REAY JESPERSEN:
WRITER OF, AND DABBLER IN,
MANY THINGS

Bike To School Week thoughts

It’s Bike To School Week at my daughter’s school. They do that a couple of times a year, as our sometimes crazy Toronto weather allows for it.

On the one hand, I’m all for it. I’m not an outdoorsy, let alone athletic guy, but goddamn, I love to bike. Jackie and I want to get more exercise in, and all of us like biking, so we’ve been trying to do more of that. Enough so that this weekend we not only got our daughter her requested basket for the front of her bike (all the better to carry her various biking accoutrements), which we’re pretty sure will tempt her into biking even more than she already does.

Jackie pulled the same move on me, treating me to a much-needed new helmet (mine had always looked odd, I’d suspected had never been the right size (head pain from being squeezed was a common thing), plus it turned out that my old helmet was 13 years old, while the guideline for optimal protection from a helmet is five years, so that’s a good nugget of information to know), a bike rack she talked me into getting, and some fancy saddlebags that connect to said bike rack, so now I can haul more stuff around without it having to be in a backpack and making my back sweat through my shirt.

I also bought a new bike lock, because I’m hoping to work my way up to being able to bike to work (a rather daunting 45 minute bike ride which will take me to a yet-to-be-determined rise above sea level from our home), and I want to ensure that my bike won’t go wandering while I’m working. Having said that, I did some quick calculating last night and it occurred to me that the bike lock may literally have cost me more than the bike itself is worth these days. But there you have it.

Anyway, so good stuff all around for getting us biking more.

Plus hey, any perks to the bike or to me for the bike to get me get out on it more is immediately going in the Pro column.

Now my real concern is seeing the accident scene last week.

We live near where some great bike lanes have recently been finished: Two lanes allowing bikes to ride east or west, complete with bike lane-only traffic lights, and some low concrete bumpers to separate bike lane traffic from traffic-traffic. We’ve used it a few times biking to school already, and while the treks were initially rather anxiety causing—please don’t let her veer into traffic, please don’t let her hit a curb or a pole, please keep her on this side of the lanes so other bikes can pass the same way or the other way without a hassle, please…—but she’s gotten better with it.

The problem, I’ve pointed out to my wife, is that these bike lanes include a section that goes around a long curve, and cars and trucks whip along there too fast all the time. And the concrete bumpers, for their nod to protection, would easily get bowled right over if, say, a concrete truck driver suddenly glanced at his phone or sneezed and went straight for a couple of extra seconds instead of sticking to the curve of the road.

That’d be some dead cyclists, right there.

But last week’s scene made things even worse: Nothing hit the bumpers and crushed anyone with them, but an SUV had made a one-in-a-thousand shot straight between two concrete bumpers (and just barely fitting in there, as bad luck would have it) to hit a telephone pole and crush its engine hood.

I don’t know if any cyclists were there at the moment of impact. I sincerely hope not. And I hope the driver of the SUV was ok. But this isn’t combining in my head to make Bike To School Week any less anxiety-causing.

But we’ve got to do it, of course. We can’t not do it. You can’t live life fearing the worst case scenarios. But hey, I’m a writer, so all case scenarios play over again and again in my head.

Fingers crossed.

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