It was a Toyota Sequoia. The kind of Toyota that makes on wonder how the company ever made a name for itself as a "small car" maker. On a gray morning pedaling my bike to school, I stopped at a stop sign on the quiet residential street on which I make my way across town to school. Another bike rider whizzed past in front of me, mostly ignoring the four-way stop sign. Then it was my turn. I eased into the intersection, and was halfway across when the aforementioned Sequoia powered through to my left, with the same callous disregard for signage as my fellow biker. Missing my front wheel by inches.
And I know, because this is not the first time that urban biking has put me in mild danger. On one end of the spectrum, there was the time that, in the midst of a torrential rain, I ran into the back of a parked van. My glasses were fogged and I wished for the wiper goggles my older brother had when we were kids. The impact was sufficient enough to put a nice gash on the knuckles of my left hand, and a bend in the rim of my front wheel. I had to walk my bike the rest of the way to school in the rain. And there was another time, riding home for the day, when I was nearly caught in the crossfire of a youth gang disturbance outside a nearby funeral home.
So I didn't get hurt. I didn't get shot. I got scared. Which sounds about right in the big book of urban bicycling. Part of the reason I leave so intentionally early in the morning is my tendency toward being first on site, but the other contributing factor is my interest in getting out in front of that first wave of commuter traffic. I also travel side streets with the expressed intent of avoiding motor vehicles as much as possible. I know that on Wednesdays I cannot avoid the flurry of trash trucks making the rounds in my neighborhood, and the hundred yard stretch of the main thoroughfare will be more relaxing if I time it just right.
But there is no accounting for that SUV that comes meandering through a four way stop, its driver far too consumed with the coffee in their lap or the text that they are trying to fire off before they reach their destination.
It only occurs to me now that I could have taken the time to pull over and text the license plate number of the wandering Toyota to the local constabulary. But I had to get to work.