Dear motorists of the world,
Please let me live. I am not ready to die. And yet every morning I put my life in your hands and hope.
I hope that you have patience. I hope that you check your rear view mirrors before turning. I hope that you pause, just a moment, before opening your door. And I hope that you and your 4 or 6 or 18 wheels respect me and my 2.
I bike to work because, quite simply, I can. I bike to work because I am fortunately able bodied and I want to celebrate this able body to the fullest. I bike to work because it is my tiny, insignificant way to help the environment. I bike to work because it is the fastest possible way to reach my office. And I bike to work because I don’t have a car.
I do not bike to work because I want to make your commute slower. I do not bike to work because I want to take up a full lane of traffic when necessary. I do not bike to work because I want to keep you on your toes. And I certainly do not bike to work because I want to put my life in the hands of every distracted, texting, road-raging driver.
Unfortunately, sometimes those things still do happen. And for that, I am sorry. But please, let me remind you, in case this requires reminding, I deserve life more than you deserve a faster commute.
I get it. When I used to drive, bicyclists were the worst. Weaving and swerving and running red lights and acting entitled. Following pedestrian rules when it was convenient and motorist rules when it was convenient. Generally living the rogue lifestyle.
But what about the drivers who choose to drink and get behind the wheel or the pedestrians who jet across 4 lanes of traffic? We are not all the same. We do not all ride aggressively, just like you do not all drive drunkenly and walk recklessly. In fact, the vast majority of us don’t.
Let me share a little secret. I don’t like those guys either. The hot heads who give every law-abiding cyclist a bad name. I don’t like them one bit. They make my commute more dangerous by inciting rage in you with their devil-may-care attitude. But remember, that’s not all of us. I yield and stop and go when I should yield and stop and go.
If I didn’t ride that way before, I certainly do now. Now that I know the force of 2 tons of metal hitting me from behind. It is more powerful than you, wrapped in a protective cage and strapped into a safe space, can understand. It shakes you to the very core. It makes you dread that commute into work even more than you did before.
Every time there is a newsworthy, generally fatal accident in the Boston/Somerville/Cambridge area, my boyfriend’s mother texts us with urgency to confirm that we are, in fact, alive. Having survived two bike/car accidents relatively unscathed, I realize I am lucky. I dread these text messages and fear, as I mount my trusty steed, that the next one might be for me.
In just over a year, I have received four such messages. Four text messages related to fatal accidents that occurred in my neighborhood or along my work commute. I must admit, it makes me wonder. Is the freedom and peace and independence of biking worth it? Because there is someone out there texting a loved one after these fatal accidents who receives only silence in response.
So please, I implore you, do me one favor.
Take your favorite companion and head out to your driveway, garage, street corner, or carpark. Hand your keys to your friend and crouch down a yard in front of the passenger side of the car, face away, and wait. And wait. And wait. And then, when your friend finally lays on the horn, find your empathy. Next time you decide to tailgate a biker, expressing your disapproval of their presence on the road with a long, raging blare of the horn, remember the power of that sound in your state of vulnerability.
Instead of getting angry, call your nearest city representative. Tell them you don’t want me to die. Tell them you want me to live. Tell them you support protected bike lanes. And work with us, not against us, for a safer, faster, and happier commute for all.
Because I am not your enemy, I am simply someone trying to get to work and do my job. Because I am not your enemy, I am your daughter or your wife or your sister or your best friend or the girl next door. Because I am not your enemy, I am a biker.
And I am here to stay.
A Biker in Boston