Warning: some of the language used here is reflective of great feeling and passion therefore some may not like it. Therefore NSFW, kids, or whatever.
“Well at least he died doing what he loved.”
I’ve ridden my bike for a lot of years. Every year it seems like more and more drivers are distracted. Want some stats? There’s a website for that: http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.html It seems like each year I am having to become more and more “accepting” of the idea that if I continue to ride my bicycle that the odds of me being struck by a car/truck are seemingly increasing. I used to work in manufacturing during a time when workers were coming in and shooting up the place when they were fired or laid off. I used to have to be comfortable with the idea that if I stayed in the manufacturing industry I would probably be killed at work by an active shooter. Now it seems like while I might have a chance of getting shot anywhere so I don’t have that burden on my shoulder anymore (womp womp).
The idea of being killed…murdered while riding my bike has become a more crushing realization. A coworker of mine was an avid cyclist and racer. We had met at a time in my life when racing was a distant memory and riding for fitness was a level I could only wish to strive to achieve. Our introduction went, “Oh I hear you race bikes – I used to race too!” Upon hearing me say that Mike Kalan responded just the way that any true roadie who was an “ex-pro” mtb racer cross cat 1 or 2 and road 2 could respond when hearing that phrase come out of an immensely out of shape pile of self-loathing: “You could have fooled me.”
Soon after I was transferred back to civilization in the Chicagoland area this accomplished rider and racer got the opportunity to take a role out in our Portland facility. Great riding area for an accomplished mtb, cross, and road guy. Soon after transferring and within a week or two of his wife and 2 children arriving Mike was struck and killed while riding. There’s a lot of moving information posted by a good friend of his over at : http://keithhlz.blogspot.com/
The following had been used during his memorial: “Dying while doing something he loved befits him, as troubling and hurtful to us as it is, but he would never suggest to anyone to stop doing what you love out of fear.”
I don’t want to speak for Mike as there were many others, more that I meet daily almost, who knew him way better than I ever did but the man I knew would have dropped that ride in a second if he knew what the end result would have been. I’m pretty sure if he had been stopped mid ride and given the choice- “enjoy this ride and love this sport, or never ride again and spend the rest of your life” he would have dropped the bike.
We seem to be accepting of offering up this little tidbit as a coping mechanism after tragedy happens. “He went doing what he loved…there’s some solace in that.” We seem to tell ourselves that because it helps us feel somehow better about what we feel is totally and completely outside of our control. To me simply the act of accepting such a statement is equivalent to taking the stance that most law enforcement and drivers who don’t cycle take when facing a collision with a cyclist: “oh well…cyclist fell down. What can you do.”
This last week there were 5 riders killed after they were struck by a car. The group had a total of 9 riders I believe and the other 4 were seriously injured. 5 people murdered because they decided to ride their bikes. The next time you suit up before a ride and enjoy that pre-ride banter that goes on take a second to think about what it would be like if 5 of the people standing around you were about to be murdered. This is why it’s such a big issue. This is why it needs to be constantly shared.
I personally love living my life and experiencing everything that I can. The bad times and the good ones. I may ENJOY riding my bike but I love my wife, my kids, my family, my friends… If I end up dying after being struck by a vehicle while riding don’t you dare say, “but at least he died while doing what he loved.” You better be saying, “he’d be pissed if we just put him in the ground and walked away. We need to do something.”
There is nothing inherently bad about people deciding to participate in the activity of bicycle riding and yet we live in a society that not only sees us as fringe people who deserve to be punished for the transgression of not being another pile of steel and exhaust in their way but accepts the occurrences of our deaths as not only acceptable and completely faultless but even to the level that we somehow deserved it. The “I saw a cyclist running a red light” vitriol that spews from the blood hungry mouths of some people comes across as though they are holding stones in their hands and asking “but what was she wearing.”
The time has come for these situations to be boiled down to the crime that they are. We don’t have a right to drive – it’s a privilege. You shouldn’t be able to kill people with your car and not suffer consequences – even if the other party is at fault. The consequence should at least be the removal of the privilege to drive ever again. The time has also come to stop saying that the victims “died while doing what they loved”. Maybe we should always just say, “they shouldn’t have died just because they decided to ride a bicycle. Something has to change.”
If I die by being hit then I want people to share stories about all the times I helped them or someone else. I want them to talk about all the fun we had. I then want them to have a party. Put me in a box and burn me and then have my family take the ashes to some cool places because then it means they had adventures with each other. Just don’t say that I died doing what I loved…unless I die smothered while getting kissed and hugged by my whole family.