Since healing up from the busted arm, I’ve ridden with a fluorescent orange safety vest while bicycling. The first couple of days, felt like a total dork. All “cool” goes straight out the window. Trade that in for becoming kinda sorta visible to cars. I use that word with caveat and caution, as I still proceed with the assumption that i am el hombre invisible. Nevertheless, there is this unfamiliar phenomenon: cars come to a complete stop 20 feet away, motion me through the intersection. I never know whether they think I’m law enforcement or “something official-like” on account of the vest, or simply that the vest brings out the dormant courteous driver in some people. But there’s no question it makes a difference in the way cars treat me. I also use a super-spazmodo LED flasher on the seatpost now, which arrests vision from the rear at 50 paces.
Bike aside, my whole attitude toward traffic is permanently altered. Since Matthew’s death, my accident, Mike’s accident, and the eerie confluence of accidents that have affected so many friends and family over the past year, I drive like an old lady. Smell death and damage around every corner. See every merging car as an incoming 2,000-lb smart bomb. Have no lingering youthful sense of invulnerability. Feel lucky to arrive at any destination intact. Freak at every arrogant cell phone using, fast-food-eating, lipstick-applying, radio-twiddling, inattentive driver.
If only people knew what a thin razor’s edge they ride at every moment on the road. An edge that grows thinner with every passing year, as culture accelerates, population explodes, courtesy vanishes.
I think of Matthew every day when I slip that vest over my head.