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Cycling Fri May 23 2008

Ghost Bikes

The Chicago Tribune yesterday published a piece on ghost bikes, those roadside memorials to cyclists who've died while riding. Sad specters they may be, those ghost bikes are a reminder to all of us, both driver and cyclist alike, that riding a bike has its own risks. The past year has been especially rough for the Chicago cyclist community, with four riders killed in accidents with cars, and likely dozens of others hurt by being doored, bumped, or hit while riding across an intersection.

While Chicago is known as a cyclist's city, riding through this town can be perilous, what with the streets congested with cars, potholed pavement, and even other cyclists who have a certain amount of difficulty in steering their bikes straight. But, for most of us bike riders, we carry-on, strap our helmets tight, and exercise due caution. It's all we can do and all we should.

Much gets made of a divide or some kind of 'war' between cyclists and motorists, when in actuality both groups could very well learn from each other and come to some kind of agreement. I drive through the city more often than I like to admit, and I've come closer than I'd like to accidentally hitting cyclists riding around without lights or cyclists that have decided that stopping at a four-way intersection with cars queued-up isn't worth bothering with. As a cyclist, I've had drivers buzz me at speed, and with seeming-intention, block my progress down a bike lane. I also can't forget to mention the number of times I've come close to being hit while with the right-of-way in an intersection.

And when I pass by a ghost bike, I give pause, coast for a moment, catch my breath, and think of why I throw myself into harm's way via two wheels. It's something I can't quite explain, nor rationalize. But as I'm out there, either on a training ride or commuting to work or just rolling around for fun, I constantly take stock and think if it's all worth it. And almost always, I assure myself that it is.

 
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