With the death of Michele Scarponi, many of us on two wheels are reminded of the brevity of life and given something else to consider while spinning hour after hour. Maybe two weeks before Scarponi was killed, I began a shift in my own riding. It started on a fairly large training ride in Pine Mountain, Georgia. Moving along at a good clip and in a single slipstream on or near the fog line of the road, we approached a narrow bridge. One of our riders had told of a car being back a few minutes earlier, but it was this exact point that the car decided to pass us on a double-yellow line, on the bridge, with a large truck coming the opposite way. Well, because I am writing this, it is obvious that the car dived back across the road, barely missing the truck and squeezing our front two riders closer to the guard rail, and went along its merry way. I was numb and swimmy-headed for a few moments afterward. It was then that I decided that I had other options.
Leaving around Columbus, Georgia, cyclists are very blessed with plenty of space to ride. Fort Benning has thousands upon thousands of acres and miles and miles of quiet, isolated roads to which are available to us. The command at Fort Benning is very cycling friendly and allow us to come and go as we please. Even at the most heavily-trafficked time of day, drivers are very considerate . . . after all, they have no idea if the person on the bicycle is a full-bird colonel or what. Many days are spent, mile after mile, without even seeing a car. Sure, I will still do some training rides on Pine Mountain, but only in large groups. It does not necessarily remove the danger factor, but it makes me more visible to traffic.
To me, riding is not important enough for me to give my life for it. I love cycling. I think it is one of the best sports in the world. I think about it a lot and write about it and talk about it and hang out in bike shops, but my life is too precious to be taken out by some idiot who is in a hurry or a teenager who is attempting a selfie at 55 mph. Of course, none of us want to die, and I know that Scarponi did not head out that morning with the intent to place himself in danger (which he did not do anyway), but we must be mindful of how much danger we are in every time we roll out. Many, many cyclists are killed every year, and we tend to think that it will never happen to us because we are careful and try to do everything the correct way (lights, hand signals, plenty of room, etc.); but, like your mom probably told you when you were first learning to drive, you must think about the other drivers. In the end, 99.9% of us are just cycling. We do not or will we ever do it for a living. It is just a recreation. Enjoy it every day, but take the time to seek out those places that place you in a less dangerous situation.
Scarponi photo provided in Flickr by Boerdeboer