Rather than tell the story 120 times, I figured I would blog what happened.
I know a lot of non-cyclists think that all cyclists don’t own cars and thus don’t pay for road maintenance, are irresponsible, don’t belong on the road, go too slow, and cause 99% of the accidents that involve a car and a bike, blah, blah, blah.
I understand about that time in 2008 a cyclist cut you off while running a stop sign (why does it seem much more forgivable that drivers driving 70 mph (or 48 mph in the left lane) routinely cut each other off while testing/changing the radio/talking on the phone etc?). However, I was in a bike lane in a neighborhood with a speed limit of 30mph going straight without a stop sign or traffic signal in sight.
I had the right of way.
I’m not going to preach about how inattentive and dangerous drivers are, but I am seriously concerned about the cause of my accident. We’ll get to that, but here’s the story…
(cue up the fade to the past)
Thursday was my Birthday. My cat had knocked the clock radio off the dresser which changed the station. I got up to Journey, followed by Led Zepplin, followed by Manfred Mann (the cat is not officially in charge of my radio) and ran a great 7 miles around Ladybird Lake, got my free birthday breakfast sandwich from Einstein Bagels (ham, egg and swiss!), had a productive yet stress free day at the office interrupted only by my coworkers taking me out to lunch at Hula Hut, then all my Facebook friends sent me great well wishes and (mostly ridiculous) cyber gifts. So a good day by anybody’s measuring stick.
I had a bike ride scheduled at 6:30pm with my TriZones training group at one of the schools by Yaupon Road in north Austin. I arranged to meet Nancy there early so we could ride the big Yaupon hill a few times before the workout began and got a text from my friend Mohamed to stop by his office on the way, where he gave me two Heart Zone training books for my birthday.
Nancy and I met at 5:30 and rode down Yaupon all the way to the end just so we could turn around and climb back up the big hill (what? that’s normal!). Yaupon Drive is ~2 miles long. A wide two lane neighborhood road with a bike lane, then a parking/pedestrian lane and a side walk and a speed limit of 30mph. The road slopes downward almost its entire length, but not steeply until the very end where is has about a 15% grade.
After our first out and back we went back to our cars where Kim had arrived early for the workout, so she came with us for the second out and back hill climb. After riding the big hill twice, a lot of our training buddies had a arrived so we chit-chatted until everyone got there and we could get the assigned workout.
As luck would have it we had a choice between a flat speed workout or a hill workout. I opted for the hill workout and set out with my friend Nicki, while Jenny told the fast flat folks what they would be doing. The first part of my workout was a warm-up down the less steep part of Yaupon and back where I would head over to Fire Oak to ride the hill there.
I was in front of Nicki in the bike lane, heading straight with my arms in my aerobars. Truth be told, we were going really fast. There was a car first behind us in the car lane, then next to us, then behind us again. I was aware that he was there, but assumed he was lost, maybe checking street signs like you do when you don’t quite know where you are, but I “knew” he knew Nicki and I were there. He was driving next to us, both of us in bright colors in the full light of day, I mean it was so obvious.
Which is why neither Nicki or I expected him to turn right directly in front of us as we passed the next side street.
I know I had time to yell, “No! No! No!” but he was directly in front of me, there was no way for me to stop and I knew I was gonna wreck. I heard Nicki yelling behind me, I don’t remember exactly what she said but it was the same sentiment.
OK, so it took less that a second from when the car was in front of me until I was crashing into the car, but it is pretty amazing how much you can react in that short short period of time. I’d like to think it was my great bike handling skills rather than dumb luck that I managed to get my bike to turn somewhat to the right [update: it was luck. I spoke to Nicki and she says I locked up my breaks and skidded sideways]. This avoided a T bone like scenario where I would have likely have gone over my handlebars and over the car, but instead I hit the entire left side of my body against the side of the car: my head (in helmet!), shoulder, forearm. hand, hip, knee and ankle all smacked in to the side of the car, but I never left my bike. Instead of flying off my bike, I fell over onto the street on my right side (almost like insult to injury, but this just added more injury) with my bike still between my legs (hence the bruises on my inner calves, both ankles, and whatever the heck I did to my right knee). As I lay in the street a woman got out of the passenger side of the car (the side I hit) and I remember just lying there yelling “WHY did you do that! Why would you do that! You SAW us!” There were several other choice things I yelled as well.
