I’ve been involved in a number of near misses on my bike lately while riding to and from work. These have come when I’ve been distracted, suddenly look ahead at the road and find myself rapidly coming up on a slower rider, roller blader, or upon a pedestrian suddenly crossing the street that I almost run into. Many of these close encounters have come as I’ve ridden on the Hudson bike path. And, last week on 14th street I almost got whacked when a taxi door opened – luckily I had just passed the car.
I wondered if I’m getting old and my eyesight and reflexes are slowing, causing me to come upon potentially hazardous situations that I would normally well avoid. But, I don’t think this is really the problem (or, if it is, it isn’t the main problem).
I’ve been getting myself into near misses because I am so confident in my ability as a rider (I was a BMXer as a teen and have good bike handling skills, and have been riding city streets as an adult for years). I figure that I can react to the suddenly opening car door or the unexpected swerving bus. But, the reality is that I can only control these situations if I don’t allow myself to get into them in the first place. If I ride close to cars, no matter how capable a rider I think I am, I have no control over the person who suddenly swings a door open.
Because I’ve gotten so comfortable at weaving my way through the city, I don’t take the precautions that any other, justifiably terrified cyclist would take here. I watch the Hudson go by, read road signs, look down at my read derailleur to see what gear I’m in. But I don’t pay attention to the road. And the last few weeks I’ve had some scares.
So, I thought about one of the rules I learned in drivers education in high school: aim high. Meaning, always look up, and look well down the road instead of merely ten feet ahead. This gives a wide view of what is happening directly in my path, and off to either side, and plenty of time to react if something goes awry.
Rather than have another near miss, I’m going to try to aim high.