One cyclist's tale of a near-miss

September 6, 2011

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(Flickr/Bart Heird)
Former 'Eight Forty-Eight' producer Kristen Moo tells of her near-miss as a cyclist on Chicago's streets.

The weather may be cooler but it’s great for those biking to work.  That may not be good news for everyone, though. Plenty of drivers are less than thrilled about sharing the road with cyclists. Throw both into a retail corridor – add in some pedestrians – that’s a situation that can range from annoying to deadly. Former Eight Forty-Eight producer Kristin Moo shares her story – about an eye-opening near-miss as she cycled through Chicago.

The enemy almost took me down the other day.

You know the type: the plump boomer sitting high in his bright-red gas-guzzling 4x4, confident that he’ll survive any battle with a crunchable sedan, or one of those damn arrogant cyclists. He’s probably never walked farther than the distance between his garage and back door… And what’s he need that thing for, anyway? The bed was empty and his mudflaps were pristine.

And here I was, walking to the gym, in the crosswalk at a quiet 4-way stop. To his credit, the Big Man slowed nearly to a stop… giving me the confidence to continue…as he rolled into a right turn: directly At. Me.

I screamed, he stopped, his grille touching my arm, the egregiousness of his error made clear by the staring passerby.

I was shaking with anger and fear. I could have been killed.

But this is no rant. It’s a confession. I am also the enemy.

I challenge drivers approaching a stop too fast by walking slowly into crosswalks, glaring into their eyes.

At the same time, I sometimes drive a silver Honda Civic. I believe the real speed limit on Lake Shore Drive is sixty. I step on the gas from half-a-block away when I see the flashing hand counting down 5-4-3-2, yes!

I curse the lady with the stroller who rushes into the crosswalk just as MY light is about to turn green, and the bikers blithely gliding by stop signs as I patiently wait, complete stop.

And when I ride my fuchsia hybrid bike 8 miles to and from work, my enmity knows no bounds. I ride on the lakefront path and seethe at the futility of reminding joggers to stay to the right and for the love of god, take a look over your shoulder before you move left!

Then from the path to home, I rage at the cyclists who do the things that give all bikers a bad image, the weaving and darting, and riding on the wrong side of the road or the wrong way on a one-way street.

And there are the drivers that zip by me, too close for comfort, then cut me off to make a turn. So I hop on the sidewalk and cruise through the crosswalk, then slip back into traffic—ain’t nothin’ gonna slow me down.

In fact, earlier this summer, I rode swiftly past a stop sign, my eye on the ageing green light a block away. A man was stepping into the crosswalk and yelled: “Hey, stop signs are for you, too!”

He was right. For the rest of my ride I kicked myself for not stopping to apologize. I do usually slow down at stop signs… I rationalize it as the cyclist version of a rolling stop—everyone does it, right?

That brings me back to the man in the red truck.

The shock of the encounter had me in tears. The man leapt from his leather perch to confront me on the sidewalk…

And he apologized. Almost as distraught as I was—“I’m a firefighter!” he said, like he should have known better. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you, are you okay?” I told him I was fine, just shaken.

“Give me a hug,” he said. “My name is Bill.”

I stopped crying, suddenly embarrassed at the drama I had created over a tap on the shoulder.

Maybe I could have died… but my life wouldn’t have been the only one ruined.

Maybe we aren’t enemies after all—just a city full of people—all a few seconds, a glance, and the push of a brake away from catastrophe…or merely going on with the rest of our hurried lives.

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