I had not been on a bike ride in more than a year. But today's weekend weather was so pleasant, my girlfriend suggested that we go on a short ride to the park for a late afternoon sandwich picnic. Sounded fun, so why not?
So I pumped up the tires, packed the bags, grabbed the helmets, and off we went. Everything was great at first, aside from a bug flying straight onto my left eyeball and another into my mouth. But really, the temperature outside was perfect and it was nice to back out on a bike. When we left the bike lanes of the streets and got onto the paved trail that leads to the park, we pedaled slowly, as there were quite a few groups of walkers, also out to enjoy the warm spring atmosphere.
Well, as I approached a wide bend, I had to veer left to pass a wall of five pedestrians (all walking side by side). After carefully passing them, I looked back and noticed that my girlfriend was a bit further behind, so I hesitated my pace to let her catch up. The mistake I made was not immediately getting back over to the right side of the path in front of the group of walkers.
Within moments, another bicyclist (in biking gear) came tearing down the middle of the path. He was riding so fast, I didn't have time to anticipate him and move back to the right. He yelled to us, "On your right, on your left!". Again, he rode so fast, the following actions happened all simultaneously in seconds: 1) To get out of his way, I coasted my bike to the left edge of the path. 2) My girlfriend stayed on the right side and reached my parallel position because I had slowed down to keep out of the middle of the path and let him pass. 3) The bicyclist shot down the middle, right between us.
As all of this happened, a grey ground squirrel looked up at me from a side bush, dashed in front of my bike (i hit my breaks), and ran directly into the path of the bicyclist and my girlfriend. This all occurred in fractions of a second and I could see the ground squirrel doing gymnastics as it tried to avoid both oncoming bikes. But it was too late. As I continued to roll forward, I immediately turned my head around and saw the poor squirrel jump into the air one last time and flip onto its back. My girlfriend had felt a bump under her rear tire and asked "Did I kill it?" The biker replied, "Probably!" and took off down the path. He had likely hit the squirrel too, but I couldn't see either hits in the blur of the wheels.
We still continued on with our ride for the intended small picnic at the park. But the entire mood was sullen, so we just quickly ate our sandwiches without many words and left. On the return ride home, the squirrel was still lying there on its back with arms, legs, and tail sprawled. I had desperately hoped it was somehow still alive.
My girlfriend blames me for the accident because if I had been on the right hand side of the path, the ground squirrel may not have been startled and bolted across. I certainly did not intentionly ride on the left hand side. But this was a path with many kids, dog walkers, and slow casual bicyclists. This is not a bike lane, but a multi-purpose path. I just happened to be on the left hand side at that moment to look back at her after I rode around the group of walkers. I was about to get back over to the right side until the racing bicyclist came zooming down the trail. This was supposed to be a leisurely jaunt to enjoy the recent sunshine...not to become an accomplice involved with innocent squirrel killings.
My girlfriend went out to dinner and clubbing with her friends as soon as we got back from the ride. I stayed home tonight after she blamed me for the squirrel's death. A couple of hours later, I drove back near the pathway and walked over to the spot with a flashlight. The squirrel was still there and definitely not breathing. To make matters worse, I could see a swollen belly and prominent nipples, so I knew the squirrel must be a pregnant female. So I'm not just responsible for one squirrel's death, but the potential lives of several baby squirrels that will never come to be. Great Karma, huh?
Amazingly, I could not find any signs of external injury, obvious broken bones in the limbs, or body flattening. So the cause of death must have been an internal bleed, a spinal cord injury, or perhaps both. I paid my respects and went home. Of course, I feel absolutely horrible about all of this, but I can't do a damn thing to change what happened. Now, why did I go biking again?
Anyone here have a similar experience or a related story?