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Sports commentary: Don't be an um-dum

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Bicycle Awareness begins with you. Yeah, you.

By Mike Forster

 

This could have been a tribute column:  one written in memory of Chief Jim Day.

I'm a big fan of the job the chief has done with Bedford's police department.  I also consider him to be a solid human and a personal friend.

But, even someone who is a ne'er-do-well doesn't deserve to get the treatment meted out to Day.  Just a couple of weeks ago, he was struck by a car as he rode his bicycle.

He was attempting to make a left turn when he was struck by a car, whose driver wished to pass him on the left. 

"If this driver had stayed in her lane, rather than cross over the double yellow line to pass me while I was turning, she would have been past the intersection in probably two seconds," noted the chief.

Day was bounced from his bike, landing on the hood of the car.  The stunned driver then slammed on her brakes, sending Day to the pavement.

After hospitalization and recovery, the chief is back on the job.

There's a plea here for motorists to have greater awareness of bicyclists.  Remember, you are safely ensconced in a ton of metal and rubber.  You are seatbelted in and are surrounded by air bags ready to deploy and save your hide.

A bicyclist is atop a vehicle which affords him (or her) zero in the way of protection.  The strongest, most macho mountain biker stands not a chance in an encounter with the smallest, most weenie-like auto.

Bicyclists don't even wear protective clothing.  Should they be sent to the pavement, as was Chief Day, their bodies absorb the impact and resultant bruising, cutting and scraping.

The only protection a bicyclist has is his brain and the helmet that sits atop it.

Think about that.  Imagine being struck by a car, at any speed, and the only protection you have is a helmet.  Then, compound things by having a) you in motion and b) you being unaware that you are about to get hit.

I'm no biker, but I've found a need to increase my sense of vigilance while driving my own car because of the way others are driving.

I'm also a big walker and find the dangers in that activity have grown substantially because of drivers' inattention.

Here is a partial list of chronic problems I've seen with my fellow motorists:

-Running yellow lights

-Running red lights

-Texting while driving

-Dialing phones while driving

-Forgetting to turn on headlights while it's nighttime or raining (or both)

-Failure to use turn signals

Please don't try to tell me that you haven't seen the same issues.

To me, 90% of these things stems from two causes.  

One, people in a hurry.  

Two, people who multi-task.

Just where exactly is it that people are rushing to go?  Guys running their wives to the hospital to deliver a baby get a pass here.  As for the rest:  What gives?

One of the charming things about this area is its pace of life.  Folks really do stop and smell the roses.  But do they have to drive like maniacs to get to the flower garden?

Chief Day was clipped by a woman who may have shaved a couple of ticks off her commute.  What was the rush?

The multi-taskers are equally dangerous.  I have seen a person simultaneously drive, eat, drink and chat on a cell phone.  Another smoked, drank a soda, talked on a cell and drove.

Unless you happen to be Vishnu, that Hindu god with the four arms, please stop it.

I've nearly been clipped by people driving out of fast food joints while shoveling burgers into their maws.

You are driving a machine that can kill someone.  You have a responsibility to avoid doing that.  Your primary duty is to do no harm.  Then you can worry about getting to where you need to be.

Chief Day had advice for those on the road:  "Be observant, be courteous and know and obey the traffic laws.  That applies to both car drivers and cyclists, especially now that warm weather is here."

In summing up his experience, Day told me, "As it worked out, I ended up in the hospital with lots of injuries and a broken bike. (The driver) ended up with damage to her vehicle, a traffic summons and probably higher insurance rates.

"What's it worth to save two seconds?"

It's certainly not worth being haunted by the memory of hitting a cyclist.

May is Bicycle Safety Awareness month.  Let's all consider the Chief Days out there.

I hate having to write memorial columns.