I live in the suburbs of Detroit…or as I like to call it “De-Toilet.” I read an editorial once in the Detroit Free Press about Southeast Michigan’s automobile culture. Culture in this case is a bad thing. When I-75 was run from Detroit well past the burbs, way back when people from the burbs actually worked in the city, there were plans to build a commuter rail system to connect the two. Apparently it was supposed to run directly down the center of I-75 and have several stops along the way. This plan was quickly put out of it misery and dumped in the Detroit river citing that Detroit and its surrounding suburbs were almost entirely made up of car people. People that worked in the plants of the “Big 3” these were the people that made the cars, designed the cars, fixed the cars and ultimately they were going to drive those cars come hell or high gas prices. So our culture was set long before most of us were born, we are a car people, we don’t carpool, we don’t walk, and we sure as hell don’t cycle…anywhere….we drive.
Southeast Michigan still subscribes to this concept and for hours a day the traffic boasts gazillions of cars occupied by single occupants moving at a snails pace up and down the roads that should be home to a mass commuter line. This makes it nearly impossible and horribly dangerous for anyone adventurous enough to venture out on the road either by foot or by pedal. There are no cycling lanes and people as a rule just do not pay attention because honestly who in their right mind would ride a bike in our car culture? This morning I had the closest call I have ever had on a bike one I had to actually get off of the bike for and sit on a stranger’s lawn hoping I would stop shaking long enough to finish my ride. I was about 1 second away from certain death and I knew it as soon as it happened. I was riding where I was supposed to be when a car pulled up along side of me trying to make a left hand turn onto a secondary street, the only thing to the right of me was a narrow dirt shoulder and the front yards of residences just off of the road. I glanced over at the car and I felt wind on my right hand side and I felt like I was in a spotlight. I snapped my head right only to find I was looking directly into the grill and the headlights of a GMC 1500 as it was sliding sideways next to me through the yard. He obviously was going to try to pass the person on the shoulder and didn’t see me in the lane. He slid out of control through the yard then hammered the gas and spun back out into the road just ahead of me. I jammed the brakes and headed as far off of the road as I could in the next yard and sat on the ground petrified. Seemingly everyday I ride I am nearly taken out and it’s starting to screw with my riding. I wonder if it really worth it to pedal in this car culture? Unfortunately this little incident added about 8 minutes to my time this morning and I was certain I was going to beat my all time best for this route. FAIL!