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.