Thursday, April 26, 2012


Each year more than 700 cyclists are killed by drivers on our nation’s roads while another 62,000 are injured. In the United States, the total annual death toll inflicted by drivers averages in excess of 40,000 people. It’s the equivalent of two jumbo jets crashing every single week, all year long, every single year, or entire towns being wiped off the face of the Earth. Salem, Massachusetts last year; Hoboken, New Jersey this year, and Twin Falls, Idaho next year. Every single year. Former pro racer turned bike lawyer Bob Mionske.
More on (and pic) Bob here from Pez Cycling News.

The lines blur. Blues and reds blend into a gradient creating the illusion of purple. What you see is not always what is there. Intents are often mistaken and messages mixed. There is innuendo, metaphor, rhetoric. Mass market media moguls want to influence your buying decisions. Somebody today will ask you for some of your time, money or effort. The result of all of this can be a distraction. We lose our focus. Our attention wanders. There would be far fewer incidents and accidents if we were better at keeping our attention precisely where it is needed most. 

That would be wherever we are and whatever we are doing. Your attention is (always) needed most in the eternal here and now. You might be sitting and spinning 2X20 of your FTP. Keep your focus on your cadence and your form. Engage your breathing and be in the moment. That is where all the good stuff happens. In that moment.

Bad stuff happens when we lose our 'nowness'. When our bodies are here but our minds are in another state. If you are training or racing in California, please do not mentally feed the bears in Yellowstone. This is a rather benign example, as the only injured party is you, however, I will illustrate for you a much more serious and catastrophic example that I witnessed this morning. 

Having completed our usual Thursday morning power spin I was headed to the Safeway for some liquid protein and fixin's for a later smoothie or two. Our little island has suffered from growing pains over the years, the volume of vehicular traffic and the frustration of drivers unable to make left turns being excellent examples. I am two cars behind a SUV that is making a quick left into the aforementioned supermarket parking lot. As the SUV disappears I see that the bicycle commuter who, coming down the hill had to swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid the steely broadside of the turning truck. I cannot tell if she is screaming, yelling or shrieking from fear as she has just come within five inches of massive pain, major trauma and possible financial ruin. Or worse.

I pass, feeling her rage and fear. As soon as I enter the lot I look for the SUV. I see it and from across the lot I can see a woman on a cell phone. I am furious. I decide to act. I am going to confront the driver and ask her if she saw the cyclist and understood the seriousness of the actions she had set in motion by her (I am assuming) inattention.

I wait by the front door as I see her continue to talk on the phone and then apply make up in the rear-view mirror. As she is doing all this I am trying to remain calm and make sure that whatever conversation takes place it is civil, objective and compassionate. I also know that whenever I have had this same pep talk with myself in the past it has failed miserably.

She walks to where I am standing. I recognize her. She is a Safeway employee. She works in the bakery department. Sometimes she says hi as I bag my bagels. I see consternation and anxiety in her eyes. She knows. 

I improvise, sensing that additional friction would cause more harm than good. I decide to let her off the hook. I am going to trust that she learned the lesson and from this point forward will keep her focus on the road and the others that share it with her. 

I shop. I second-guess myself, suddenly feeling derelict in my responsibility to the lady on the commuter bike. What if it happens again, with another, uglier, outcome, as a result of my non-action? I debate my social responsibilities in the produce department holding an apple in one hand and an orange in the other. The colors blur. 

The possibility exists that she never even saw the terrified commuter. If that is the case, she will get the story.  I know who she is. Perhaps tonight after the evening class I will visit and ask her about the near miss, as time has passed, hoping she has already learned the lesson, not needing my input to do, from this point on, the right thing.

That being, of course, to stay focused. Pay attention precisely where and when it is needed most.  Like always. It is always here and now. Spinning, training, eating, racing, driving. All the same. Clear.

In focus. Aware.

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