NOTE: My first draft of this article which has to do with bicycles, sidewalks, and personal safety, was written on September 3, 2018.
Before my article was submitted for publication, an article having to do with the related subjects of sidewalks, and personal safety was published in The News Tribune and The Suburban Times around November 16, 2018.
The link below should take you to that sad story describing how an innocent victim suffered a totally unnecessary death while merely walking on a sidewalk.
An elderly woman pedestrian was killed by vehicle driver who was reported to be speeding, intoxicated, and suffering from mental illness.
The 19 paragraphs that follow form my original story.
Riding bicycles can be major fun and fantastic exercise, but like anything else, there is an element of danger when you elect to climb on a bike and pedal down the road.
I learned to ride one weekend in 1949 while visiting my cousin in Spokane. I glued myself to her bike all weekend until I succeeded in teaching myself to ride. It did not matter that my cousin was a girl with, quite naturally, a girls bike.
When I returned home to Seattle, I was unmerciful in my youthful begging campaign which communicated to my parents the idea that if I did not get my own bike, I would explode. My parents thought it best I was not a bike-less kid.
Summer passed, and Christmas came. I can still clearly remember Christmas morning 1949 when I leaned out of my top bunk and stared into the living-room. I spotted a large cardboard box near our Christmas tree.
Dad, with his Irish sense of humor, told me the box contained my Christmas present which he said was a new mattress. Dad’s declaration supported by the evidence of the mattress looking cardboard box generated momentary disappointment for a 6-year-old.
My disappointment evaporated when we opened the box and discovered my new Colson 16” bicycle. As soon as the bike was out of the box, I began riding it every day including to and from grade school.
During the decade following my 6th year, there were several more bicycles and bicycle adventures including a 70-mile bike ride from South Seattle to what was then a primitive Lake Tapps. My pals and I, who were only 12, spent the night in sleeping bags in the woods surrounding Lake Tapps. The next morning we rode down Elhi Hill as we headed for home.
Life seemed safer in the 1950s.
The passage of time has brought change. Now we have engineered bike lanes on many of our roadways which is a modern improvement.An errant driver mounted the sidewalk, struck the bicycle lane sign, and then glanced off the bottom of the power pole.
Yes, the sign communicates a bicycle rider has a right, but bike riders must be careful they do not end up dead right.
In my photos above, there is only property damage displayed. Next time it could involve injury or death.
As a former police officer, I am aware of the injury and death potential when a vehicle collides with a person, and that motivates me to share some safety tips.
TIP 1: Yes, bicycles may use a bike lane or the full lane on certain marked streets, but anytime we enter the public roadway on a bike, car, motorcycle, or on foot, we should conduct ourselves as if there were distracted, drunken, doped, mediocre drivers on the road with us with the full potential to kill us.
TIP 2: Wear a bike helmet. I recently flew over the handlebars of a BMW motorcycle at 70 mph while wearing a helmet. The helmet saved my life. No helmet equals no life or brain injury which might well be the same as no life.
TIP 2b: (Bonus tip) When it comes to wearing a bike helmet, lead by example. I have seen too many cases where the parents set their children up for a “DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO DISASTER, by enforcing a family rule that mandates the children wear a helmet while the parents, in plain view of their children, ride bikes with no helmets.
Parents please let this retired cop let you in on a little secret. Your children will obey your safety rule for as long as you can see them. Once they turn the first corner, off comes the helmet so they can RIDE AS YOU DO, NOT AS YOU SAY.
TIP #3: Purchase serious safety lighting to attach to your bike. If you do it right, your bike lighting will look like a freight train is rolling down the road. Extremely bright and flashing safety lighting is likely to make you safer.
TIP 4: Wear bright reflective clothing or vest. There are under and over garments that are designed to minimize or eliminate road rash or broken bones. Check it out.
TIP 5: Install an excellent mirror system on your bike or helmet. Think of yourself as a target. There are people out there that can hurt you on purpose or by accident or through stupidity. I am not asking you to be negative and paranoid, but when you ride as if anyone could smoosh you, then you can avoid a good many and hopefully all injury and death situations that come your way. Instead of riding in the blind, use your mirror system to be aware of what is happening behind you. Your field of vision needs to expand into 360 degrees.
TIP 6: Learn the bicycle traffic laws. In most cases, you need to obey the same rules required of vehicle operators such as the direction of travel, stop signs, and speed.
My original September 3, 2018, story draft ended here.
The remainder of my story was added after an unfortunate and unnecessary car-pedestrian collision that resulted in an innocent victim’s death.
On November 16, 2018, I was saddened to learn my concern for someone being injured or killed on a sidewalk as expressed in the first part of this article, came to pass.The Crash scene where a large vehicle alleged to be speeding at 50 mph in a 35 mph zone left the roadway, crossed an occupied sidewalk. Lakewood Police Department used orange paint to highlight the path of travel of the reckless vehicle.
The vehicle was reported to be speeding and out of control ultimately causing a car-pedestrian collision. It was reported that the pedestrian was knocked into the air landing about 50 feet from the point of impact. The vehicle came to final rest after knocking over a 35 mph speed limit school zone sign and punching through a solid board fence.
Not only did driver exceed the speed limit, but he also knocked over the speed limit sign when his vehicle went out of control. School kids could have been in his pathway of destruction.
In closing allow me to offer a tip for those walking on sidewalks located on busy streets. Walk facing traffic and pay attention to the vehicles coming towards you. If you observe a car doing something dangerous, maybe, just maybe you can take an evasive action to avoid becoming a victim. While this tip does not come with a guarantee, it never hurts to have the edge on your side.
Years ago while helping a motorist who had broken down on icy snow covered State Route 512, I chose to take an evasive action. The driver and I stepped over the freeway guardrail followed shortly after by a vehicle spinning out on the slippery road causing it to slam into the guardrail. We were saved from injury by being street-wise and lucky.