I’m back! Thoughts on my first spring bike commute and why I take the lane

I did it.

It was above freezing this weekend and a high of 7 today. And I did it.  I got my cyclocross/commuting bike (complete with bell, panniers, and fenders) out of the basement and rode to work. I smiled the entire way there and back. It felt so great to be riding outside again.

The bike path along the river in our city is nowhere near clear. It’s got big patches of snow and ice but the roads are in good shape. Cars aren’t quite used to seeing bikes again so I smiled and waved a lot but since bikes are associated with the return of above freezing weather, I think most people were happy to see me.

Finding a bike rack once I got the campus was a bit trickier. I had to climb a snowbank and attach my bike to what was the top of the rack, now the only accessible bit of metal on which to attach a lock. Some of the spots are still taken by bikes that over-wintered on campus, abandoned by their owners on the first day of snow and now still frozen, deep in the snowbank. Tracy points out that one even has a note, from campus police, warning the owner that their lock is inadequate.

Anyway, it was a great ride. I’m happy. I’m back.

But I’ve got to say that the first ride will probably make me nervous each year because of something that happened 4 years ago.

What happened four years ago?

On a nice March day in 2011 in conditions much like today, I landed in hospital. I was taken there by an ambulance. And since then my first ride of spring always freaks me out a bit. As cyclists might say, “I came off my bike.” That’s as opposed to crashing.

It happened not far from my house on a stretch of Wortley Road full of potholes. Cars were passing closely and rather than stay out in the lane–AS I SHOULD HAVE DONE–I moved right, got out of their way, and hit a pothole. I don’t remember the next bit. I do remember being put on a stretcher. I do remember emergency service workers asking me to sit up and help get my jacket off or they’d have to cut if off. It was a really nice cycling jacket. I sat up.

I spent the day in hospital being scanned every which way. The nice ambulance guys kept coming in to joke that they’d left my bike behind the counter at the ER and it was doing fine. Thanks guys.

They also came in later to look at my head scans and joked that I should do a poster for helmet use. Because even though I looked awful and my helmet was completely destroyed my head was actually just fine. In the end, though I was battered and bruised, I had only the mildest of concussions. I was symptom free within a couple of days. I was very lucky.

It’s why I was very happy to take part in the Bikes and Brains event last year.

I also had a teary experience in our local grocery store a few days later. A woman came up to me and touched my arm. She asked if I’d had a bike accident on Wortley Road recently. I said yes and then she hugged me. “I’m so happy you’re okay.” It turns out that she was behind the car who passed too close and watched me come off my bike. She had called 911 and stayed with me until they arrived. But she didn’t know how the story ended, if I was okay in the end. We were both happy to have met each other.

Lessons learned? Well, I now assertively take the lane when the edge of the road is snow, ice, and potholes. Yes, I might slow the cars down. Yes, drivers might have to wait. But my safety on the road comes before your convenience. Welcome to spring in Canada!

Here’s my helmet after the crash.

Here’s the obligatory post crash selfie.

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