Ocean City Today

Cyclist spared by luck

By Stewart Dobson | Sep 14, 2017



printed 09/15/2017

At roughly 9 a.m. Tuesday at the intersection of 33rd Street and Coastal Highway, three lanes of cars and trucks on their way north stacked up behind the red traffic signal.

To the east, pedestrians accumulated on the corner by the La Quinta Inn.

The countdown had expired on the walk/don’t walk signal eight lanes away on the highway’s bayside, and now these vacationers, workers and other morning walkers bunched up by the light pole to watch the signals tick through another long cycle.

The drivers on this cool, post Labor Day, morning appeared to be in no hurry to get wherever they were going. The muffled sounds of a radio turned low floated in and out of open car windows, while perhaps 40 tons of steel, aluminum, iron and rubber sat quietly disengaged and waiting for instruction.

The arrow on the turn-lane signal flashed green and cars began to move, flowing into right-angle highway crossings and U-turns, while those various modes of transport that were still locked into position in the six north-south lanes began to creep almost imperceptibly forward.

In the pickup truck at the front of the middle lane facing north, anticipation caused the driver to press the gas pedal lightly, while keeping his foot solidly on the brake. The RPMs rose and then fell back to idle until the signal changed and he released the brake.

The engine, at 400-plus pounds of iron and aluminum, awoke with renewed purpose and pulled the truck into the center of the intersection.

Suddenly, movement appeared on the farthest edge of the driver’s peripheral vision. In no more than a second, a collage of clipped realizations and questions flashed through his mind: What is that? Is it coming toward me? It’s a guy on a bike. He’s pedaling hard. He’s going to cut across in front of me. I’m going to hit him. What’s behind me, what’s to the left, what’s to the right? Brakes! I’m going to hit him, I-am-going-to-hit-him …

“Oh my God!” the woman on the La Quinta corner screamed.

The driver of a Town of Ocean City shuttle in the next lane over yelled out his window: “You stupid kid! You’re going to get yourself killed!”

The cyclist, a short-haired male of maybe 22, looked straight into the window of the oncoming truck. He panicked — eyes wide, mouth gaped into a big “O” like “The Scream” painting. He tried to swerve and stop simultaneously; the front wheel of his light-frame bike jerked inward. He and the driver braced for impact.

Both the bike and truck stopped abruptly. Every loose item in the truck flew forward violently, clattering up against the glove box before being seized by gravity and brought to the floor in a series of thumps.

An inch of space, maybe less, separated the two vehicles. The kid looked down, breathed deeply, remounted his bike and sped away, presumably east — the wrong way — up 33rd Street.

Shaken, the driver proceeded slowly up the highway. What was that kid thinking? Why did he think he could succeed? Did he believe motorists would give way to him regardless of the rules of the road?

A couple of days later, as the driver approached that same intersection, he could still see the kid’s face contorted in terror and surprise.

I wonder, he thought as he tapped his brakes for no apparent reason, if that kid will try to run this stoplight today? If he does, will I see him coming?

Does he know how lucky he is? Does he care?

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