June 19, 2012

When I read the June 14 Metro article “Woman killed when bike hits her put others first,” memories flooded my mind. I remember vividly being 10 years old, riding my bicycle one hot June Saturday afternoon down a slight hill in South St. Louis, where I grew up, and seeing an elderly woman walking far ahead of me.

As I had been taught, I immediately began ringing the bell on my handlebars and yelling continuously, “On your left! On your left!” The woman must have been lost in thought, because I was almost upon her before she suddenly jerked her head around, saw me and jumped to her left — directly in front of me.

To avoid hitting the woman, I jerked the handlebars very hard and crashed my bike at her feet, the front-tire axle digging deep into my left tibia in the process. As I lay there, under the bicycle, bleeding, I distinctly recall the woman, who looked as old as my Grammie, peering down her nose at me and sniffing, “You should be more careful when you ride a bicycle like that.” She then crisply turned and continued on her walk.

A couple, sitting on the stoop of the house in front of which I lay bleeding, hurried to help me.

Through the intervening decades, I occasionally look down at that large scar and ask myself, “Why, when she heard me yell ‘On your left!,’ why, when she finally looked and saw me approaching on her left, did that woman jump to her left? Why did she jump into my path?” I suspect that other bicyclist will be asking himself similar questions, forever, just as I have.

Veronica M. Friel, North Potomac