Bike charity rides worth the risk?

Since Terry Fox everyone has tried to mimic some form of his run to raise awareness or donations for some good cause.

Since Terry Fox dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic ocean and set out to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research every Tom, Dick and Harry has tried to mimic some form of his run to raise awareness or donations for some good cause.

Steve Fonyo ran for cancer. Theo Fleury walked to end child sexual abuse. Mothers walked from Prince Rupert to Prince George to focus attention on the 18 women who have gone missing along Highway 16 over the past four decades.

Fortunately no participants were killed along the way due to traffic mishaps.

But many other walks/runs/rides have lost participants, some within the first day or two. I  recall a lone participant who didn’t last 48 hours before he was wiped off the shoulder of the Trans-Canada highway.

This past weekend, 2600 bicyclists set out from Vancouver for Seattle on a two-day Ride to Conquer Cancer. Just hours before the ride ended, a 16-year-old biker from Victoria was killed “ when he tried to pass a group of fellow cyclists, lost control and collided with an oncoming vehicle,” reports The Province.

These unfortunate accidents happen so often whenever I hear of another fund- or awareness- raising group setting out to travel along a highway on foot, bike, or motorcycle, a knot gathers in my stomach. I wonder who among them will sacrifice his life for this worthy cause?

Don’t they have safety rules in place beyond a pilot car front and back? What safety measures have they taken beyond wearing a helmet and watching a 30 minute safety video before starting out?

At a minimum, every participant needs to be covered by life insurance and  a will, like an armed forces recruit.

The Ride to Conquer Cancer tried to stick to side roads, those less travelled by vehicles, but as with any congested  traffic situation, riding among a bunch of bicycles is a tricky business. Each rider is at the mercy of the experience, split second choices, and riding skills of the others. Plenty can happen in a flash even when riding alone, as I can attest.

Several weeks ago biking home one evening I was making the gradual left turn from Crescent Street up Haaland lAvenue when my sneaker toe snagged the front wheel fender. The front wheel whipped crossways , braking, and in a wink I was sprawled face down on the pavement, my left foot immobilized under the back wheel by the weight of my upper body.

The more I tried to lift myself pushing down on the handlebars, the more weight I applied to the back wheel pinning my foot.

The site of my upset was both good and bad. Good because at that hour many cars – possible help – drove by toward town. Bad because witnesses of my predicament might have included neighbours.

Fortunately for me, Thornhill people tend to be helpful, unlike some urban dwellers who ignore old ladies spilled from their wheelchairs by purse-snatchers.

Soon a van parked in front of my bike. A passenger named Claude lifted my bike, freeing my foot; the driver heaved me upright and hung on to me until I assured him I was able to walk. He noted the chain had fallen off my bike. He made me promise to walk home, not ride.

If my tumble had happened in heavy vehicular traffic or amidst a clump of bikers, who knows how injured I or nearby bikers might have been. As it was, my pride hurt more than my skinned knee.

I limped a distance before  threading the greasy chain back on to the gears, then biked to my gate. On future bike rides, I’ll not wear clunky sneakers.