On biking, close calls, and why I still ride

The recent death of a colleague, a bicyclist, in a bike-vs.-car accident has led me to mull over why I still ride my bike. I didn’t know Bobby personally, but in a few ways, I can identify with him. This might be a bit more rambling than usual, so bear with me.

On July 3, 2009, I was living in Chicago but had headed into the suburbs, because I was staying at my parents’ home for a few days thanks to the upcoming 4th of July. I was unemployed (including from church music, as this was during my hiatus), which gave me plenty of time to ride my bike through the streets and trails of Chicago, and ride I did. But during this weekend, I hadn’t brought my bicycle out with me to the suburbs, so I got onto my dad’s bike and headed out. 

About 20 minutes in, I was speeding down a street when, with no warning, the cable from the brake levers to the tires popped off and caught in my pedal. The bike immediately collapsed, but because I was going relatively fast, I did not stay on the bike. I had no time to react as I flew over the handlebars and landed, hard, on the gravel, immediately drawing blood. A couple hours later, my right arm started to have sharp pains.

One hospital trip later, we officially figured out that I had fractured my right arm, on top of the multiple bumps, bruises and scrapes. I was on the shelf for six miserable weeks, wherein I was still unemployed and unable to do much anyway. There was no way I could have prevented the accident (in fact, the bike had just been in for maintenance). And yet I was fortunate. If I had landed worse or been hit by a car after falling, I could have been a much worse statistic.

And yet.

Once the doctor cleared me, despite the fact that I had been seriously injured while bicycling, I was back on my bike and riding again through the Chicago streets (and on the trails too, mind you). And though I don’t ride as much now (having several jobs will do that to you), I still like to hop on my back as often as I can and traverse the trails of the suburbs.

That accident, however, is not my only close call. Like a whole bunch of other bicyclists, I’ve been brushed, hit surprise deep potholes, or simply lost my balance. And yet, I still keep riding. Let me explain why.

Like my late colleague, I know and understand the risks of bicycling. But damn near everything has some level of risk. Skiing is risky. Running is risky. Football is risky. Driving is risky. Flying a plane is risky. Stepping into the shower is risky. Heck, I got off the work shuttle bus to the train station the other day, didn’t plant my foot right and almost rolled my ankle. The odds of getting injured again or killed on my bike are relatively slim, but not impossible.

That’s not to say I don’t take steps to limit my risks. I always, always wear a helmet. I tend to stick to the trails and eschew the streets as much as possible, even though suburban streets in my area tend to be less congested and much safer. I’m not the most hardcore; I refuse to ride in winter and tend to skip biking in fussy weather.

For me, and for millions of others, the rewards of biking outweigh the potential risks. I know something can happen. It’s always in the back of my mind. I hope and pray it doesn’t. But I can’t let fear of getting hurt or killed on my bike rule my life.

Please keep Bobby Cann, my late coworker, in your thoughts and prayers. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

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2 responses to “On biking, close calls, and why I still ride

  1. Pingback: 7 quick takes: Two days of tragedy | Pull Out All the Stops

  2. May his soul, and the souls of all the just, through the great mercy of God, rest in peace.

    NYC biker

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