Commuting Miracle – A Near Tragedy Ends Happily

A baby runs out into traffic and makes it without a scratch

A hundred yards ahead of me brake lights flash and cars stop as a surreal scene unfolds on this busy street at 6 pm. I don't believe what I'm seeing. A baby in diapers is running across four lanes of traffic, and I mean running. A driver honks, in desperation or fear or both, there isn't an adult on foot in sight. Impossibly the kid makes it between the cars, crosses the sidewalk and disappears from view into a strip mall parking lot.

I'm closing on the scene. Incredibly no one gets out their car. And then I see her. The woman, ashen faced but silent is running straight across the road on the same line. She's reached the median. I get the sense she's holding her breath... been holding her breath in reckless pursuit.

I look right and there he is, maybe 18-months old, but a big kid and he's about to run right back across the road. There's no time to get off my bike, I just ride at him. "Hey little boy, stop right there". He starts angling away from me, but I stay in front of him. I can't believe how fast he's moving. He stops and tries to go behind me, but she's there and in one motion sweeps him into the air and safety.

I unclip and ask if she's OK. Her eyes are glazed over. I sense she wants to disappear, there are no tears, she breathes again and almost inaudibly whispers "thank you" (though I didn't do anything) and she's already focused on getting back across the road and presumably home. I look around. There's a guy 50 yards away pumping gas, frozen in place. Further still someone stands at the crosswalk looking on. All of them too far away to do anything but watch in shocked amazement.

I slowly turn away riding around another vehicle that's stopped mid exit from the strip mall. I cut through the gas station passing the car where the guy in now moving away to pay or call his wife to ask if the kids are OK. There's no director but someone has yelled "Action" The film speeds up and I'm moving faster, grinning and shaking my head at the miraculous physics that just played out.

One very lucky little boy, and a mother who may not let go of him ever again.

Postscript: I still can't believe this happened today. If I keep riding all the way to my grave, I'll never see anything stranger than this.

On a much lighter note but related to the laws of physics... check out Danny MacAskill defying gravity on a trials bike. He probably frightens him mother to death too.

22 Responses to Commuting Miracle – A Near Tragedy Ends Happily

  1. Matthew says:

    Something quite similar happened to me a few years ago. I was riding up to the Post Office, and I saw-impossibly-a child(!) running through traffic. There was a ground level apartment across the street with its door wide open, presumably where the child “escaped”. A woman driver pulled over and scooped the boy up. He couldn’t have be over 2 years-old. Lucky little man.

  2. Stan says:

    Cycling and interesting or strange occurrences seem to go together. Just last night I was riding in Cambridge MA when a Red Tailed Hawk swooped down about 50 yards in front of me looked around for a couple of seconds and then took off with a rodent in its talons. The bird looked enormous and with a couple of wing beats it flew up and perched on a telephone pole. I watched it until It took off and disappeared over an apartment block.

    On another subject I’m glad that you’re giving us steel riding tourers and ranndoneurs some appreciation. I don’t have a single carbon part on any of my bikes, not because I’m anti-carbon, but because at 195 lbs and riding at a pace that seldom gets above 20mph I just don’t think I can do it justice.

  3. chr15 says:

    He scares his mother? He scares me!
    Do you think I could do any of that on my ‘cross bike :)

    As for the little boy. Good job you were passing! Fate? I don’t know. But nice job. A very lucky fella.

    • An exotic cross bike with deep carbon rims… I’d pay to see that. I wonder how many times Danny has injured himself. I love the couple of scenes where passersby appear in his wake looking to see if he’s still alive. The bridge jump was priceless for that.

  4. stan says:

    Here’s what I wanted to say…….

    And finally a comment about shoes as I remember reading that you use MTB shoes. I use them too as I have to walk after I get off the bike. I generally bike somewhere to do something and need a walkable shoe. For going to the shop or riding into town to meet friends I use SH-MT31s because they are comfortable and don’t scream cycling.

    For long rides and tours I use
    SH-MO76
    shoes as they are a light weight fairly stiff shoe that is stil very walkable and for a bit of styling on the bike I have the new Exustar Commuting/Touring shoeon order

  5. BR says:

    Holy Crap. That story was hard to read let alone witness. We leashed the boys when they were that age and we were in a crowded place. We got a lot of stares but both used to bolt on us.

    I wonder where they got that?

    My mother would have skinned me alive or jumped in her car to chase and then run me over herself. One time I got lost at a large county fair for about an hour, I was 4. My mother searched and sent my 5 siblings in search for me. Eventually she gave up and made it over to the Police Hut where I was enjoying an ice cream that a cop gave to me. My mother rushes in, hugs me, slaps me, hugs me again, slaps me twice and then wraps a rope around my waist. As she dragged me out for more well deserved punishment without witnesses one of the cops says “Bye Freddy!” Ma stops in her tracks and says “excuse me?, who is Freddy” Apparently I told the cop that my name was Fred McGillicuddy and they were paging the parents of Fred Mc Gillicuddy for 20 minutes over the PA system.

  6. Scott says:

    Wow. That is a story and a half.

    I remember one time riding back from a race with about 8 other people an old lady had let go of the lead on her dog and the dog was running up the road. 8 cyclist trying to catch the dog while clipped in was hilarious. Everytime we got close we had to coast to unclip and the dog would get away again. In the end one of us rode onto the lead and jammed on the brakes. Choked the dog a bit but at least it wasn’t dead. Glad everything miraculously worked out with the little kid.

    p.s. Swift Jersey is available. Go!

