I've never considered myself to be a "biker," yet throughout most of my life, I've enjoyed riding my bicycle. I recall the first time I ever rode a 2-wheeler. I leaned the bike against the garage door of my family home in San Francisco, climbed aboard, and pushed off. Everything was good… until I wanted to stop.
With money I received for my 16th birthday, I purchased a new bike -- a 1970 Raleigh Grand Prix. I still have it. I cannot even imagine the number of miles I've logged on this bike. I rode it for enjoyment, for transportation, and for exercise. In the past few years, however, I've become increasingly uncomfortable taking the bike out on the streets of Silicon Valley.
It's bad enough driving a car in the South Bay. Increased traffic, persistent congestion in many locations, and distracted driving creates a dangerous environment for everyone, especially those traveling the roads on two wheels. The unexpected death of Mark Catalana, a Catholic priest of the Diocese of San José, caused me to re-think my desire to ride my bike. On April 15, 2013, Mark was struck by a motorist while riding his bike on San Tomas Expressway, a busy road on which I've ridden many times. His injuries were severe, most notably his shattered left hip. He died on May 2, 2013 from a blood clot resulting from the accident. Mark was 49 years old.
This morning, I read an interesting article on the NPR web site which addressed the issue of increased injuries and deaths among older cyclists. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the results of a study led by Dr. Benjamin Breyer of the University of San Francisco which reported that hospital admissions due to bike injuries more than doubled between 1998 and 2013 -- most notably among bikers 45 years of age and older. Another study revealed that while cycling deaths among children have decreased significantly in the past forty years, the mortality rate for cyclists ages 35-54 has tripled!
I never thought I would buy a stationary bicycle. I've known too many people who purchased one, rode it for six weeks, used it as a place to hang clothes for six months, and then gave it away. Despite this, I bought the bike shown above as a gift to myself for my retirement. I still enjoy bike riding. I need the exercise. But I am not willing to put my life at risk on the increasingly hostile roads of the Santa Clara Valley.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to purchase this bike. Rain or shine, I now have no excuses for not getting the exercise I so desperately need. It is set up in my home office and I ride it every day. Best of all, I have no worries about a distracted driver straying into the bike lane and taking me out.