes a contact sport. With my new level of exposure to the elements, recent local weather patterns seem  rather moody perhaps even vindictive at times.

A few examples:

The  late March snowstorm in which my daughter and I got completely soaked just walking to the bus stop to go pick up a zip car.

The day in mid April when it was 91 degrees for my  first trip taking my daughter to her swim lesson via our bike trailer at noon!

The mid May unexpectedly frosty 42 degree temperature for my 4:45 am ride to the gym that made me wish I was wearing full fingered gloves.

My interest in weather apps went through the roof once I began to rely on my bicycle as my principal mode of transport. My awareness of temperature, wind speed and direction, hourly changes in the air temperature, humidity and precipitation have skyrocketed. Basically, I use all of this data to decide what to wear.

My other wardrobe consideration?  How can I be seen so that the drivers who are mesmerized by their own favorite apps on their devices might look up at the road for a moment to swerve out of the bike lane and avoid hitting me? This season’s must have fashion item? See the photo below in which I am wearing my bright yellow safety vest with reflective tape. It is not terribly attractive but it has become my safety blanket. My husband wears a matching one, so yeah, we are THAT couple.

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I thought we were trend setters, maybe future millionaires after introducing our  new line of brightly colored safety wear. As it turns out, these fashion statements already exist in droves. On the trails and in the bike lanes of Arlington, one can see a wide range of highly technical cycling and fitness wear in colors such as, ” Please Don’t Kill Me Pink”, ” Yes, I am on a Bicycle Yellow” and ” Out of My Way Orange”.  Although, I can’t say I have ever been a big fan of colors that are an assault to the retina, they are much better than ” I have a death wish black or brown” which are both so last season!