Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ride for a Fallen Comrade

Image from Jonathan Maus

Having no obligations today other than taking Chuck to the airport this morning, I came home and indulged in taped episodes of Heroes and Battlestar Galactica. By the time I was done with that, I was well on my way to wasting what could be the last sunny day until May.

That combined with the news of yet another cyclist getting picked off by a right hook from a truck yesterday spurred me into action. I threw on my team kit, pumped up the roadie tires and headed out on a one woman memorial ride. I went where I always go when I need to pedal out some pain--Rocky Butte. It doesn't take much hill to leave me panting and Rocky Butte always does the trick.

On the way I thought about the latest crash victim, Brett Jarolimek. He worked at the Bike Gallery and was well known in the racing community and the bike comunity at large. He competed in the cross race we went to watch on Sunday. I didn't know him and never met him but I'm all too aware whenever I throw a leg over my saddle, I could very well be him. I ride down Interstate all the time. I know how crappily the lights are timed and how narrow the bike lane gets just when your speed going down the hill is the greatest. I have felt the WHOOSH of semis passing me less than two feet away and you can bet I am watching to see if they need to turn. I do not want my memorial to be some ghost bike on a corner.

Still, there's only so much you can do and then you have to let go and live life. Which is the point of going on a ride. I attacked the Rocky Butte climb harder than I ever have, not fading after the tunnel like I usually do. I just kept pushing and pushing all the way to the top. I felt my lungs, bursting, legs burning, heart pounding between my ears and was grateful to be alive and healthy and pedaling. I sent some thoughts out to Brett and all the people mourning him right now.

I started out with a notion to time-trial the whole ride, but I had to stop at the top and take in the views of Mt Hood & Mt Saint Helens, cause working so hard and not enjoying the view seemed so pointless. Then I took my sweet reward, braking only a little on the backside and hitting 41.5 mph on the way down. I didn't get any bugs in my teeth, but it wasn't because I wasn't smiling...

The rest of the ride, I spun at a comfortable pace and kept an eagle eye out to make sure I made it home safe, taking the lane at most of the lights to avoid the suicide slot.

My friend Greg wrote a heartfelt guest post on BikePortland today urging people to turn sadness into action. Inspired by that message, I went to tonight's town hall meeting on the Safe and Sound Streets proposal that could actually put some money into making our streets safer for all road users. I'm glad I live in a place where our city leaders are willing to ask hard questions and tackle overwhelming issues like the 422 million dollars in deferred maintenance liability that has built up over the years. $72 per year in energy fees and gas taxes seems like a bargain for better signal timing, more sidewalks and hundreds of new miles in bike Blvds. Especially if it'll keep more of us on the road and out of the cemetery.

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