"Oh, my God," I gasped in amazement, shocked that I wasn't knocked down or worse yet, badly hurt or even killed. "I'm so sorry, I didn't see you. I wasn't looking for a bicycle. " In Dresden, like most cities, a bicycle lane is equivalent to a car lane. In other words, pedestrians need to keep an eye out for bicycles in the same way you would look for cars. The young German rider, speaking perfect English, apologized profusely as if it had been his fault and not mine.
"Are you okay?" we asked each other, and while we were both okay, we were definitely shaken up. Fortunately, this cyclist was paying attention and obviously saw me in time to apply his brakes that thankfully were in excellent condition. We were really lucky. Nevertheless, this terrifying incident was a very near miss, and I couldn't help but think about the elderly gentleman who died last year when a cyclist knocked him down in the middle of a San Francisco street.
During our vacation in France and Germany last month, I watched the locals (and maybe a few tourists) navigate back roads and city streets by bike. I also saw some close calls similar to the one in which I was involved in Dresden. Riding skills required to maneuver in crowded city conditions aren't ones I've mastered yet. I would find it challenging to ride a heavy bike that is loaded down with groceries or maybe with a small dog sitting in a front wicker basket. Exploring a new city by bicycle is not an option I would favor, although I know this is preferred by some of my biking friends. I have to admit I'm intimidated by city traffic and crowds of pedestrians on busy, narrow streets. In some cities, like Montreal, bike lanes have two way traffic with their own signals, but those lanes are very crowded so I am sure collisions are common. In Berlin I discovered that red painted sidewalks are for bicyclists not pedestrians. One rainy evening I was surprised by the chutzpah of riders who were not wearing bright clothing nor a helmet. A flashing light somewhere on the bicycle would have added to their visibility. I even saw a few women wearing high heels and mini skirts as they pedaled by on wet city streets in the dark.
|Transporting food by bicycle in Cuba|
Next week I will tour San Francisco by bike on what my girlfriends call "A ride of a thousand views." Fortunately this is a city I know well, so will not have the same apprehensions I would have if I were to ride my bike on city streets in other parts of the world. Regardless, I will keep my wits about me and my eyes peeled for pedestrians, like the careless pedestrian I was in Dresden.