It’s been about a month since the deaths of Kristin Oswald and Mitch Lambert. Both were killed at the end of July, as the result of accidents that occurred while they were riding their bicycles. I’ve been saddened and sobered by their stories. And I’ve kind of wondered if they should be cautionary tales for me.
Kristin was a stranger who just happened to be participating in the same triathlon as me. Mitch and I had several mutual friends, through his employment at our local high school, though I didn’t know him personally. Even so, their deaths have stuck with me because of the circumstances. Both Kristin and Mitch died within a week of each other. And their deaths happened to coincide with a week that I chose to stay off my own bicycle in order to facilitate recovery from my own participation in the triathlon that killed Kristin.
There were moments that week where I wasn’t sure that I would ever want to get back on my bicycle again.
Why do I continue to insist on cycling as a mode of transportation, when clearly the United States is (and will likely always be) an automotive society? What sort of impact do my lifestyle choices really have on the world around me? Can I really call my cycling advocacy a “Revolution” if even my best friends don’t take my position seriously? Why should I continue to put up with the annoyed honks and angry words of strangers who become inexplicably irritated when I’m practicing safe, legal cycling procedures? Should I level up on security measures like helmets and rear-view mirrors and fluorescent outerwear? Why do I choose to get around on a bicycle when I have the means to use a car instead?
Ultimately, my reasons for cycling are the same as they’ve always been. I ride my bicycle for Health, for Wealth, for the Earth, and for Mirth. It’s good exercise. It offers significant cost-savings. It’s environmentally-conscious. And it’s just nice to find joy in connecting with my environment.
Even with the dangers that come along with riding my bicycle, I believe it may be just as dangerous — if not more dangerous — to give it up. Car accidents happen all the time! There are far more people who suffer from the effects of diabetes or heart disease than those who suffer injuries from cycling. The pollution that comes from a car is not insignificant. I feel like I just cannot live my life with a sense of fear about the “What if” implications of the germs I might contract from every doorknob I touch. I refuse to live in that box, walled off by those fears.
I don’t feel like it’s likely — but if something ever happens to me, I hope that my story will not become a cautionary tale. I hope instead that my life will be an affirmation of courage and vitality.