A Story of an "Accident" – A Time of Many "Crashes"
During this wondrous holiday season I feel the deep gratitude I have for life – for being able to use my body and mind and for being free. I’m also a holiday baby. I won’t tell you the exact date but it is within days of a big holiday – thus, the thought of life in December is personal.
I was in a dreadful accident approximately 18 months ago that involved me and a deer accidentally colliding on a beautiful rural road. As the New Year approaches and I reflect on the past year and a half I'm filled with gratitude for my health, family, friends, job, recovery and so much more. I will tell you just a bit of the story. I don’t remember any part of the accident so this story is pieced together by friends and strangers who told me what happened. I was riding with many of you on a five day bike tour in Virginia. It was the last day of the tour and I was bicycling down a long decent at about 30 mph. The road was narrow and a truck was traveling toward me. I was riding a few feet from the right side of the road where a ditch ran along side the road. Unexpectedly, a large doe jumped out from the ditch directly in front of me as the truck coming toward me was about to pass me. I'm very sad to know that I immediately hit the deer and broke its spine. The deer died from this injury. I was thrown to the other side of the road. I barely missed the truck and landed in the other lane on my face - I had serious head, neck, facial and other traumas. No one had done anything wrong - just an "accident" - bad timing with the deer.
When a fellow Baltimore Bike Club member, who luckily is a seasoned nurse practitioner, arrived a minute later, I was face down and covered in blood. I've heard from many people that she helped me in many ways – she was loving, smart and compassionate. She lied down on the road next to me and put her arm around me and told me I would be just fine. She stayed with me until I was in the ambulance. It was later, in the hospital, that I was diagnosed with two neck fractures. Luckily, no one moved me. As I was coming out of the semi-conscious state, the doctor's were stitching my lip back to its normal location on my face. The helmet I purchased the day before the bike tour saved my life. The straps were tight and it fit like a comfortable glove. Thankfully, the folks at my local bike shop assisted me as I sought a helmet that fit correctly.
When I was 14 years old my parents introduced me to bike club riding. They must have bribed me to get me to participate in the bike club experience as a teenager. But soon after the experience, I began to love biking. I felt free on a bike. For 30 years I've continued to love the bike.
While I'm on my bike I experience many things - really experience things like: wonder, freedom, the sky, changing of the seasons, my body, my breathing, laughter, pain, myself observing myself, concentration, the ground/dirt, smells, land, space, lack of energy, intense energy, deep feelings, hunger, my heart, my legs, sounds, quiet, wind....the terrain, sweating profusely, being freezing cold, being perfectly at ease, seeing disturbing things up close like dead animals smeared all over the pavement, seeing incredible wildlife – deer, fox, eagles, hawks, herons, frogs, bear, turtles, groundhogs… deepening relationships, time with friends, new friends, adventures, challenges, joy, easy gentle spinning, lungs bursting, love of life and the earth, beautiful landscapes, sunsets, trees, fields of wheat, woods, farms, communities, new places, family, gratitude for my dog, knowing what it is like to be chased by many dogs…. and so much more. And, I still have amazement that this object (the bike) is something I have the pleasure to enjoy – unlike so many others – I have the pleasure and freedom to enjoy it. A bike - a means of transportation; a racing machine; a piece of joy; a way to experience the world. I imagine that I will always be hooked.
So why this personal story? There have been many bicycling crashes and fatalities this year with automobiles and I hope that you will be grateful for your life, for your right to bike and that you will take an interest in increasing bicycle safety. The terrible and tragic crashes and fatalities are typically preventable. They are "crashes" -- NOT "accidents" or unusual coincidences like my experience above. Crashes are very different from accidents. Crashes involve a collision that could have been avoided. Dangerous activities, like distracted driving, are often avoided if the consequences of a certain action, i.e. intoxicated driving, are significant. If drunk driving laws didn't exist, there would be many more tragic road fatalities.
YOU can make a difference in decreasing crashes and fatalities. Crashes and fatalities are heart wrenching tragedies often consisting of a car hitting a bicyclist from behind; causing the injury or death of a father, husband, daughter, sister etc. while the person is bicycling with a friend, or to a job, or exercising, or relaxing on a lovely day. Any one of us could be a crash and fatality statistic. I never thought I would have the story above as part of my history.
Delegate Jon Cardin (in suit), Tammy Bensky (in black - widow of 2010 fatality victim Lawrence Bensky), Carol Silldorff (to Tammy's immediate right), 75+ bicyclists ride to Annapolis to support pro-bike safety legislation.
Many of you knew someone this year that lost their life or was seriously injured while bicycling due to an automobile crash by a reckless driver. Horrifically, and unlike my experience, most of these bicyclists didn't have a friend who got on the ground with them and told them they would be ok. Some were left as hit and run victims. The New Year is around the corner. Will you, as a bicyclist, friend or family member of a bicyclist, commit to these three tasks?
- Support Bike Maryland - click here to support Bike Maryland - we are your bicycle advocates. Right now your support is being matched dollar for dollar.
- Five minutes of your time is needed to perform this task that can decrease your (or your friends or loved ones) chances of injury or death. You do not need any sort of expertise to do this simple act that can save lives. Bike Maryland will, in the next few weeks, publish a list on the Bike Maryland website of pro-bike bills to support. These are bills that over time will make Maryland a safer place to bike. When this list is published, call your State Senator and/or Delegate. These people need to hear from you! You do not need to discuss the bill in depth. You will make a difference by saying , “Hello, my name is abc and I live in your district. It is very important to me, as one of your constituents, that you support xyz bill.”
