In August of 2009, Quinn Hairston, frustrated with bus commuting, bought a bike.
“I was tired of riding the bus. I started biking to get away from people. It was nice to have alone time, and as I started riding, I realized biking was also more convenient,” Hairston said.
She started riding from the Central District to Magnolia, a 16-mile round trip commute.
“It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be. It took me longer at first but then, kind of by accident, I discovered the bike path through downtown,” Hairston said.
Riding 16 miles a day, Hairston quickly discovered the joy of biking and started to ride her bike everywhere she went. She even challenged herself by signing up for the 2010 Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.
With a little less than a year to train, Hairston started going on long weekend rides and built her fitness up to where she could complete 60 miles in one day. But then she got doored.
“I was hurt for a while but got back on the bike and continued to train,” said Hairston. “Until I got hit.”
Hairston was struck by a car in the crosswalk of the intersection of Stone Way and 34th Street in Fremont. She suffered from several pinched nerves along her spine, causing pain and numbness in her legs and arms.
“It took me a while to recover and not be in pain while riding,” she said. “I especially had trouble gripping my handlebars for long periods of time. I could no longer go 30 miles, let alone 60 or the 100 that would be required to complete even one day of the STP.”
While she had to give up on completing the STP that year, Hairston did continue to bike commute.
“I had become more hesitant, and I didn’t ride for fun anymore,” Hairston said. “But I was able to stay on smaller roads [for my commute], and it wasn’t as stressful.”
It took four months for Hairston to get her confidence back, and by 2011, she was mostly back to normal, riding her bike to work and for fun.
As though her perseverance hadn’t already been tested enough, Hairston got hit again.
The collisions with cars and the countless times she had experienced close-calls or been yelled at by drivers turned Hairston’s hesitance into anger and frustration.
“I didn’t bike at all last year,” Hairston said. “For the most part because my commute changed. I was now commuting from Northgate to Ballard and the road conditions were horrible. I didn’t feel comfortable.”
Hairston started driving. But after nine months of driving she started to really miss her bike.
“I felt myself becoming a car person, and I don’t want to be a car person!” Hairston said.
Slowly but surely, Hairston started biking again.
“It felt great to be on a bike again,” she said. “And then my bike got stolen. After all my troubles, that was hard. It hurt my feelings. There were three other bikes in the garage but they only took mine.”
This is when Hairston’s friends and family started to point out that maybe the universe was trying to tell her to not bike.
But she keeps going.
“When I got doored, I thought it was just a matter of time for it to happen. When I got hit, I recognized that the danger comes with the activity,” Hairston said. “I really enjoy biking and I wasn’t going to let that take it away from me.”
Hairston admits that if her collisions had resulted in more severe injuries, she might be saying something differently.
“Cars and bikes don’t mix. We need to find a way to get bikes away from cars,” Hairston said. “I lived in Europe and I used to see these bikers without their helmet riding around. They looked adorable and were biking like it’s a fashion statement. I used to think they were crazy but when I started biking, I realized they could do that because they were completely comfortable being separated from cars.”
Hairston said she dreams of a Seattle with bike-only paths and riding around on an xtracycle with kids on the back and carrying cargo.
“I love Seattle, and I love biking. I want those to mesh together,” she said. “I have high hopes for the bike plans in development. People should [be able to] bike to work and not drive, and I love knowing that so many people do bike and that it’s growing.”
Know a cyclist who deserves some special recognition? Nominate them for cyclist of the month! Send your ideas to Anne-Marije Rook at firstname.lastname@example.org.