    Scott

  7. willy in pacifica says:

    Hey Velo,

    When we were expecting Girl #2 my wife and I were out minivan shopping. My wife walked across the street to get something out of our car and Jaci who was 2 followed her without my wife or I knowing. Two year olds do not look right or left they just take the shortest route between Point A and Mommy. Everything was fine but as we saw her cross the street there was nothing we could do but watch.

    To this day I think of that moment often and always get very emotional thinking what could have happened. That mom yesterday will NEVER forget what happened and will always remember what you did for her family no matter how little you think it was. There could have been a driver who did not see the baby but did see you so paid more attention to what was going on.

    willy in pacifica

    • Willy,

      When I was little I was hit by a car, apparently caught me a glancing blow because at the last second I turned back towards my dad screaming my name. I flew 20 feet across the road and landed on my shoulder and head (which explains a lot). A year later I was climbing an old fashioned jungle rope wearing an army helmet and tommy gun. I slipped but the gun got caught in the ropes and there I dangled by the neck about to check out. Luckily a teacher spotted me swinging through the window and arrived in the nick of time. It’s a wonder any of us make it this far.

      • Stan says:

        It’s scary how close we come to the “big D” sometimes. A couple of years ago I took my car into the shop as I was hearing a noise from the right rear wheel. They checked it out, said it was ok and sent me on my way. A month later I’m on the Turnpike doing 60 mph and the right rear wheel comes off and I see it bouncing down the break down lane. Luckily I was in the inside lane, the road was almost empty and I have a front wheel drive car so I managed to steer into the break down lane and stop. I’ve never felt so much adrenalin in my life. I’ll stick to riding my bike, it’s safer! Oh and I bought a new car and take it to the dealer, my old shop is history.

  8. BR says:

    Here is a good one. I had a neighbor that moved up to Los Altos Hills after selling a company – think Beverly Hillbillies. He had two Cocker Spaniels that I looked after when he was traveling, etc. We stayed in touch after he moved and I visited him a few times at his new home which overlooks the South Bay. I was living in a $600 per month apartment and he moved to $2 million shack on 2 acres.
    One Sunday, months after he moved, I am in a group ride that is passing near his neighborhood and I see a Cocker Spaniel running down the street. The road is called Magdalena and the dog was approaching the on-ramp to 280 North. I shout the dogs name…and the he stops dead in his tracks and runs over to me. I excuse myself from the ride and pedal the 1 mile up the hill to his house dreaming about collecting a $10,000 reward or finding a spot on his or the dog’s will.

    I dismount, walk to the door, ring the bell and….. TWO COCKER SPANIELS START BARKING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!!!!! THAT’S NOT MY DOG!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXn2QVipK2o

    I dognapped a third Cocker Spaniel and when he opened the door and his two dogs chase the highly stressed and confused third dog down the 1 mile hill that I just rode up.

    So we jump in his car and go looking for the three dogs that are, in true Cocker Spaniel form, sprinting at 23 miles an hour in three directions. We finally catch all three dogs and load them into the car. Now we are cruising a posh neighborhood with three highly charged Cocker Spaniels hanging out the car window in full rage. A lady flags us down and she is the owner of the dog that I scooped up – I didn’t ask for a reward. She was so happy to have her dog back that she never asked why I was wearing full cycling kit in car with two other Cocker Spaniels. We drove back up to his place, chatted a bit, and said good-bye.

    I just realized that I have not been invited up to his place in a awhile….hmmm.

  9. Kurt says:

    Velo,
    I leave for a week to come back and find you sheep hearding a toddler in traffic!

    I can see you tipping your hat,”All in a days work, maam”.

    que the sunset.

    Cowboy trail music plays….

    Velo rolls away.

  10. pjt says:

    I have to say on a topic that is completely unrelated to this blog, I am disappointed in the delivery I just got from Rapha. I ordered the orange country jersey and the swift jersey. They did not package the jerseys in those thick plastic sealed with the rapha stickers, but in cheap chinese plastic from where they were made. I know where they were made, and and complete thrilled with their product, but the attention to detail that impressed me so, right down to the packaging is just not there. Hope this isnt a sign of things to come… After all I spent a ton on two jerseys…

    • I’ll pass that on. I agree the “presentation” of the Rapha kit (meticulously wrapped like gifts) is a detail we’ve all come to expect. It’s likely they just ran out of the heavy plastic temporarily, but it all makes a difference.

    • PJT,

      I forwarded your concerns. Rapha’s Managing Director, Simon Mottram let me know there’s a new packaging system in the works and we’ll start to see new bags, tags etc. beginning in the fall. As I expected, the thick plastic has just run out and given the new direction, they decided not to reorder.

      He wanted everyone to know the new materials will complement the quality of the kit and apologized for any disappointment in the interim.

      ::M

  11. BR says:

    …can we live without plastic? Yes, please suggest that they use a friendlier method.

  12. pjt says:

    Hey thanks for the follow up…

  13. Dougie says:

    Michael

    They do say that the truth is often “stranger than fiction”. This has been another Saturday afternoon theatre, brought to you by the makers of Cleano Toilet Rolls, always carry one on your bike for that little surprise.

    Dougie