"You are not a car." A motorist rolled down his window to shout this piece of information to me as I made a left turn onto the street where my school is. I suspect that since I was riding my bike that he felt the need to remind me of the inherent dangers of riding a bicycle on busy urban streets. The truth is, I stay to the side streets for most of the trip from my house to my job so that I can avoid just such an interaction. The problem is I can't avoid them forever, since I live in a big city, pretty soon I'm going to have to cross one of those big avenues where all the automobiles are.
Riding a bike in the Bay Area can be a dangerous if not deadly business. In the wee hours of the morning a few days ago, a woman was badly injured in a hit-and-run accident in San Francisco.
Two bicyclists died Sunday after being struck by a Santa Clara County deputy sheriff who allegedly fell asleep at the wheel of his cruiser. They were riding on Stevens Canyon Road, a rural route frequently used by cyclists in training. "Speed," said Sean Co, bicycling coordinator for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, "is probably the highest contributing factor in any bicycle collision that results in a fatality." Rural or urban, it doesn't seem to matter much.
Tough to argue the physics of that observation, but it's still not enough to get me off my pedals and into a "shiny metal box", to paraphrase Sting. The morning of my own not-nearly-fatal altercation, my mind filled with many a pithy comeback, congratulating the motorist on his observational skills, but I didn't say anything. I jut kept riding, with my eyes and ears open, watching for the next potential disaster. But if I did say something, it might have owed more to "The Elephant Man" than The Police: "I am not a car! I am a bicyclist!"