Because it had been my habit to ride up Bella Vista every morning, I know this popular route well, and once felt my back wheel begin to jelly out from beneath me at the Romero Creek crossing [Bicycling + Mossy Road = Broken Hip, 7/29/10]. I should have known better: Many crossings get like that during the summer months. However, this is not the only challenging spot on Bella Vista Drive. Near the top of the road, fronting the property at 2600 Bella Vista, last year the property owners planted an orchard, with countless rocks daily crashing down the steep slopes onto the road. I thought, “Some poor cyclist is going to hit one of those rocks someday.” It turned out to be me, resulting in a broken hip, broken pelvis, and fractured wrist.
It seems there are two schools of bicycling safety. One advocates social responsibility whereas the other champions individual responsibility. Until society eliminates all cycling hazards (good luck), cyclists have to take personal responsibility seriously into account. Bicycles, like SUVs, are marketed via an association with Nature. Just look at any catalog. I’ve never seen an ad that shows an emergency room.
Yet cycling is not the most natural of enterprises. Most cyclists are going to take a spill sooner or later. Given that the human body is not designed to withstand the impact of a serious cycling accident, personal responsibility requires not only that one wear a helmet, but that one maintain one’s equipment in top tuning and carry adequate medical and long-term-care insurance for a worst-case scenario. To cycle without those buffers is to act in absolute denial.
That being said, a severe accident can engender a spiritual transformation. When one’s identity and direction in life are obliterated in one second, the mind enters a kind of directionless gap that is liberating. The victim of a severe cycling misadventure also becomes the recipient of so many prayers, and so much compassion and healing energy, that such a mishap can become a magnificent teacher.
Another thought in the realm of one’s personal responsibility is that some scriptures warn not to subject oneself to the risk of severe trauma. One’s nervous system is one’s instrument of perception, thus a healthy body is the vehicle that can lead to spiritual awakening. How one balances that with the near inevitability of a spill—perhaps one that leaves one crippled or mentally challenged—and also with our environmental responsibility for clean transportation, is something for which I have no answer.
I love cycling, but I notice that not even those who have riding buddies who have ended up dead on in a “vegetative” state condescend to look at their enterprise soberly. Such recognition would imperil their sense of immortality.