Ride In 6/18: You're the next contestant on the Price is Right

When I was in middle school, I cut my right ring finger while opening a can of soup. Rather than open the lid away from me, pulling the top back towards my body, I did the opposite and I sliced my finger. I have a little, crescent-shaped scar and I'm going to have this scar for the rest of my life, assuming I don't lose the finger in a more grievous canned soup-related incident or have my hand replaced in some super-cool, futuristic robotic upgrade that will give my super-grip and perhaps the ability to crush things that I cannot currently crush. It was dumb of me to cut myself and I wish that I hadn't done it and I wish that I had thought about how careless I was being and about the potential for injury, but I didn't because all I was thinking about was the mundane act of preparing soup. And now I have a scar and a story about the dangers of canned soup and the realization that not being mindful of the consequences of actions can have permanent consequences that can never be redressed. Stuff happens and it can't unhappen. I didn't want it to happen and I didn't plan for it to happen and ultimately, it's a barely visible indentation on a highly overrated finger (I'd rank "right ring" between 7 and 10 on my Finger Power Poll), so it's not a huge deal that it happened, but it's serves as a faint, but ever present, reminder that not paying attention to what you're doing and not thinking ahead about consequences can leave permanent scars and that, while an "accident," it's not an accident free from consequences, namely a skepticism of all canned foods and a general desire to try to think through the potential pitfalls of acting in a way that shows a lack of regard to what's going on around me.

I didn't get hit by a pickup truck. In fact, the truck didn't even come that close to me. The driver began to turn left at the intersection of Pennsylvania and 15th, where the cycle track ends and another begins and a bike light beckons cyclists to cross the street. The bike light was green. The other traffic light, the one that suggests it's safe and prudent for users to make left turns was red. The other light, the one that suggests it's safe and prudent for road users to make right turns, was green and a green arrow at that. Green Arrow, as you might be aware, is a comic book character. To the best of my knowledge, one is his superhero abilities is not the excellent management of the flow of traffic. In any case, I proceeded across the intersection, called forth by the bike light and I watched the driver of the National Park Service maintenance pickup truck begin to do the same, in spite of the fact that I do not believe that it's a "bike + NPS service vehicle" light, though that's maybe in the fine print. I yelled "stop!" and "STOP" again and I sort of hate how my voice is neither deep, nor booming, because I feel like that might have much greater effect. No one would almost run over James Earl Jones. The driver did stop. And then unlike myself, I rode past, turning right to ride up 15th, swiveled my head and yelled back "You're gonna kill somebody." Typically, I don't like to call attention to this fact. It seems morbid and confrontational and I'm a "no harm, no foul" sort of person who isn't especially quick to anger and probably someone who is too quick to forgive injustices, even when I shouldn't. And, ultimately, these were only words and I don't know if they're going to have any effect on anyone (I do know. They won't) and yelling them didn't make me feel any better. It made me feel worse. I hate being confronted with the idea that someone's not paying attention (not willful disregard of the law) could have resulted in something  horrible. Yes, it would be an "accident," in that the driver had no intention to run me down. But he would still be culpable. But would his culpability mean anything to me? I don't know.

Thinking about these things mostly just ruined the rest of my ride. I know that if you're anything like me (peg-legged, lactose tolerant, suspicious of lingering birds), you enjoy this blog for its mirth (not myrrh. There's been a distinct shortage of myrrh for some time now) and I enjoy writing it not as a means to display my righteous indignation with the wrongs of the world (I prefer my displays of righteous indignation to take diorama form. Does anyone have any extra shoe boxes?), but instead to convey how interesting it can be to ride a bicycle through a city and how immediate your surroundings are and how present you can feel in situations that are mostly preposterous. I also like to overuse italics. Sometimes I drift away from those ideas and I complain about petty things and I should really complain less because life is fairly wonderful and made in no small part better by getting to ride a bicycle every day. I simply don't care to be rankled and I don't care to dwell on it when it happens because I think that's the kind of thing that can make a person hard. It can turn a bike commuter from an easygoing, happy, healthy guy to someone who perceives every movement by every other person as a deliberate slight and  existential threat. That's the guy who yells and that's the guy who slaps cars and that's the guy who rides as a big "fuck you" instead of riding as a big "fuck yeah (this is awesome)." I'd much rather be the latter.

Excuse me for meandering. Most of the rest of the ride was fine. It didn't rain as much as I had thought and when I got to work, I realized that I left my lock at home and my bike is now stowed in the locker room, assuming it hasn't been taken hostage by the good folks at Progresso, only to be released when I publish a retraction concerning their flavorful assortment of canned goodness. Here's hoping.


  1. Definitely seen this behavior before, and it's part of the reason I stopped going through that intersection. Unless its changed recently, you really have to hustle to get to that light when it turns green, at which point drivers believe that it's their green left-turn light. It's a mess.

  2. I had a similar encounter on Saturday. A pick up truck was pulling out of a driveway. The driver was looking to the right and I was approaching from the left. His window was open so I yelled "Hey!" No reaction, he kept rolling. I yelled "HEY!" He laid on his horn as if my mere existence offended him. I turned (I was past him by this point) and yelled an f-bomb at him. This incident happened on the same street where my wife was run over by an SUV while she was walking across the street. Failure to pay time and attention was the official cause. It sounds so innocent but she missed 3 months of work. Do feel free to yell whatever is necessary. No guilt. Better to raise someone's blood pressure than leave the scene in ambulance or hearse.

  3. I happen to know a bunch of Traffic/Transportation Engineers and I remember one time we were talking about bike v. car "accidents" and I was scolded for using the term "accident". While I think accident may technically be a correct term, it implies a certain level of "oops, didn't mean it, so no penalty". Despite the fact that the person who caused the mishap generally didn't mean it, they could have, or should have taken steps that would have prevented the mishap from taking place. There is fault/blame to be placed, and often times any legal recourse relies on how and when the fault is assigned.

    I was told instead, and try to use the term "collision" - as it strips away the whimsical/ethereal/force majeure connotation .

    The "I didn't see you" response and the lax attitude over "tragic freak accidents" is not really acceptable anymore when it comes to the seriousness of loss of life, limb or property.

    I am a son, brother, husband, employee, etc., not just a "biker" who got hit by a U-turning driver who didn't see me as I was taking up space in the road. The tragic accident is that you didn't step up and take responsibility when you make a mistake of that magnitude.