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Bicycle Safety

A Close Call, a Confrontation, a Conciliatory Ending

12:46 PM EDT on September 16, 2008


Following two recent cyclist deaths in Brooklyn, conflicts between motor vehicles and bikes -- and how to reduce them -- are once again a subject of impassioned debate among Streetsblog commenters. Here is Colin Beavan, a.k.a. No Impact Man, with a story of a recent cyclist-motorist confrontation and an extraordinary resolution.

Riding my rickshaw on the bike lane on 9th Street on Thursday, the traffic was stopped and a car pulled to my left and overtook me by speeding along the parking lane and then swerving back out and through the bike lane, brushing my front tire.

I was fine, but he could have killed me. A bucket-load of adrenaline hit my bloodstream. He scared me so badly that I shook.

A red light stopped him up ahead and my adrenaline -- read fight or flight weighing heavily towards fight -- sped my bike up. I swerved my rickshaw in front of his car so he couldn't move and started shouting.

I'm not a shouter, by the way, but I attracted a circle of people standing around to watch.

I'm not even sure what I screamed but something like "you nearly killed me" and "I'm going to call the police" and I waved my cell phone in the air like a crazy person.

He said, "Go ahead and call the police." He crossed his arms across his chest defiantly.

Then I shouted, with swear words I don't write on the blog interspersed, "I don't actually want to call the police. I just want you to apologize. I want you to realize that you nearly killed me so you could get somewhere five seconds faster."

Then another bicycle rides by. I shout at the man, "Do you want to kill him, too? Why don't you just kill everyone. Is your rush so important to you?"

I'm not saying I wasn't out of control because, well, I was definitely out of control.

But then the most amazing thing happened. Suddenly, the man walked back out into the street and he touched my arm and he said, "You're right. I wasn't thinking. I did a bad thing. It's the job. I'd lose my job if I didn't rush..."

I was still a crazy man. "Your job! You think your job is more important than my life?"

"You're right," he said. "We are both immigrants," he said. "We should be kind to each other, and I was not kind. Please will you shake my hand and give me forgiveness."

And my heart broke open a little. I am not an immigrant, as he thought, but I am, like him, a human being. Suddenly I realized that he lived his life in fear. If he lost his job, how could he pay his bills? If he couldn't pay his bills, how could he stay in the country?

"Will you shake my hand?" he said.

"I have a daughter, you should know," I said.

At that moment, I looked in his eyes and knew that he really understood what had happened. "I am sorry, my friend," he said.

"Will you be more careful of bicyclists from now on?"

"Yes," he said.

And we shook hands. We shook hands as friends.

Photo: threecee/Flickr

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