Letter: Motorists, please, stop and look both ways

Posted 7/26/18

My heart just weeps for the little boy who passed on Tuesday afternoon and for his family and friends. (We’ve not learned his name). I’m saddened for the young woman who struck him, as …

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Letter: Motorists, please, stop and look both ways

Posted

My heart just weeps for the little boy who passed on Tuesday afternoon and for his family and friends. (We’ve not learned his name). I’m saddened for the young woman who struck him, as her life will forever be burdened by this tragedy.

I grew up just off the “bike path.” In the days when I rode my bike, the “path” was a train railway. The engineer would throw little green agate (marbles) to us kids, waiting by the side of the rails as our bikes rested against our bodies until we had our prize. Once with agate in hand, we mounted our trusty steads and biked home. Years later, I was delighted to see the pathway turned into the beautiful bike way.

Little Manny Raposa lost his life, on the bike path, in 1998. I believe that’s the last time a child has been doing what a child should be doing (i.e., riding a bike in a safe place) and was struck down by someone doing what he/she shouldn’t be doing — not being the most careful driver one can be. 

On Tuesday, I came to the bike path, as I often do. I approached the path from Hope Street, heading west. Although I lived on Poppasquash in the 1990s, these days I’m a visitor. Seven hours before this little boy passed, I approached the bike path and did what I do, each and every time. I came to a full stop. 

It does not matter if there are signs or no signs. It does not matter that trees and shrubs and plants shade the twists and turns of the bike path. It does matter that we, who drive thousands of pounds of steel and plastic take our “jobs” seriously. When behind the wheel of our cars, we have an enormous responsibility. One large piece of that is to honor the lives of those peddling, walking, running down the safe way — the bike path.

This is a bike path. This is where we go to relax, to decompress and to be close to nature. This is where some of us may even find our version of God. 

I stopped my pickup. I looked beyond the leaves. An older couple was approaching. I waved them on. As they pedaled in front of me, they turned toward me, smiled and gave me an appreciative wave back. It made my heart smile. I think theirs did, too. They pedaled on their way. I drove on mine. 

Seven hours later, I was leaving the area and began my approach to the bike path, now heading east. As I passed Windmill Point (the old Castle Restaurant for us old-timer Bristolians), something was amiss. A police car blocked my total view. Officers and medics were arriving. A civilian was quickly approaching from the west, exiting his car and donning an orange and yellow vest that read “fire/police.”

I silently prayed that my worst fears would not come true. I sat in my truck on the side of the road. I tried to view past the patrol car and could see a bicycle on its side. I prayed more deeply.  I hoped, beyond hope as it turns out, that minor injuries would give way to healing. 

This is a letter to reach out to everyone who drives a vehicle. When behind the wheel, do nothing but drive. Be fully “in the moment” and aware. Don’t let the presence or absence of signs do what is “right" for others. Approach a bike path crossing and regardless of warnings symbols, stop and look both ways until there is absolutely no chance someone is approaching doing what he or she should be doing — riding a bike in nature.

If we don’t do that, we’re guilty of doing what we should not be doing — taking the life of a beautiful child and bringing such horror to the world. May you rest in peace, child of Bristol.

Jay Miller

Little Compton

Mr. Miller is an adjunct professor of law, mediator, and former judge.

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