Long Leash Gone Wrong

We were on our bikes again, and I was letting my oldest ride out ahead of me. It’s a great feeling to watch him spread those metaphorical wings, and feel as if he has control over his world while knowing I’m 100 feet behind him in case anything goes wrong. The traveling safety net. This time, however, the safety net did not get deployed quickly enough.

On our way home there is a busy boulevard we must first cross, and then ride alongside. We’re on a wide sidewalk, so the bulk of the ride is quite safe, but there are two points where we must cross the entrances to an apartment complex. For the past two years crossing these over-glorified driveways has gone without incident  but this school year traffic in to, out of, and around the driveways has seemed much greater.

This day, on our ride home, the little brother was not with us; he had gone to a friend’s house for the afternoon. My oldest was riding ahead, and we had already crossed the most difficult driveway, the one with the most blind approach since one side is masked by a wall of one of the apartment buildings, and the other masked by a hedge, and retaining wall for a car port. A large SUV nosed out into this second driveway. We saw it. My oldest lowed down, thinking he was making sure the driver saw him.

With the SUV stopped, and my son having slowed, my son thought the SUV driver had seen him, so my son proceeded to start crossing in front of the SUV.

That’s when the driver decided to try to make it across the boulevard.

Everything slowed down. I yelled out, “Tanner, stop!!!”

He slammed on his back brakes and started to skid…right into the side of the still moving SUV. His little nine year-old body crumpled up against the side of the SUV and started to roll with the still moving SUV: the rear tire approaching my son’s legs and bike.

Time resumed its normal speed and Newtonian physics propelled my son’s body away from the SUV enough that the rear tire rolled past him without further harm.

Except for the fear that now consumed my son.

He shot up from the tangled mess of him and his bike and ran to me. I had dropped my bike and run forward. He was yelling at the driver, “what’s wrong with that idiot?!”

He was scared. He didn’t realize that a four foot tall bike rider is difficult to spot from high up in an SUV cabin.

And soon the driver was standing there: petrified. This man was so afraid that he had done something to this little boy. The driver was not afraid of the repercussions, he was afraid for the little boy. This man was a father too.

Here I was comforting two men. A great lesson learned for all of us. Something that could have had awful results but was no more than a scratch on the side of a car, and scrape on an elbow.

I need to keep the leash a little shorter. My oldest now is hyper-sensitive to knowing that drivers know he is there. And I’m confident the driver is now taking extra care to look for little bike riders.

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