By Adelaide Perr, Writer, Professional Triathlete, Coach and Advocate
There is nothing better than reading a good book chock full of interesting information that you can use as a conversation starter for the following week. It keeps me from gossiping and encourages me to think more deeply about the world. Recently, my reading list has included two excellent books by Johann Hari, Life is a Marathon by Matt Fitzgerald, and How Cycling Can Save the World by Peter Walker. This last book has provided me with my most recent antidote to share.
Before this book came into my hands, I was talking with a friend who told me that CEMEX co-sponsored the Lyons/Nederland Omnium, a bike race that she competed in earlier this summer. She was impressed that the company brought out one of the cement trucks to the race and had representatives there to talk with the cyclists, asking them to give the cement trucks extra room because they can’t stop on a dime. (No surprise to me, they conveyed that the cement truck drivers often have more trouble with impatient drivers than with cyclists.)
It was after this conversation that I found myself reading How Cycling Can Save the World. In the book, they make mention of Cynthia Barlow, whose 26-year-old daughter, Alex, was killed by a cement truck in London way back in 2000. Out of grief and anger, Cynthia bought enough shares in the company, which was then Readymix and is now CEMEX, to be able to attend the company’s annual shareholder meeting. In a prepared statement, she questioned why the crash had happened and demanded to know what the company would do to prevent it from happening in the future to someone else. The company listened and started to work with her to make improvements in their trucks and driving program.
As I sat there reading I thought, Holy shit, that was 19 years ago in England! Cynthia didn’t organize the company to co-sponsor a bike race in Colorado but she absolutely is the reason that CEMEX cares enough to be involved. I decided to put a bookmark in and go downstairs to message my friend the backstory about why she saw CEMEX at one of her races.
In the years since Alex died and Cynthia attended her first shareholders meeting, CEMEX has added additional mirrors onto the trucks for visibility, sensors to alert drivers of cyclists next to them, and additional turn signals to alert cyclists of the drivers’ intentions to turn. The company has also sponsored events, partnering with cycling organizations to allow cyclists to climb into the cab of a cement truck to understand what it is like from a driver’s perspective. Just Google “CEMEX and bikes” to see how widespread their efforts are.
Are you proud of Cynthia Barlow? Do you want to harness a little of that not-giving-up-until-someone-answers-me attitude? – Cause I do.
I’ll leave you with this. Recently, I heard Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speak on the radio. His comment was, “Optimism and hope are not the same. Optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better.” According to his definition, hope is believing a situation will improve, but only when action is taken.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot with regards to bicycle safety and advocacy. I’m not optimistic that the world is going to get better for those who commute or train on two-wheels. However, I am extremely hopeful and hearing stories like those of Cynthia Barlow only stoke my fire to make sure it happens.