My scary encounter on a bike with my toddler almost makes me want to stop riding

When Felicity turned one, we started sending her to daycare at a center. I love the place where she goes. It is perfect in so many ways. Except one.

It’s a lot of driving.

My commute for the last 7 years has been under 6 minutes. I prided myself in this fact. I hate driving. I love human-powered transportation: walking, running, cycling. I love that I can keep my body and the earth healthy at the same time. But now that I take Felicity to daycare, my morning commute turned from 6 minutes to 40 minutes. :( It’s 20 minutes past my office each way to take her to daycare.

It does take a lot of time to drive there, but it isn’t that far, because it’s through city traffic. About 5.5 miles. So I scoured the routes and worked up my courage to see if I could start taking her by bicycle each morning.

Lissie on her bike seat in June, on a 8 mile ride down outer Ohio Street in Bangor.

Lissie on her bike seat in June, on a 8 mile ride down outer Ohio Street in Bangor.

Her daycare is out in the mall area, which is car city. I was reluctant to try without many, many practice rides in low-traffic areas because:

  • it would be early in the morning when I would be inconvenient to call my husband if we had an issue, because my he is working then, and
  • there is a lot of car traffic at that time in the morning.

Frankly, here’s the thing. I love riding my bike. I LOVE it. It might be my favorite sport, except running does have some advantages on cycling when it comes to flexibility with weather and location. You can go way faster and way farther on a bike. But it feels way more dangerous than running. You’re closer to moving cars. You don’t have as much reaction time to get out of the way if cars don’t see you.

I’ve known more people who have had cycling accidents with drivers who weren’t paying attention than I care to count. And even though it is really important to me to teach my kids that its important to avoid using cars and enjoy the outdoors, I don’t want to risk my 13-month-old’s life on a principle.

But on Monday morning, I had the courage.

OK, so here’s where the harrowing personal story comes in

We were on our way, route planned out, everything packed, ready to go. And going past one of the first intersections by my house, the one where I-395 exit on South Main Street is, we had an incident.

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There is no avoiding this intersection by my house. I must, at some point, cross I-395 to get into Bangor. Also, in this part of Brewer, the sidewalk is ONLY on the interchange side of the road, so pedestrians must cross these four ramps. You can kinda see what I mean from this Google Streetview shot from 2011, above.

I was going into this intersection, where the mobile crime lab is in this picture, when a black sedan passed me and then immediately turned right, cutting me off. I hit my brakes, hard, which caused me to lose my balance and the bike to tip over into the street.

With Felicity on the back,

It was terrifying and thankfully, a man who was driving behind me stopped and made sure we were OK. I think I was more shaken up than Felicity was.

I took this photo later, when we got to daycare.

FORTUNATELY we were OK. She was fine. I was just a little scratched up. FORTUNATELY, even though the fall wrecked both of my tires ($50), they did not go flat until I had taken her the five miles to daycare and was within walking distance of my office. FORTUNATELY in all my years of cycling, this is the worst that has ever happened to me.

I know that I should have paused before crossing that intersection, even though I had a green light, even though I shouldn’t have to, because I know that car drivers aren’t looking for cyclists. Even though I shouldn’t have to have stopped, I know.

But I want to share my story. Because I’m annoyed. Because I shouldn’t have to be bullied into driving a car every day. Because driving is a privilege, and with it comes the rules and responsibilities, and if anyone is out there that drives a car, please know that it is your responsibility to SHARE THE ROAD.

Because this little face. She loves riding bikes.

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It’s going to cost $50 to fix my tires, but when I get my bike back on Friday, I probably will ride with her to daycare again. Probably.

 

Pattie Reaves

About Pattie Reaves

I'm a new mom and renegade fitness blogger at After the Couch. I live in Brewer with my husband, Tony, our daughter Felicity, and our two pugs, Georgia and Scoop.