There are veterans on this trail with the Warrior Project who have decided to bike across America for different purposes. A group of four have been a part of our journey so far and that number is now down to three. Robert is in the hospital with a broken sternum and other wounds.
On Day 12, June 5th, the 61-mile ride is charged with emotion as news spreads that one of our cyclists is in the hospital.
Details of the incident are murky as if playing a game of telephone. A storm begins early in the morning around 7 a.m. and continues until the early afternoon with scattered thunderstorms.
Robert is biking along playing leap frog with a post-office truck. The truck passes him to deliver mail, he passes the truck, and then the truck regains the lead. Cyclists are used to this dance.
This is where I could be spreading rumors.
As Robert is passing the post-office truck, another truck that has been trailing behind enters the passing lane – stacking a truck, bike, and truck parallel to each other.
The passing truck driver swerves in front of Robert. He slams on the bicycle's brakes. The slick road causes him to slide under the truck's rear tire, which cracks his helmet as the tire drives over his face.
He is going to be OK and out of the hospital shortly.
Reactions to the News of an Injury
A U.S. veteran had a restorative journey cut short by the impatience of a fellow American.
Read that one more time.
I only shared a few moments with Robert, like when his Uncle brought us breakfast. His group has been open to sharing this experience and kindness to us and everyone they meet.
This incident resonates with me since it marks that Americans do not properly protect those trying to go on a different path.
Time and time again people offer two words when hearing of a journey that uses something besides the automobile, “Be safe.” The issue is that we have built an infrastructure that is designed solely for the automobile and a society that places people last.
There is a simple idea that can change how we approach our day-to-day lives:
- People first (pedestrians)
- Cyclists next (and public transportation)
- Cars last
This new hierarchy is not an argument over money. Some may argue, "It's too expensive to build bicycle paths or wider shoulders on the road."
Mikael Colville-Anderson, the unofficial "Mayor of Cycling" for the world's biking capital, has argued that societies make money for every cyclist: clean air, healthier individuals, no congestion, little maintenance, equal access, less noise pollution, and the list goes on.
When the Wounded Warriors Project is determining projects to restore the minds and hearts of veterans they turn towards the bicycle. Something from our childhoods can solve the complexities of our adult minds and bodies. Sounds a bit radical.
So how could we start creating a safer community?
Here is a short exercise:
How many errands do we drive to each day that are less than a mile away? What if we snuck in exercise by biking with a loved one - like Doug and Donna out in Missouri who ride two miles every day to lose weight together? What if we met our neighbors while piling groceries into the front basket of our white vintage bike? And what if parents bonded with their teenagers while dirt biking through the mountains or forests that exist in many of our backyards?
A 4 year old made this point from a bicycle in Denmark, "Daddy, I cannot see the man behind the car's window."
We complain about not knowing our neighbors, not knowing each other, and not knowing ourselves. The bicycle is a social vehicle where every rider is open to conversation, can stop at any garage sale, and can hold the hand of their loved one riding along.
Try hopping on a bike for one of your small errands and see what you discover.
We should not be running our veterans off our roads. Use the words, "Wait for me" next time you want a loved one to come home unharmed.
Robert, get well soon.
Tomorrow's blog post will resume to pretty pictures and the adventures of America. It saddens me greatly to see Robert's trip cut short.