This year Austin has achieved a sad historic milestone. 2012 is the deadliest year on our city’s roadways for pedestrians and cyclists with 28 pedestrian deaths and three cyclist fatalities. This development has really made an impact on me, not only because I ride my bike on Austin’s roads everyday, but also because, Cody Johnson, the most recent cyclist to be killed was a friend of my brother’s. Last night I, along with several hundred other cyclists, rode from Austin’s city hall to the Texas state capitol to raise awareness for safer roads in our city.
As I left work yesterday evening to ride down to city hall for the demonstration a frightening thing happened. I was stopped at a stop sign and a girl passed by on a motorized scooter. I noticed her because she looked really cute riding her little green scooter and I admired her boots. Just as she left my line of vision I heard a honk and a crash and whirled around to witness the scooter skidding down the pavement and the girl with the cute boots was crumpled in the street. I raced over to help her as did about ten other witnesses. Thankfully, one woman who ran to help appeared to be a nurse. I called 911 while several other people tended to the girl. She was shaken up and banged up, but alert. I don’t even know how the accident happened, but what struck me was how fast it happened. In the few seconds it took me to wonder where that girl had purchased her boots, she was injured in a crash.
Before we embarked on the demonstration ride, the organizers with Be Kind to Cyclists had people speak up about what they wanted to accomplish from the ride. I want just what anyone else on four wheels or two wheels or two legs wants. I want to get from point A to point B safely and without incident. I live in one of the greatest cities in America and I want it to stay that way for everyone. What I don’t want is for Austin’s roadway fatality rate to climb so high that victims like Cody become just statistics. I pass several ghost bikes each day on my commute. That can be a little eerie sometimes when I think about it. But, it is important to have that tangible reminder that someone lost their life just trying to get somewhere. Maybe you don’t know their name, but people loved them and miss them.
Since Cody was hit and killed by a drunk driver earlier this month I have upgraded my bike lights. I also purchased reflective stickers to put on my bicycle spokes. And I’m breaking those bad riding habits many commuter cyclists have a tendency to develop, such as rolling through stop signs. While it is important to take every precaution, you can’t protect against everything. Sometimes things just happen out of nowhere. My mom always says I have a fleet of really battered angels surrounding me due to the number of close calls I’ve had in life. I guess I just hope those angels don’t give up on me anytime soon!