By Christopher Cudworth
In the middle of a 30 mile ride I was cruising the road shoulder in Elburn, Illinois to allow the big truck traffic on Route 47 through the center of town to safely pass by on my left.
Just across the tracks in town the shoulder glimmered with broken glass. I hit the brakes but not soon enough. My bike tires crunkled and crinkled across the glass. So I stopped, gently turning the wheels under the touch of my cycling glove to remove any potential glass shards from my wheels.
I was swearing loudly about glass on the road when a voice from the other road shoulder reached me between the noise of the trucks. “Do you need a tube?”
A fellow with a landscaping getup was calling out to me from across the road.
“No, I think I got it.”
But his interest sparked mine. So I pushed my bike across the street to thank him. And he asked, “How often do you ride along Route 47? Very far?”
I explained that part of one of my main training routes, a 20-mile route that loops from Batavia out to Elburn and back does indeed us the road shoulder along Route 47.
“Is it safe?” he asked.
What a loaded question. No roads are absolutely safe. The shoulder on Route 47 is about 8 feet wide. So I ride it and keep an ear open for big trucks. There usually isn’t much debris even though the road is heavily traveled.
“I got T-boned,” the landscape guy explained to me. Then he pointed to his lower leg and began to explain the plates, screws and multiple surgeries required to piece his shattered lower leg together. The limb was thicker than it should be, like a wooden peg. “It took 8 surgeries,” he told me.
I winced and told him how sorry I was that it happened to him.
“It on Keslinger at Pouley Road,” he explained. “A 16-year-old kid accelerated across the road and hit me square. I flipped up on the hood.”
Bad luck. Dumb luck. Sucky odds. You can call it anything you want. The fact is we’re all exposed to the inattention, aggression or distraction of motorized vehicle drivers. Of course I didn’t require some driver to knock me cold. I ran into a downed tree on a bike path. Did it all on my own.
But the conversation continued with my newfound cycling friend explaining that he now uses front and rear lights even in daylight.
“I like the white flashing light on the front. Even in shadows you can be seen,” he explained.
As I rode away into yet another rainstorm it struck me that safety is a perpetual pursuit. In the end, it’s really the only thing any of us chasing.