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Location: Richmond, VA
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Before I tell you what happened let me assure you that I am one of the safest drivers you would ever meet. Seriously, my nickname is "Geandma". It's for the very simple reason that I don't want to be in an accident, not even remotely interested, and I would rather not get pulled over by the cops. So in an effort to prevent these things I stay close to the speed limit, I understand how to use that thing on the steering wheel that makes a green arrow start blinking either left or right, I do not text or talk on the phone and in general I try to be aware of what's going on around me.
So, the other day I had dropped Colleen off at work and was on my way to the warehouse to do orders. She works in the heart of downtown Richmond but there is a little sneaky route behind the building so that we can avoid the bulk of the traffic. It's a small street, two lanes each way and follows a canal which is right next to the river. There are usually a lot of people walking around because of a museum, river access and a park with trails and benches and a beautiful view of the James. A lot of times there are kids on field trips.
The speed limit on this road is 15 MPH as a result of all the activity and I usually go under 20 when I'm driving back there. I'm going around a fountain and I notice a woman riding a bike on the left sidewalk heading away from me. I noticed her because she was riding one of the shared bikes that the city rolled out last year and I thought that was pretty cool. I'm starting to pass by her but there is a T intersection ahead where I have the right of way with no stop sign and 5th street traffic has to stop and yield to oncoming traffic. I know from experience that this does not always happen so I'm keeping an eye on the cars waiting to go which are to the right of me.
All of a sudden, the woman comes off of the sidewalk and into the street right in front of me. Without looking.
It happened so fast. My first thought was, "She must have seen me, right?" and then a split second later it was, "OH MY GOD, I'm about to run this lady over!"
Luckily for her it was me driving and I was only going about 17-18 MPH so I hit the brakes and stopped less than a foot away from her. Really, really close. That was when she turned and saw me for the first time. She gave me a little smile and a wave and then blissfully pedaled off.
I'm sitting there white knuckling on the steering wheel meanwhile.
It would not have been my fault and there were certainly enough eyewitnesses around who could verify what happened. But I would feel horrible if I had hurt or killed someone. I just keep seeing her flying over the hood of the car or getting crunched underneath.
Thankfully nothing happened but I'm still a little rattled by it.
Also let me say that I ride a bike all of the time. I've been hit by cars and a truck or two and I know it sucks. Riding a bike in the city is dangerous and you absolutely have to keep your head on a swivel. We average about 2-3 fatalities a year with many more injuries caused by cars hitting bikers. I am cautious as hell when riding and I still have dicey situations occur. You have got to pay attention.
I was in the Coast Guard for 4 years and one of the many useful things I learned was from the International Rules of the Sea - in most cases the larger ship has the right of way.
Basically, if you are in a canoe then you will yield to the oil tanker. Bikes are the canoe, cars are the tanker.
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