Did I not tell you that yesterday was the soupiest weather on record? I left the downtown area at around 5 – peak traffic hour, to be avoided from now on. It was raining so hard that anyone not encased in a plastic bag was wetter than a muskrat in two seconds.
I’m wearing my new caution-yellow jacket with the reflective accents, I’ve got four lights on my bike, and I think I’m Miss Safety of the Universe. I’m stopped on Tillamook waiting to cross Vancouver Avenue, a one-way artery going to my right. I notice that the car facing me has its left turn signal on, so I’m thinking I have the right of way. I start to cross, I get to the middle, and the car darts out and turns left. I’m directly in its path. Directly. I’m there, in full headlights, four feet away. Thinking this may be my last moment on the planet, I simultaneously try to speed up and veer right. The driver manages to widen his turn and miss me. Thrown off balance somehow, I land in the gutter at the corner across the street. The driver revs the engine and speeds off.
I collect my bruised bones up out of the leaves and water and walk my bike onto the sidewalk and just stand there in a stupor. A woman from across the street comes over to see if I'm ok. “Did you see that?” I ask her. “No, I just saw you over here picking up your bike,” she answers. I describe the incident to her and she asks if I'm sure I'm ok. I say “Well I think my body’s ok, except that it’s kind of shaking right now, and I don’t know yet how my bike is.” She points to some ground floor lit up windows across the street. “See that office over there? If you need any help or need to fix anything, just go over there. There’s people there who will help you. They have first aid kits and tools. Tell them Allie sent you.” I thank her and she continues on her way.
It sort of renews my faith in humanity when someone stops to check when they see you’ve tumbled. I’ve seen with my own eyes in certain cities where people just keep going no matter what violent or dangerous thing may have happened. I hope Portland doesn’t get all hard like that.
I found that my bike still worked except that the front brake cable had snapped. I rode the rest of the way very slowly so as not to need full braking power. I haven’t looked at my bike in the daylight yet. When I woke up my body told me which parts of it had hit the pavement. I had felt my helmet touch down too, but not very hard. Having slippery clothes on really helps in a fall.
The most upsetting thing was that I thought this driver had been actually trying to kill me in some kind of sick sporting mentality. But this morning while re-enacting the scene with Lindi, we concluded that the driver had been making that classic mistake – look to the right while turning to the left. Then when he saw me, he freaked. Fear turned into rage, and he floored the accelerator.
I don’t excuse the person. Rule: No vehicle should move in any direction in which the eyes of its operator are not pointed. However, it helps a little to know that he was stupid rather than criminally psychotic -- because no amount of safety equipment can protect against that.
On a summer day, I probably would’ve been able to see that he wasn’t even looking in my direction. Lindi and I are in the process of discussing the impossibility of making eye contact with drivers through car windows in the dark and in the rain. Is safety even possible in these conditions? Conclusions to come.