Published: Sunday, November 06, 2011
By Press-Register Editorial Board
By ANDY MANCHIKES
Special to the Press-Register
I ride my bicycle regularly, frequently and alone, usually midday and as far as possible from congested highways. In fact, I am one of a growing number of endurance athletes/racers in Mobile.
Physical fitness is my lifestyle choice. Many other Mobilians bicycle for fun as well as fitness.
We are on the roads, but we are not always welcome. The other afternoon, for example, as I was bicycling on Dawes Road, two pickup trucks within a minute of each other blew their horns loud and long while passing me at high speeds.
The act was intended to create fear, to intimidate, to let me know I am not welcome on the road. My taillight and headlight were on. I was riding the white line.
But this was not the first — or the worst — encounter I’ve had. In July 2010, while I was riding on Dawes Road at about 6:30 p.m., a pickup truck intentionally struck me from behind.
He left the accident, and me — lying in the road unconscious, with multiple broken ribs, a separated shoulder and extensive left chest and arm bruising. In fact, my left shoulder broke his mirror off at the cab. That’s how close my accident came to being fatal.
My bicycle wound up 50 feet further down the road. A man found me and drove me to an emergency room.
I even made the newspaper, under the headline “Bicyclist: Pickup driver left me for dead.”
Over the years, I also have been hit with bottles or gotten the “brush pass” with or without an accompanying horn blast.
In another incident, last March a pickup pulled out in front of me on Highway 1 south of Fairhope, causing me to T-bone his left door. His comment to me as I lay on the pavement was, “I thought you’d ride around me.”
Too many of my friends tell stories of drivers leaving the scene of the accident. They also say harassment is an regular event.
In my case, the driver who drove away from my unconscious body committed a violent crime and also demonstrated an unbelievable lack of moral character.
Jails are populated with people like this.
Was he drunk? Did he not have a driver’s license or insurance? Or was he just dangerously mean?
After the accident, I read online comments that said I needed “to buy insurance and a license,” that we bicyclists “deserve what we get,” that I should “go to Iraq
if I want to do something dangerous” and that if I’m killed or injured it’s “too bad.”
I fear that these comments typify the attitudes of a few too many drivers here in lower Alabama.
I have compiled a list of bicycle/car accidents in the area, some of which were fatal. There have been more than a dozen in the past 18 months.
Thankfully, most drivers give me a bit of room and pass me without threat. I ride the white line; they have the lane. We don’t have a problem.
Cyclists’ message is simple: “Give us 3 feet. Share the road.”
And be careful. After all, there really is no other choice.
Dr. Andy Manchikes is a physician and resident of Mobile.