I was riding home on Orange Street and stopped at a red light at what’s considered one of the most dangerous intersections in New Haven, where motorists come flying off the exit ramp from I-91 directly onto Trumbull Street, where the speed limit is 25 mph. Only this time the crazy driver was crossing from the other side of Trumbull, initially heading onto the I-91 ramp. Then he reconsidered and swung 90 degrees to drive south on Orange Street, where he was now directly facing me a few feet away. But he wasn’t looking ahead (at me); he was looking behind him. I felt like I was in a chase scene in a movie. I was like a deer in headlights, and realized there was nowhere I could go fast enough to get out of his way.
I screamed at the top of my lungs, “What are you doing?!” and he faced me for the first time. He swerved to my left and proceeded down Orange Street, saying something I couldn’t hear, perhaps either an apology or a rant that I had gotten in his way.
I guess I have to be grateful that his windows were open in the beautiful afternoon, or he might never have heard me.
I bike almost every day, most of the time four miles from my house to downtown New Haven. I love that I can do this, and especially love that I can often do it during non-rush hour times. But every once in a while I realize how incredibly vulnerable I am, a person of flesh and bone riding a 20-pound metal contraption against motor vehicles ranging from one to many tons, hogging the road and spewing ground-level and climate pollution even under the best of circumstances (Electric cars can be much cleaner, but they’re still potential killers.)
Speaking of killers, a few days before my encounter, the driver of a pickup truck mowed down a whole group of cyclists, killing five and seriously injuring four near Kalamazoo, MI.
This was extreme, but cyclists are injured and killed all the time all over the country.
Elm City Cycling is committed to promoting safety for all road users, and the administration of Mayor Toni Harp is working with us to do so. The city is due to get its first protected bike lane in the next year (finally), and Bike Month and ECC are promoting 4 Lanes 4 NHV to get at least three more by 2020.
I love riding my bike, and close calls are not going to make me stop. I just wish my friends and I didn’t have so many close calls.