- Send this newsletter to everyone you know - spread the word about Bike Maryland.
Thank you - Happy New Year - I wish you peace, love, freedom and safety - Carol Silldorff.
Annual Bicycle Symposium - February 22nd
Maryland's only Bicycle Symposium will take place Tuesday, February 22, 2011 from 9:00am to 4:00pm in Annapolis. Hosted by Bike Maryland, the Symposium will bring together advocates, industry leaders, on and off-road recreational cyclists and commuters, elected officials and staff from the Tri-State Region.
Location: 11 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD 21401
East Miller Office Building in the President’s Conference Center
You won't want to miss this event! The purpose of the Symposium is to educate and empower advocates and attendees, identify common issues in our local communities, set priorities for improving the future of bicycling in Maryland, and demonstrate the economic impact of our state's bicycling community. Who should attend? If you are interested in seeing better bicycling in Maryland, this Symposium is for you! Attendees will include people with interests in job creation, tourism growth, transportation planning and design, mountain bike trails and land preservation, investments in bicycling, health and wellness, and the environment.
Keynote Speaker Announced - Andy Clarke, the President of the League of American Bicyclists (LAB), is the keynote speaker at the Bicycle Symposium. Andy Clarke was appointed President of LAB in 2004 after successfully leading efforts to create, interpret and implement the various transportation programs that are available to improve conditions for bicycling and walking as the League’s State and Local Advocacy Director. Before joining the League, Clarke provided technical assistance to the highly regarded Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center on site at the Federal Highway Administration. In addition to his strong policy background, Clarke has managed a range of bicycle and pedestrian planning projects at the state and metropolitan levels and has worked extensively with state and local advocacy groups. Clarke is a 1984 graduate of the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, with an undergraduate degree in Law. He is on the Board of Directors for America Bikes, and a member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals.
Bike Maryland and LAB partner to promote bicycling for fun, fitness and for transportation. We are working together to create a Bike Friendly Maryland! Andy Clarke will present the Bike Friendly Maryland Campaign. This is a spectacular opportunity to learn how to create a bike friendly business, university and/or community.
The agenda will be chock-full of renowned presenters and educational topics. Exhibits will be open all day. The Symposium Agenda will be posted mid-January.
Unable to attend the Symposium?
Please Consider a Dollar for Dollar Matching Donation - Your donation is tax deductible as Bike Maryland is a non-profit organization. At this time we are extremely lucky to receive a $1 for $1 match on your donation - doubling the benefits to make Maryland a better place to bike. Please donate now - CLICK HERE
2010 A Bike Maryland Legislative Success!
2011 - Legislative Priorities
The legislative task force met early in December. The following issues were discussed.
- Criminal negligence manslaughter by vehicle
- Bikes on MARC line - require MTA to allow a minimum number of trips with full size bikes on the MARC line
- No parking/blocking a bike lane
- Complete streets policy – implementation now
- Arrest for Leaving a Scene of an Accident Involving Injury bill
- Crash vs. Accident bill
- Trail access after dark for bicycle commuters through parks – just as open as the law is for vehicles
- Require MDTA to provide bicycles / pedestrians on all new projects
- Amend the Transportation Enhancement program to be a 80/20 match
- Eliminate contributory negligence law for cyclists (cars win the law of physics, so they need to be extra careful around bikes)
- Funding for safety education and awareness
- Strengthen bike commuting / transportation incentive
- Require a bicycle transportation element to be included in university facility master plans
- Bikes on ICC
Bicycle Friendly Maryland
The first Bike Friendly Maryland meeting was a huge success! Bike Maryland partners with the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) to promote bicycling for fun, fitness and for transportation. Through advocacy and education we will achieve a bicycle-friendly Maryland! Bike Maryland is working with Maryland's communities, businesses and universities to assist them in achieving LAB's honorable and highly recognized Bicycle Friendly Status.
TWENTY ONE business, university and community leaders and representatives attended the first Bike Friendly Maryland meeting - view list of attendees HERE.
The February 22nd Bike Symposium Keynote Speaker will specifically discuss this program.
Learn more about the program here. The Bicycle Friendly Business program recognizes employers’ efforts to encourage a more bicycle friendly atmosphere for employees and customers. The program honors innovative bike-friendly efforts and provides technical assistance and information to help companies and organizations become even better for bicyclists. The Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) program recognizes institutions of higher education for promoting and providing a more bicycle-friendly campus for students, staff and visitors. The BFU program provides the road map and technical assistance to create great campuses for cycling. The Bicycle Friendly Community Program provides incentives, hands-on assistance, and award recognition for communities that actively support bicycling. A Bicycle Friendly Community welcomes cyclists by providing safe accommodation for cycling and encouraging people to bike for transportation and recreation. Baltimore City received the Bronze LAB Bicycle Friendly Community Award this year - way to go Baltimore! Bike Maryland is here to help you get started - contact us. Next meeting February 22nd - Annapolis.
The Bike Maryland Newsletter is written by Carol Silldorff, Bike Maryland Executive Director.