Friday, February 20, 2015

Doing what you love may cause you Pain

Whenever I would mount up to ride my bicycle home at night someone would inevitably say "what if you get hit by a car" or "isn't that dangerous?". Somehow that always irritated me. Those of us who have passion for something dangerous do the calculus in our heads non stop. In my case I must calculate when the largest number of impaired drivers will be on the road, what roads they will use, and the lighting, bicycle access and other hazards of alternative routes etcetera. So yeah, it's dangerous, I know it's dangerous and I'm making decisions to mitigate the risk. When I was strapping on my football helmet or putting on a military uniform, skateboarding or BMXing no one ever said "isn't that dangerous?"

As I slowly weave through a herd of deer in the falling snow on the bike path or enjoy the firefly light show I am reminded of why I choose to face the danger. Just the feel of the wind and the sound of a silent forest at night is enough reason to bike commute and it is my inability to adequately convey the beauty of these moments that aggravates me when I am asked the inevitable "isn't that dangerous?" question.

I want to say "not as dangerous as suffering 4-8000 sub concussive blows to the head over the course of high school and college football" or "not as dangerous as standing on a tank in the Soviet Union in the middle of a pro-democracy protest" but I never do. I simply laugh and say somehting about how at least I can't get a DUI. Which of course leads to the inevitable "yes you can too, on COPS this guy was...". Now as a law school graduate I must acknowledge that in theory this is correct, if you are riding a bike in Watts at night, with no light, drinking a 40 out of a paper bag than my friend Mark Fletcher who is an LA County Sheriff's Deputy will most definitely and justifiably give you a DUI.

But if I am sailing down a hill, lights blazing, at 35 miles an hour, on my $2000 bike, and I run a red light in an affluent Ohio suburb, I don't exactly fit the profile. And I have gone through red lights, stop signs and generally disregarded all traffic laws in the presence of law enforcement (let's face it who else is on the road at 3 am on a Wednesday) with no repercussions. Back before I switched to a road bike I was always picking out mountain bike friendly escape routes in case I saw the blue lights behind me but thirty years into bike commuting I have never interacted with law enforcement. Unless of course one considers borrowing a sherrif's cell phone to tell my wife I'm about to be choppered to the hospital as interaction.

So yes it is dangerous, and yes I'm still in a wheelchair 6 months later but please, for the love of God, the next time you see me gearing up for a night ride be assured that I'm aware of the potential peril but I live to ride, and I ride to live.

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