Bike Log #4

My plans for this month’s bike log changed the moment I heard about a traffic accident that happened earlier this week in Kanata (a suburb of Ottawa). Early Sunday morning, a man driving a minivan swerved into the bike lane and hit five cyclists. The driver fled the scene (he turned himself in to police several hours later, according to media reports); the cyclists were rushed to hospital, where at least several are reported to have life-threatening injuries. My prayers are with the cyclists and their families.

It’s too soon to know what happened (though the news release from Ottawa Police should provide more information when it becomes available). Maybe alcohol or drugs were involved; maybe sleep deprivation; maybe the driver just became distracted and lost control of his car for a moment. It’s a terrible and tragic accident and the driver of the minivan deserves to be punished to the extent of his culpability or negligence (here’s a tip, though: fleeing the scene? Never a good idea).

I’ve joked in these bike logs that I often felt I was taking my life into my hands by cycling on Ottawa’s streets, especially in the busy commuting hours before and after work. It’s no joke, though, and the feeling hasn’t wavered much in the last month of almost daily commuting by bicycle. I experience or witness close calls at least a few times a week, and usually they’re due to drivers being careless or in a rush (for example: suddenly turning right without checking to see if a cyclist is coming up behind them, or deciding to speed up and turn left even as a cyclist approaches the intersection).

Accidents will happen, of course. But, sad to say, it often takes something as tragic and dramatic as the accident on Sunday morning to shake us up enough to realize we could all be more careful when driving our thousand-kilogram vehicles that have such a high ability to injure or kill. Share the road, motorists. Pass cyclists cautiously; use your signals. I’m sure wherever you need to be is very important, but is it more important than another human being’s life? Is it worth going to court and maybe even prison, just to get to your destination a few minutes early?

Share the road, motorists. Pass cyclists cautiously; use your signals. No one deserves to be paralyzed because they chose to ride their bike to work that day. No one deserves to lose their life when all they wanted was some fresh air and exercise.

Share the road, motorists. Pass cyclists cautiously; use your signals.

Karl El-Koura was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and currently lives with his beautiful editor-wife in Canada’s capital city. More than sixty of his short stories and articles have been published in magazines since 1998, and in 2012 he independently published his debut novel Father John VS the Zombies.

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