Tuesday, April 9, 2013

and last Friday I fell off my bicycle which was about as much fun as you might expect

Friday I am bicycling to work and coming up on the second to final stretch which is pretty straight, half up hill and half downhill, has a bicycle lane, and features the following hazards:

1.  several (five or so) opportunities to be right-hooked by cars turning in to parking lots
2.  at the end you need to cross two lanes to get to the left hand turn lane

There I am, pedaling along as fast as I can heading up hill towards a green light and feeling mildly protected by my skinny little bicycle lane which has only the usual amount of trash and broken glass.  The cars are to my left and they are also excited by the green light, accelerating past their usual 15 - 20mph over the speed limit to just a bit more although they are of course constrained by the bumper of the car in front of them.  Such is the life of the car.  All that engine coupled with all those other cars.

One car does not seem to be stomping the gas quite as aggressively as the other and I survey it warily, wondering if it means to take a sharp right into the driveway of a parking lot.  I survey and pedal.  It drives and does not signal a right turn.  Now the driveway opening is immediately in front of me and my heart has time to beat twice and my bicycle and I are at the start of the opening to the parking lot - it's just wide enough for cars to go in and other cars heading towards the road to head out.  No cars are exiting.

I have time to feel rather than see the white car that is to my left suddenly accelerate (because they can't just turn, there is a fucking bicycle in the way) and then I have time to think "it's happening" and then instead of seeing open bicycle lane in front of me I see the passenger side door of a white sedan and I am screaming loudly in a very shouty kind of way and braking and twisting my bicycle to the side and getting tangled up with myself and hitting the curb and falling down in a heavy awkward middle-aged way.

I am not happy about this development.

The car completes its turn but they've seen me fall and have not gone into the parking garage.  I kindof stagger up pulling my bicycle with me and the car prepares to continue on it's way because hey, she can still stand up, right?  Everything is aok!  Time to bake the donuts!

No.  Things are not ok.  I yell "Stop."  The car stops.  My bicycle and I gracelessly walk stumble to the driver side door.  Nothing happens.  I knock on the window.  It is not a friendly knock.  The window rolls down.  My jaw drops.

My only thought for a long minute is "I was attacked by a Tusken Sand Raider."

You say "no way."  I say "WAY!"  The driver was wearing a thing on it's head that entirely covered the head and mouth and nose with a long column of snaps holding it in place.  Also, the driver was wearing bug-eyed black sunglasses.  My shock must have shown because the driver put up a hand and started un-snapping itself until the face was revealed.  Then the sunglasses came off.  I collected myself.

What I said:

"You could have killed me."
"I had the right of way."
"You were driving too fast."
and then, a little sadly, "I have children."

What I did not say:  anything with bad language.  Go me.  You all have been a good or bad influence depending on your perspective.

What she said:

"Are you hurt?"

What she added:

"My sunglasses get in the way of my seeing."

What I added:

"Maybe you shouldn't be wearing sunglasses!"

When she said "Are you hurt" I paused, unsure how to respond.  I was pretty confident nothing was broken.  I thought my bicycle was probably ok and the Contraption Captain would fix any broken bits.  But I felt hurt.  Being scared had hurt me.  Falling had hurt even if nothing was broken.  My right knee felt stiff and...older. My wrist which I had stuck out to break my fall now hurt.  I knew I had been injured and some part of me wanted to injure her back but I was collected enough to stop and shake my head and walk back to the road.  I got on my bicycle, and I continued on to work.


  1. Are you healing? We care you know. And Tusken Raiders shouldn't be allowed to own a driving licence. And she did not have the right of way. Cyclists in the cycle lane have the right of way. She did not. Bah. Makes me upset that this attitude exists and lovely people like you get injured because of it. Be well. Your pain is my pain.

    1. I am totally fine other than the mildly depressed feeling that comes when you fall off your bicycle and end up feeling small and a little ridiculous. Thanks for all the encouragement. The company and understanding of other bicyclists is an incredible comfort.

  2. I'm sorry to hear this- hope you are recovering OK.
    I crashed (no car involved) almost two weeks ago and I'm still bruised and scabby.

    "Sorry" is just such a lame response when someone has endangered you.

    1. Mostly my pride and sense of safety was damaged. I hate looking dumb and I never look as dumb as I look tangled up in my own bicycle at the side of the road.

      You speak fashion. What was up with the hat thing on her head that covered her face? Is that trendy? It looked like this but white and tighter and people don't get sunburned at 8am in their cars, right?


  3. I am really sorry to hear this, Chafe. My principle when knocked off (it's happened three times in 20-odd years of riding around as an adult) is to call the police immediately. One never knows immediately how badly hurt one is. That said, most US police forces are pretty useless about cyclists' rights, so I'm not sure how much good that does here. I'm also a big fan of suing drivers. It's the only way to get some accountability.

    That said, I'm glad you're not too badly hurt.

    I really hate the danger side of cycling. I'm a pretty cautious person. I just rode 9 miles to work here in New York City and I overtook a bunch of other cyclists on the Hudson River Greenway, only to have them all overtake me again as I either overtook other cyclists and walkers more cautiously than they or stopped for lights that they ran.

    All the best,


  4. To re-iterate as above: you can't necessarily tell if you're hurt immediately. Adrenaline has a tendency to mask pain, which is a feature rather than a bug.

    But it's hard to think of these things in the heat of the moment. I certainly didn't when I was knocked off my bike by a driver. Although the driver stopped I didn't have presence of mind to get her details because I thought I was fine and I just wanted to get away from the situation as fast as possible.

    Later that day realised my back wheel was no longer true and wasn't repairable. Had to pay for it out of my own pocket as I now had no way of tracing the driver.

    Anyway, we live and learn.

    Glad you're okay.

    1. This. Exactly. Always call the police. Gives you time to assess the situation and, at very minimum, includes your collision in their statistics. And then if you ARE injured or if there ARE damages, you have an official record of the incident and contact details.

      I didn't call when I was bumped on a roundabout. I wish I had- it was never reported so the city will never know that the roundabout should be looked at for cyclist safety.

    2. I like the idea of accident reporting. It totally did not occur to me at the time. I remember wanting to complain because I felt badly treated and I complained but mostly I felt really embarrassed and idiotic-appearing. Which is kindof depressing. WHich I guess is why I write about this stuff. The incident was pretty much un-paralleled in it's ability to make me feel old.

    3. "Pedestrian and cyclist crashes are heavily and disproportionally underreported in the police crash statistics compared to what hospital records and other studies show." -European Commission

      I thought I'd seen a campaign that encouraged cyclists to report all collisions, but for the life of me I just can't find it online now. If I find it, I'll try to link you to it.

      Hopefully we'll make the roads a safer place, one incident report at a time. But I think all of us cyclists need a reminder sometimes that we need to tell our side of the story to the official folk who'll listen.

    4. In the end, I wasn't hit. Part of the embarrassment is that I stopped so suddenly (to avoid collision) that I fell over on my side.

      I just have an idea that the cops wouldn't be all that welcoming but I will try and keep this suggestion in mind.