Mountain Bike Trailer Park is written by Uncle Dan. He thanks you for your attention.
If you’ve been reading this column for a while, you may notice that I close each post with an admonition to “be brave.” You may wonder why I do that (but probably not). Either way, let me explain.
There’s a woman who works in my building, who only knows one thing about me—that I ride a bike to work every day. At least, I think that’s all she knows, because that’s all she talks about.
Every time I see her, she looks at me all doe-eyed and invariably asks the same question: “You still riding your bike to work?” Well, maybe not doe-eyed. More like a terrier seeing itself in a mirror for the first time. Curious, confused and a little anxious.
I have mixed emotions about this question. When I’m in a good mood, I will give her an answer like: “Nope, I rode a dolphin to work today.” But most of the time, I just avoid her, because I dread the statement that always follows her question:
“You’re so brave.”
Now, I know people who are brave. A dear friend laughed her way through chemotherapy. Another is leaving a stable, high-paying job to follow his passion. Another was mistreated by the people who are supposed to protect her, but came out the other end, kind, beautiful and strong.
I’m not brave like that. In fact, I’m kind of selfish. I ride my bike because I enjoy it. No, after thinking about it for a while, I have come to realize what she really means. What she means is:
“You’re a fucking idiot.”
The subtext is: “You’re doing something that I find dangerous and that I would never do.”
Allow me to illustrate with a few examples:
“You have adult-onset diabetes, but you’re having cake and Dr. Pepper for lunch? You’re so brave.”
“You do your own dental work? You’re so brave.”
“You used the toilet at Denny’s? You’re so brave.”
This reminds me of a comedian a few years back who used the phrase “bless his heart.”
The idea is that you can say anything you want about someone, as long as you add “bless his heart” at the end. Like: “He’s dumb as a post” sounds mean. But, “He’s dumb as a post; bless his heart” sounds charitable.
Anyway, riding a bike is not dangerous in itself, especially on my commute, which is mainly on a paved bike path. I use my commute as a morning warm-up, very low intensity or “zone one” as you training nerds would say.
The way I piddle around, if I fell down, I would be more annoyed than hurt. Probably tear my jacket or something equally swear-worthy.
Worst thing that is likely to happen is, as one of my friends put it, “I’ll come down a hill, slip on some goose poop and end up face skidding on the bike path with goose-shit-teeth.”
Those geese are the real menace.
Know what’s really dangerous (besides geese)? Cars. Or, more specifically, car drivers.
See, I looked it up.
On average, three people will die each day in Ohio in traffic crashes. 211 will be injured each day. Turns out there were about 302,307 traffic crashes in Ohio in 2015, involving over 544,740 “units.” (Heh heh, he said “units.”)
Of these “units,” at least 525,000 had motors. The “non-motorists” numbered only 4,545. That’s fewer than 1 percent of all “units” involved in crashes.
Non-motorists include bicyclists, pedestrians, horse riders, and there may be a few dog and goat riders in there as well (under “other”).
I am proud to be a small unit. Also, I love being a “non-motorist.” I’m kind of a contrarian, so I like being defined as different than the majority. (Except for non-alcoholic beer).
Anyhow, the stats show that cycling is not all that dangerous. Over the last five years, an average of 19 cyclists died per year in traffic deaths. That’s around 0.17 percent of all traffic deaths, or 1.7 cyclist deaths per 1,000 traffic deaths. (24 cyclists died in 2015 crashes, 13 in 2014, 19 in 2013, 18 in 2012, and 16 in 2011). Also, that’s about how many people in cars will die in crashes per WEEK in Ohio.
Around 1,273 cyclists were injured in Ohio in 2015. Again, it’s but a small fraction of the 108,394 non-fatal injuries that occurred from traffic crashes (around 1.1 percent).
Know what’s more dangerous than bikes? Deer. In 2015 deer accounted for over 21,00 crashes. This means that deer are a bigger problem on the roadway than all non-motorists combined, times seven. All deer should have to wear helmets and reflective vests. That should help.
Know what’s even more dangerous than deer? Driving. Motor vehicles were involved in at least 97 percent of the crashes. (The “unknown category is 2.7 percent—more than triple the non-motorist total).
In 2012, motorists were at fault in around 250,000 cases, while non-motorists in less than 3,000 cases.
Of course, you may argue that my numbers are skewed, because so many people drive in comparison to cycling. But the data shows that, in Columbus Ohio, for instance, 0.8 percent of people commuted to work by bike. In the USA, an estimated 0.53 percent of persons commute by bicycle. But bicycles were involved in only 0.28 percent of crashes in 2015. On the other hand, about 80 percent of Americans drive to work and 90 percent of crashes in Ohio were from passenger vehicles. Do the math. Driving sucks.
You drive to work? With your kids in the car? You’re so brave.
Pedestrians don’t get out of drivers’ reach either. Pedestrians accounted for more than 13 percent of traffic deaths (136). In 2015, drivers hurt or killed people on sidewalks, marked crosswalks, marked intersections, bike paths, and the roadside and sidewalks.
Yeah, push button and run like hell.
In the end, I guess we are all brave. Anyone who uses the roads regularly takes his life into his hands each time. Depressing, really.
You know what shakes off depression? A bike ride. I want to go on one right now. You coming? I knew you would. You’re so brave. Bless your heart!
Be brave and ride your bike.