The last memory I have of biking from before the blizzards is a rough one. It was late at night, so there was no traffic when I set out on my journey home to Allston from Jamaica Plain. A cab was double-parked near the Riverway, and as I changed lanes to avoid him my front tire got caught in the E Line tracks. I’m not sure what my body did next, but I landed on my back and wound up with dirt on my left cheek, blood on my right knee, and somehow four intact glass bottles of beer in my backpack.
The accident shook my body and my nerves. By the time my muscles were in any shape to ride again, snow was in the forecast. I locked my bike in the basement for the season and hunkered down for the storm. Snow was a great excuse to stay off my wheels, but as the banks shrank and disappeared, I had to own up to the fact that I was scared to climb back on my bike.
For me, cycling has always been about overcoming fear. Fear that a snag in the road will dismount me. Fear that a door will open and flip me. Fear that the guy I just cussed out will pull over and kick my ass. The yelling comes from the fear. Can’t you see how scary this is?
Before winter could fully recede, spring claimed its first victim. Activist and singer Marcia Deihl was hit by a truck in Cambridge. As is often the case when such horrendous accidents occur, the driver hasn’t been charged in relation to the incident. If they do face charges, motorists are rarely convicted, while investigations stay open for weeks or months without resolution. If you hit a car with another car, even if there are no injuries, all parties work hard and fast to assign fault and to determine who will pay for damage. A biker might get killed but hardly leave a scratch; as far as the insurance companies must be concerned, there’s a lot less paperwork involved.
Boston’s working hard to fix its bike safety problem. Plans for the Comm Ave cycle track, once destined for the waste bin, have been approved. Furthermore, last year Boston emerged as a nationwide leader by becoming the first city to require truck side guards, pieces of plastic or metal meant to keep colliding bikers from being pulled underneath vehicles.
We’re getting closer. In the meantime, I’ll continue to carry this fear.