I ride my bike every day in the District, and much of the time I've got one kid on a child's seat behind me and one kid pedaling in front of me. That's why when I read about bicyclists struck by automobiles, I get a creepy feeling.
This morning, Alice Swanson was hit and killed by a garbage truck at 20th and R Streets NW. That's only a few blocks from my daughter's daycare, a few more blocks from my son's school. Most days I ride through the 19th and R intersection, just one block away.
I've been hit on my bike a few times, although never seriously (except for a bike-to-bike head on collision when I was in 8th grade that required surgery...) and with one exception, never in the District. You always have to be aware of traffic, because you know most drivers don't pay enough attention to bicyclists, motorcyclists, or pedestrians; however, you're always trusting that they're paying enough attention to avoid flattening you. Sometimes, being aware of traffic isn't enough.
And while it's always in the back of your head, it's moments of extreme violence that force you to understand again how fragile the frame and wheels are, how exposed you are sitting on top of them.
The death of any cyclist brings our own vulnerabilities into focus. Although I didn't know her at all, I am deeply saddened by Alice Swanson's death.