Yesterday was warm. It was nearly 90 degrees when I left my downtown Seattle office to go for a ride at 5:10 PM. There was an abnormal amount of traffic due to a Seahawks game. I love the Seahawks. I am not a football fan but I am a Seahawks fan. I’ve even sought out Seahawks bars in other cities to be able to watch the game. But this isn’t about the Seahawks.
I am in the process of retiring from (letting go of?) a five year professional cycling career. I still love to ride my bike. I still love to ride my bike hard, to go fast, to push myself. Yesterday I went down to Lake Washington Boulevard to squeeze in some quick intervals before I lost the daylight. Lake Washington Boulevard has been lauded as one of the best roads to ride on in Seattle. There are signs reminding drivers that cyclists have the right of way. It’s flat with good pavement and gentle curves that you never have to stop pedaling through. The speed limit is 25 miles per hour, exactly the speed I tend to average for these particular intervals.
There was a remarkable amount of traffic on the Boulevard, maybe due to the Seahawks game, maybe not. I waited for breaks in traffic to safely do my intervals. I did my best to ignore a few overly-aggressive and obviously irate drivers. It was warm. There was a lot of traffic. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a car either.
I was inside the last minute of my last interval heading north on the Boulevard. There was a line of cars heading in the opposite direction. I’d timed it perfectly. I would finish the effort just a few hundred meters before I would turn off to head back to my office and grab my backpack. I was riding 1 foot from the right edge of the road. For just one short second I glanced down at my Garmin to see how much time I had left in the effort – 30 seconds. I was going 25 miles per hour. I looked up. I was less than 15 meters from the grill of an SUV speeding down the wrong side of the Boulevard passing other southbound cars. I swerved off the road, the driver dove back into his or her lane. I was alive, but I almost wasn’t.
I’ve spent the better part of the last eight months creating a junior women’s development team. I want to provide opportunities to young women who I believe have a future in the sport. I want to help all young women learn about and embrace the freedom and beauty of the bicycle. I want to grow the sport and increase opportunities and pathways to success for female athletes. I don’t want the bike to be scary or intimidating; but yesterday, for me, it was.
Yesterday, I was almost killed. I don’t scare easy. Yesterday I pulled over on the side of the road and sat down shaking and crying. I was relieved that I was alive but distraught over the actions of a complete stranger who almost killed me. I started thinking about the health and safety of the young women that I work with. I felt so helpless. I don’t know what happened to the social contract where we agree not to kill each other for no reason. I want to open pathways for young women but yesterday I worried that I was putting them into danger by simply encouraging them to ride.
Nothing has ever made me question what we’ve created with NWCX Project and I still don’t but yesterday, my faith wavered just a little. Please look out for each other. Please don’t kill cyclists.