I rode to the library this morning to check out a couple of books for the long weekend. The central library in Ogden is only a few miles from our home, but it’s closed for renovation so I went to a branch library in South Ogden. It’s about seven miles each way and there’s some climbing involved. No big deal…it’s a nice ride and it was a beautiful morning.
On the way, I had a guy in a car pull out in front of me and almost hit me. I had to take evasive action, but I did what I was supposed to do and kept the bike upright. He stopped at the last instant but he got an earful from me.
It was totally uncalled for. I was in the left turn lane right where I was supposed to be. I was wearing bright colors and easy to see. I very clearly signaled my intention to turn. We made eye contact. There was no other traffic on the road. All he had to do was wait five seconds and the way would have been as clear as the big blue sky but he pushed it like so many motorists so often do. He thought he could beat me even though I was going about 7 mph and it was obvious he couldn’t. Had he hit me, it would have wrecked my Thanksgiving. His, too, by the time my wife got through with him.
I found myself thinking about this incident as I rode on. Before heading out this morning, I read that a Utah highway patrolman who had been clinging to life for the last four days after being hit by a sixteen year old girl earlier this week passed away. He was trying to assist traffic after coming across a low hanging power line on a two lane state highway when she ran him down. Also this week there was the tragic school bus accident in Chattanooga that cost six children their lives.
Whenever this sort of thing happens, there’s an outpouring of sympathy accompanied by some soul searching. We don’t search very deep, though. Instead, we compartmentalize. The general consensus is that these are just tragic accidents that simply cannot be avoided, but this is nonsense. They can be avoided and they should be avoided. It’s very easy. Slow down. Be patient. Wait.
Speed is almost always a factor when people die on America’s highways and the crazy thing about it is that I don’t think the people doing the speeding even know why they’re doing it. I don’t believe they’re saving any time. I caught up to the guy who almost hit me at the next stop light and then I passed him as he waited behind the driver in front of him who was turning left. He had to wait a while. I never saw him again.
It took me thirty minutes to cover the seven miles from my home to the library this morning and it took me thirty minutes to get home. Had I driven, I might have made it in half that time. But that’s only part of the story. Because I was moving at a more reasonable pace, I arrived at the library refreshed instead of stressed. I also got in a workout, so if you factor in gym time I am way ahead.
I don’t know how to tell this story in a way that resonates with people, but it seems so clear to me all this speeding around is not accomplishing anything. It’s getting people killed and it’s putting others in harm’s way. Those doing the speeding are stressed beyond all reasonable measures and they’re not even saving any time when it comes right down to it.
The idea behind Thanksgiving is to slow down, to pause and give thanks for all the many things we have in life. It’s one of my favorite holidays. I think it would be great if we would all choose to slow down more than one day a year. We could save lives. We could live healthier lives ourselves. We could be happier. I can’t imagine a greater gift to give ourselves. That’s what my bike does for me, and for that I am thankful. My Thanksgiving wish for you is a safe and enjoyable weekend. I hope you have a chance to get out and slow down…on a bicycle. Peace.