Close Call

I was biking down Blackstone Blvd yesterday, enjoying the fine weather and thinking I might see Mike Bryce with his canvasses out painting. Mike paints outdoors and has a radiant sense of color– this is his season.

I had the bike lane, but knowing Rhode Island drivers stayed further right in the breakdown lane, on a straight stetch in the clear, dry, sunny day. I heard brakes screech behind me. I was looking at a bumper five feet from my unprotected self.

There was no reason for that car to be there. No right turn there. I shouted at the driver–‘this is the bike lane!’ She drove off without rolling down her window and turned into Swan Point Cemetery.

I didn’t get the license, and anyway had no cell phone to report an impaired driver. I chased into the cemetary but she had disappeared into the maze. Whether she was indifferent to the fact that she had swerved out of her lane and almost run me down, or whether she was afraid of me, I’ll never know.

I think I’ve helped some people to work through the process of recognizing that they are no longer safe to drive. I’ve given support to some relatives who knew it was time to disconnect some battery cables. That woman who nearly ran me down was probably not drunk but must have been impaired. She didn’t see me, didn’t see the lines on the road, or could no longer process what she was seeing.

I’ve had other close calls with elderly drivers, but never one where I was so vulnerable and the driver seemed so unconcerned.

When a person starts to need help with transportation, there is little to offer them. The RIDE van is good but only meets part of the need. City buses are cut and people in wheelchairs wait by the road a little longer to get to work or school. Cabs are expensive. The network of home care providers doesn’t consistently offer transportation, which is often the first thing a new client wil ask for. There are legal obstacles that could be removed if there was enough will. I understand why people hang onto cars they can no longer afford and shouldn’t drive. It’s worse in the ‘burbs where an aging population is isolated from services.

I hope the new governor and the new mayor will consider changes that will protect nurses aides from liability when they drive a client to a doctor’s appointment, and make a committment to public transportation. Winter’s coming.

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5 responses

  1. WHY does it take 10 years to do an environmental impact study to build a “light rail”(streetcar in real English)line?
    They used to build them in a few months in the early part of the 20th Century.What the hell danger to the environment is some rails and wires?
    Remember trackless trolleys-quiet and clean and not even any rails?Why were they done away with?
    The automakers,oil companies and tire companies conspired to destroy electric transportation starting in the 1930’s.
    Only WW2 saved that mode of transport for a while longer.
    Now it’s in vogue again,but costs 100 times more to build.
    Streetcars can run for 60 years with just a little routine maintenance.Heck,Boston is still running a few cars from the 40’s.So is Philly(renovated).
    I study electric transit history and am disgusted by the destruction of a great nationwide mode of travel for people who couldn’t afford their own wheels in the name of profit.
    I know this doesn’t sound like me,but I can see what’s true and what isn’t.
    I don’t normally give much credit to Europe,but they have maintained electric transit to greater degree than here and getting around some large cities there is pretty easy.
    Closer to home,Toronto never destroyed their streetcars and downtown there is clean and uncrowded on the roads.
    However even they did away with the trackless trolleys.??

  2. This highlights a grwing problem as the population ages and the state continues to sprawl.

    Its no solution, but I am unaware of any city bus line service actually being cut any time recently. Most lines have more service than non-users think there is. Public transit, already free to many elderly, should be more part of the solution.

    Another is location of residence. Both institutional, and personal decisions have to keep minimizing driving in mind when choosing locations. The state and society cannot afford to provide transportation services everywhere in the state.

    Finally, I note that if the bicyclist was actually hit and injured or even killed, as long as the motorist was not drunk (so “just an accident”) there likely would be no penalty (except maybe a $85 fine) The RI Bike Coalition is trying to up the consequences when a “vulnerable road user” is struck, in order to better deter careless driving. More info on this, and on cases where there was no penalty to careless motorists, is on the ri bike coalition web-site http://www.ribike.org Comments on posts there are invited from everyone.

    1. What about when a “vulnerable road user”does something completely irrational/careless/stupid?
      If you’re only going 25 mph,it still might be impossible to stop in time to avoid a sudden situation.
      I’m not being callous,but there is some assumed risk in riding a bike on a roadway.
      Nancy-the driver probably was one those elderly people who need to be taaken off the road.No shame in it.
      I would suggest a competency test for anyone over 70,and if they can’t drive,then issue them a free transit pass.

  3. Jeeze. I wasn’t even in the BIKE LANE. I was further to the right in the BREAKDOWN LANE. With this kind of driver I’d be assuming a risk on the SIDEWALK!

    1. So chances are she was a befuddled,unaware geriatric case-it hurts just as bad no matter who hits you-the setup on Blackstone is dangerous to begin with-a driver has to go into the bike lane to turn or park-blind spots can ceate a hazard-I almost hit a bikerider about 6 months ago.I wasn’t being reckless,but she just wasn’t visible.She was livid-I apologized because maybe I should have seen her.If you can’t see yourself in a car’s side mirror,neiter can the driver.

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