It happened.

July 16, 2014 at 06:31 | Posted in bicycles | 4 Comments
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headlightsLife flashes before your eyes? Everything goes in slow motion? Those are the clichés, but in reality it all happened horribly quickly, with no time to think. The sudden realisation that the car was heading straight towards me. That it was not going to stop. The mad scramble to get out of the way. The crunch as it hit me. Feeling the bike momentarily pinning me to the ground. Desperately pulling me legs away from the rear wheels as they passed. Me getting to my feet and realising I was OK. All over in less then three seconds.

I was waiting to turn right from a side turning; the last turn into my street just a short distance from my house, positioned as you would expect towards the centre of the road. I was waiting for the ute coming up from the left to go past, then the road was clear for me to get home. He indicated right just before the junction, and as he started to turn in I thought his line looked loose. Surely he’s going to go a bit wider around me? Then the headlights were pointing straight at me, and the horrible realisation dawned. Fortunately, I was able to get out of the direct line, so it was the side of his vehicle that impacted me, pushing me away and outside the track of the rear wheels.

The driver stopped, and rushed out, clearly shocked. SMIDSY, of course. He kept repeating it. ‘I just didn’t see you, I just didn’t see you; just heard the bang.’

It’s strange; the recent spate of incidents involving cyclists being hit by cars has spooked us all a bit, and coupled with my new commute on much busier roads the thought that it could happen to me has been on my mind sometimes. I didn’t think it would be on a quiet residential street, metres from my house, though. Short of cycleways on every street those kind of local roads are always going to be shared by all kinds of vehicles.

I also, of course, in my over-analytical way, wonder what I could have done differently. I had the handlebars pointed to the right, ready to turn, so  my light would have been pointed away from the driver as he turned (although not so much it was not visible, I’m sure). And whilst I had reflectors on my ankles and bag, I wasn’t wearing my reflective sash; it went awol in the recent house move move I haven’t replaced it. Would it have made a difference? Possibly, although as he turned I was directly in front of him, fully illuminated by his headlights, yet by his own admission he still didn’t see me. That said, I will get a new sash, and perhaps even consider my headlight positioning in similar situations in the future. Not, you understand, that I believe that these things should be necessary, nor absolve the driver of any responsibility. Looking where you are going is after all probably the prime responsibility when operating a motor vehicle.

kneeAs for me, well, I have a bruised, swollen knee that is stiffening up; I’m sure it’s just a bruise to the muscle as the joint is fine, but I’ll get it checked out just in case.  Funny how you don’t notice these things until afterwards; the effect of the adrenaline I guess. Not sure how I’m going to ride to work in the morning; could be interesting.

I have no idea how the bike is. I wheeled it home, so I know the wheels go round, but I’ll have a proper look in the morning. Ironically its not actually my bike, but a loaner bike from the bike shop whilst mine is in for repair.

And I guess finally I have to decide if I go to the police. I know I’ve always urged others to do exactly that in these situations. When it actually happens, and you are OK, it’s less straightforward. The driver seemed like a nice guy, and was clearly shocked; I daresay he learned a lesson tonight. I doubt that a call from the cops will make any difference to how he feels or behaves in the future, and I also doubt the cops will be very interested in following it up anyway, from past form. But then again, it was blind luck that I wasn’t seriously injured or worse, and the driver was clearly negligent. And in any case, reporting it means it will be recorded in the stats, if nothing else.

For now, I’ve poured myself a glass of shiraz, talked it through with Mrs Dan and got a bit teary. Two little girls nearly lost their daddy tonight. But then I feel melodramatic and self-indulgent; I’m absolutely fine, all is well, and compared to others it was really a minor incident. Such is how these things affect you.

Tomorrow is a new day. If you need me, I’ll be riding my bike.

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4 Comments »

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  1. I have felt this pain, accepted the blame. I was wrong then and would be now in your position.

    ” … wonder what I could have done differently.”

    I disagree, if we cycle within our ability riding safely is automatic. The probabilities are you had more than twice the focus of the driver. As our whole body and mind are more engaged cycling in traffic.

    ‘more skin in the game’ literally.

    “I guess finally I have to decide if I go to the police”

    Understand your feelings as our road culture project blame onto the most vulnerable.

    Seriously, the decision to report this accident was made when you became a cyclist. As we all have a responsibility to other riders and ourselves to report any accident where injuries or bike damage occurred.

    He kept repeating it. ‘I just didn’t see you, I just didn’t see you; just heard the bang.
    … The driver seemed like a nice guy, and was clearly shocked; I daresay he learned a lesson tonight.”

    How sure are you the driver has the same values as yourself? Learning a lesson, you would I am sure. But not everyone has this level of personal values.

    What surprised me is you had to walk away by yourself, any decent driver would have offered to take you home. Something to think about …

    All anyone could do is recommend you also have your injuries accessed by a medical professional.

    Because if that knee injury keeps you off the bike latter, you deserve help and under civil law you are entitled to pursue costs*. For both cycle damage and injury. The vehicle drivers insurer is liable now, it is ‘you vs them’. Not the driver.

    As the insurer took the risk and spread it across all the other drivers they insured.
    This is a time to be pragmatic. and time is on your side so act fast.

    Wish you well with it all and hope this turns out just to be a minor incident. Probabilities are there will be few others, if any.
    ___________
    * Talk to a legal aid service or law specialist and use the medical visit as proof.
    The worst case scenario is you will have been pro actively preparing for any future incident.

  2. Ditto to ask412’s comment. Report it. Its back up in case you have any problems with medical or insurance later. Its should be added to the stats. I would also pressure police to do more than just talk with the driver – you could have been killed and stronger messages need to be sent to negligent drivers such as this one that could have killed YOU. (You might be able to “cop-shop” at your local station to find the right policeman who actually cares about cyclists in this regard.) Don’t feel sympathy for the driver – thats a common side effect of traumatic events, but he doesn’t deserve it.

    Sorry to hear you did have an accident, but glad you are ok!

  3. Thanks for blogging the details. Seems a very balanced unemotional account of the incident (I don’t count the shiraz and post-event tears…perfectly understandable.) It is, I understand, difficult to remain objective and actually remember events when one is involved in a traumatic incident like this.
    It also seems likely that you will suffer some post-traumatic psychological effects (judging by reports I have read of other victims) so make sure you make use of any support systems available to you (Mrs Dan, therapists, friends) to avoid slipping into any depression or whatever. Maybe a trial of a new biscuit is called for? 😀
    Best of luck in your recovery and remember your loyal readers care about you, no matter what you decide to do!

    Sincerely
    PJ

    • Thank you very much for your kind comments.

      ‘Loyal readers’! You have made my day…!


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