Thursday, September 18, 2008

A close call this morning

I ride my bike in Prospect Park in the mornings a few days a week. A few weeks ago, another cyclist was killed at 8th Avenue and President Street when he tried to ride through a red light and a school bus speeding down 8th Avenue struck him. That intersection is on my way home from the park. I think about that accident on all my rides, but especially the morning ones when I might be slightly less alert from just having woken up. 8th Avenue is one-way and drivers tend to treat it like a highway. I've ridden home along 8th Avenue a few times and drivers have honked and shouted at me to get out of the way as they speed by. It's frightening.

However, this morning's near-miss was not at 8th Avenue, but at 5th Avenue, and it didn't involve a speeding car but a slow-moving one. I stopped at the light on the north side of 5th Avenue, waiting to cross and ride the last half-block to my building. There was another cyclist behind me listening to music on her iPod and singing along, and a car beside me. The light turned green and I started forward. That's when I saw a white car out of the corner of my left eye. I slammed on the brakes as a police cruiser eased past me through the intersection in what was a parking lane. The squad car hadn't been there a second before the light changed, which is why I hadn't noticed it. If I'd kept going the car would have hit me, albeit at about 5 MPH, but they still would have hit me. The cop car kept going down 5th Avenue, staying in the parking lane to get around another car in the traffic lane. As I rode down President Street, slightly shaken up, a minivan pulled up next to me and the driver said "I guess your life wasn't worth anything to them." I replied "They could have turned their lights on, at least." Someone behind us honked, and that was the end of our conversation.

I've had my share of close calls since I started riding in New York, but this was the first one with the police. I hope it's the last.

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