The Reaper Tipped The Hourglass
August 13 will loom large in my head for a long time
It’s a weird feeling to get a text from a friend who’s trying to figure out whether you’ve been killed or not.
It happened to me on August 13. That morning Jeffrey Brooks killed Jonah Holland with his car on Osborne Turnpike here in Richmond. Brooks also hit Natalie Rainier, critically wounding her. Brooks was drunk.
As of this writing, thank god, Natalie’s family’s been reporting that she is trending in the right direction. Here’s her recovery GoFundMe.
My friend who texted me that morning thought that I might’ve been either Jonah or Natalie, because I very, very easily could have been.
Jonah and Natalie were doing what I and countless other cyclists in Richmond do every day. They probably texted each other the night before and set a time to go on a ride out east, down one of the most popular roads in the Richmond region for cyclists. I have ridden Osborne hundreds of times.
Ever since the accident I have largely been feeling a mix of anger and disconsolation because this shit is not new.
In fact, drivers killing cyclists and pedestrians is becoming more and more common in this country. Perhaps it’s because American trucks and SUVs are now literally as big as the tanks that were used in World War II (I’m not exaggerating), and when drivers hit pedestrians with them, it’s often a death sentence.
Hell, eulogizing dead cyclists who were killed by drivers isn’t even new for me.
The slaughter of pedestrians and cyclists at the hands of impatient, distracted and/or drunk drivers is so, so infuriating to me, because relative to all the existential threats I have to deal with in this world, stopping it has clean and simple solutions. Be patient and pass cyclists safely. Don’t drive drunk. And for the love of god, put your fucking phone down.
I am further torn up because I feel like, societally, we’re trending in the right direction when it comes to breaking our addiction to cars and their requisite infrastructure.
I choose to believe city planners will continue to (thanks in major part to the work of indefatigable transit advocates!) make the cities we live in more pedestrian-friendly through things like protected bike lanes and improved public transit. In 20 years, I’d bet you’re going to spend less time in your car on average than you do now, because the world around you will incentivize you to walk, bike or bus where you need to go.
But goodness me, in the near-term, people are getting so much worse when they are behind the wheel. Every person you know who rides bikes has stories about almost getting hit by a jerkass driver. Every cyclist you know has seen roadkill and felt like they had a little too much in common.
And we do not treat distracted driving with the gravity it’s commanding. Texting and driving is reportedly more deadly than drinking and driving yet it’s hardly enforced and borderline accepted. Spend a day as a pedestrian in a city without seeing at least five people texting and driving. I’ll wait. Each one is a cyclist’s worst nightmare.
Writing all this is making me sick to my stomach and is putting me in a bad mood, so I will wrap up.
Jonah Holland will have no more tomorrows, no more memories made because someone used their car like a weapon and killed her. Her family are left picking up the pieces of an unconscionable loss. It’s fucked.
I trust no one I know who reads this is hard-headed enough to drive drunk, so my pleas to drivers are simple:
Slow down when you see a cyclist on the road. Check yourself when you find reaching yourself reaching for your phone in the car. Hell, I catch myself doing it at red lights.
And please, when you’re riding with someone and they reach for their phone, tell them it can wait. There’s a good chance it’ll save someone’s life someday.