Lordy! A season has passed and the weather has turned tempestuous in Georgia, nigh-freezing nights and too-warm days, with winds whipping flags, leaves and my massive hair to and fro. In short, perfect conditions for running. There has been a significant deal going on in the Atlantan run commuting community (e.g. us three), little of it related to run commuting; however, its time consuming-nature has kept us from the keyboard.
Josh’s family recently grew, having taken on a 9-year-old ward. It is a backhanded blessing. Their addition came via subtraction of a dearly loved friend. I put all my time into training for the Detroit Marathon, then needed a month-long reunion with my bicycle and Laura. And when Sophie has found time away from applying to graduate schools, she has been playing Frogger.
That is: Sophie was hit by a car.
Exhale! Cease picturing Sophie’s mangled, Frogger-mashed body. She was OK, but for jangled nerves, a broken toe and what she described as “some pretty sweet bruises.” Afterward, she continued on to work, about a mile north of the intersection. This is not an indicator of the lightness of the incident, but how bad to the bone Sophie is. But I was surprised by the intersection at which it occurred, one flush with pedestrians; upon further reflection, though, given the abilities and awareness of Atlanta’s drivers, I am more surprised by such encounters’ infrequency.
“It was at N. Highland and E. Rock Springs — a woman was blocking the cross walk on the left side of the road, so I had to go behind her,” Sophie told us. “The woman who hit me was turning left onto E. Rock Springs and didn’t see me in time, and knocked me down.” Here is my rendering of the occurrence:
Atlanta’s transportation woes and suburban sprawl are nationally infamous, and each influences the other. The metropolitan area has a boner for cars; the overall attitude toward pedestrians and bicycles are as car-slowing, road-clogging nuisances, and trains: FUCK ‘EM. Sophie said, “Figures I would get hit running, and not while I was on my bike.” This reflects the attitude of most bicyclists I know: that getting hit is not an unfortunate if, but a dreadful when.
The above-pictured intersection is that it is dense with pedestrians and drivers in the morning. West: Emory University; northwest: Center for Disease Control; east: Morninside Elementary School; and south and southeast: downtown and midtown Atlanta, respectively. That accounts for the drivers; however, Morningside Elementary accounts for the pedestrians. These drivers are accustomed to seeing parents and their youngsters swarming these sidewalks, and older kids waiting along Highland for their buses.
Having run or ridden or taken the bus along Highland for several years, I was surprised when Sophie pointed to this as the scene of her bumper encounter. There are people everywhere, many of them kids; when you see a bunch of kids, you slow down and use greater vigilance; when you see families walking, you don’t camp your two-ton car on the crosswalk.
But this, sadly, is the Atlantan attitude toward pedestrians. Keep your eyes on the traffic light and your mind on gauging whether you will get through it, and screw the rest. Laura and I encounter it everywhere; we live in Poncey-Highland, and walk to Murder Kroger, the parks, watch “Jeopardy!” through people’s windows (to Laura’s chagrin); but always through our enjoyment is an echo of awareness for speeding, inattentive drivers.
Take this from the Atlanta Marathon, Oct. 30. It came through our neighborhood, so we rose early to go watch and cheer. Even in the presence of police, even with bright orange cones and a stream of runners, a driver eased into the runners’ ostensibly separate lane, so he could turn into the CVS parking lot. He nearly plowed two runners, right in front of us! His justification, after I bellowed the foulest curses my guts could curdle, was that he had a sick child, and that is more important than jogging.
1. Two parking lots across the way. Easy enough to park, cross the vacant-but-for-runners street, and get your Sudafed.
2. What a terrible example to set for your children.
3. Unless your child was in mortal peril — in which case your negligence is furthered; get that kid to a hospital — is his or her medicine so urgent, so necessary, that you must endanger two other lives?
4. They were running, not jogging, you slug.
It angers me that safety’s onus rests on the most fragile of us, but those with the greatest capability for destruction eschew responsibility to the rest. If you can, use the crosswalk. If you can’t, employ the first, and likely soundest, advice we are given about crossing the street: look both ways. But, as with Sophie, you had better watch your back, too.