Almost a week ago I saw a retweet from a cycling journalist that has had such a profound impact on me. The original tweet came from Jonathan Vaughters of the Garmin-Transitions pro cycling team. "My thoughts & prayers for Jorge Alvarado's family. I did not know him, but it always hurts when you hear of a cyclist killed out doing his job." When I looked up the info of what he was talking about, I had to retweet because his words so succinctly expressed my feelings. Jorge Alvarado was killed by a car on April 8th while riding his bicycle in California. I was sad because he was a fellow cyclist, and more so, a person who lost his life in such a tragic way. The following day I found this article on Velonews.com that affected me even more, both in anger and despair. As I read the article I fought back tears, but I never knew Jorge, ever, at all. I could not understand why this was affecting me so much. I've read, and heard from survivors, too many stories of car/bike accidents and the toll it takes. Sadly, I've also read how, on many occasions, the law gently punishes motorists leaving families with very little recourse to cope. As I re-read the article and pondered my own feelings I came to the very jarring realization - that it could have been me killed that day. Of course, any time we read of any accident, there's always the chance of "that could have been me." This time however, it was too real. He was a young (just under one year younger than me) Hispanic guy, out riding his bike in training. He was NOT riding on the wrong side of the road. He was NOT taking up an entire lane disrupting traffic. He was NOT being offensive or abrasive to motorists. He was killed because someone ELSE was, stupidly, racing at 70 mph! That could have been me!
Please. If you're reading this, then you probably know me. Chances are you know at least one other person who rides a bicycle on the streets. Share the road. I personally believe that it is a cyclist's duty to also obey traffic laws, but it is also a motorist's duty to recognize cyclists as legitimate vehicles on the roads. I stop at stop signs and traffic lights, partly because of the law, but also because I recognize that no matter who has the right of way, if I come in contact with a car, I lose. Just remember when you're driving, we are not just perceived annoyances, we are people. The next cyclists you cut off, or side swipe could very well be me.
On a totally different note. A man in the Netherlands that suffers from Parkinson's disease seems to be able to ride a bicycle with no problem. I first heard about this two days ago while I was listening to podcast interview of Davis Phinney for Bicycling Magazine. Davis was a professional cyclist and now suffers from Parkinson's. He started a foundation, called the Davis Phinney Foundation. Similar to Lance Armstrong's Livestrong, DFP is focused on improving the lives of people with PD, as opposed to strictly finding a cure (Michael J Fox does that). Today I found this NY Times article on the Dutch man. This phenomena even made it to the New England Journal of Medicine. Naturally this story intrigues me, and even though it is amazing, I'm not totally surprised by it. Riding a bicycle is probably very ingrained in his brain over so many years in such a strong bicycle culture that they have in the Netherlands. At the same time, it reminds of my grandfather just a few years ago. He had such difficulty walking, but amazingly he could climb stairs very quickly. We had to guide him to the stairs and he'd hold onto the banister with both hands, but as soon as he took the first step, he flew up the stairs.
I don't pretend to know why these things are, and I wish it were as simple as putting my grandfather on a bike. I just wanted to share some of what has been on my mind in these recent days.