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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Please Don't Store Your Concrete in the Bike Lane (You Will Hurt My Dad)

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Thu, Nov 18, 2010 at 4:44 PM

I got a phone call last night from my parents—my dad had been in a bad bike crash. This is something I've been worried would happen for a long time. Ever since my 59-year-old dad started biking 15 miles to work a couple years ago, in the back of my mind I've dreaded the day that I would get a call saying he'd been hit by a car on his commute. Well, when the news came, it wasn't a car's fault at all: someone had dropped a large pile of asphalt chunks in the middle of the bike lane, around a sharp corner. My dad came around the turn, hit the small mountain of debris, and landed so hard that a homeless guy who lives near the path came up and told him to stay put. "Dude," the guy said. "You look pretty bad."

In the end, my dad is "fine." His nose is broken. He has two black eyes. Something is wrong with his back. But with a crash like that, he's lucky to be alive and walking. The police officer who responded to the scene was "livid" about the asphalt pile and it mysteriously disappeared a few hours later (according to the world's most reliable witness, my mom).

This is relevant beyond parents, their medical bills, and my dad's likely-deceased bicycle because this is exactly the type of crash that OHSU researchers found account for 20 percent of bike crashes among Portland cyclists. I reported on their year-long study this week in the news section, but I didn't think the facts about five percent of bikers sustaining a hospital-worthy injury every year would hit home quite so literally. My dad was biking on an off-street path (like the Springwater Corridor, but in Southern California), pretty much the safest place you could possibly ride a bicycle. But as the OHSU study found, it doesn't matter how good a cyclist you are, 20 percent of crashes are caused by "environmental hazards", i.e. a pile of fucking concrete dropped in the bike lane.

The easiest way to make biking safer for everyone, including old people like my dad*, is to build safe bike routes and actively maintain them, keeping them free of tracks, cracks, parked cars, and random construction materials.

So in conclusion, be nice to your parents and please think about the safety of all road users when considering an appropriate storage location for your blunt objects.

*sorry

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