I was very aware that I hit my head and was afraid to move my neck and my shoulder hurt like a bitch. I also knew my adrenaline had kicked into overdrive. I moved my legs – a-ok, moved my arms, alright, I was able to move my shoulder and couldn’t feel any displaced break in my clavicle (that thin bone between your neck and shoulder that cyclist usually break), and I wasn’t bleeding. I moved my neck a little bit and it felt ok. But since I hit my head and my shoulder hurt so much I said, “Call and ambulance!” (I would like to point out that I did ask for an ambulance before I asked how my bike was, although the next thing I did was ask how my bike was – I’m still waiting to hear from the shop [update: totaled :(] ).
As I lay in the road several passers by stopped to help and I determined that I should probably stop screaming cuss words and damn, the road was hot!
APD, EMS and AFD all showed up and checked my vitals while asking me questions (all of them at the same time and generally the same questions but in different order): Do I have any drug allergies? Does this hurt? How about this? Where does it hurt? Did you hit your head? What happened?
Then one of the police asked me “Do you know what town you are in?”
Anyone who knows me knows that it is rare at any particular point in my life that I actually know where I am. I said, “I dunno, Austin?” He said, “You don’t know?!” I said, “Maybe north Austin? Cedar Park? I don’t know where the town line is.” Was this a quiz? So then he asked “Well, what year is it?” And I replied,”2013. Hey, it’s my BIRTHday!” Someone was able to confirm that it was my birthday and that I did not have a traumatic brain injury.
I took off my helmet which looked fine. It is less than a month old, but I also know the ‘one hit and replace it’ rule. Although it may look alright you really cannot judge the integrity of a helmet after you use it to stop the forward motion of your head into the side of a car.
I would also take this opportunity to say, OMG always wear a helmet! My shoulder is the most jacked up part of my body right now, but it woulda been my head (which hit the car first) had my noggin’ not been protected.
At this point the woman in the car (who was the mother of the student driver) came over to apologize. Remembering my initial reaction to the accident (screaming and cussing) I asked if they were ok, because I’m sure they were pretty traumatized, too, even if it was their fault they did not intentionally set out to hit a cyclist and the new driver was probably really freaked. She said they were ok.
I determined that I needed to be transported by ambulance to the hospital to get my shoulder checked out. Once the adrenaline wore off my arm from the neck to my hand was in screaming pain. I had the wherewithal to take off my wedding ring in case my fingers started to swell.
The EMT asked if I could climb into the ambulance and although I was probably physically able to, I was wearing hard plastic cycling shoes with cleats. There was no way I was going to try to climb stairs in my condition in those shoes. So they had to use the stretcher. The EMS guys talked to the APD guys and I finally thought to ask them to tell the police who my husband was, since Phil used to work that area and they probably knew him (they did).
The friendly EMS guy gave me some good pain killers while we headed to the hospital (Yay!). He said it didn’t look like a break but was probably separated. All I could think of was my friend Jody, who didn’t break her shoulder but screwed up the soft tissue so much it took her a year to rehab. I said, “How about a deep bruise? I can do a deep bruise, but I don’t have time for a tear or separation.” He just shrugged.
I said, “I really thought he was going to make a left. I mean he slowed down, why would he turn right in front of me?”
The EMT told me (I don’t know who gave him this info, but obviously someone on the scene) that the Mom and son were heading home and there were two different roads they could take to their house. When they got to the first road, Nicki and I were riding by, so they decided to try to beat us to the second turn.
I do realize that non-cyclist often underestimate how fast a bicycle is going, but we were heading straight with the right of way and certainly not giving any indication that we were going to chance course any time soon. I can’t believe a mother would instruct her son to try to pass a car to their right and make a right turn in front of it, or really any other vehicle. This kid is learning to drive and THIS seemed like a conscientious decision for an inexperienced driver!?! If he had simply slowed down it would have taken less than 2 seconds for us to clear that intersection, but racing us to the next intersection seemed like a better idea for both the mom and the son!?! THIS is what disturbed me most about the entire incident. Inattentive not looking is one kind of accident, but knowing we were there and trying to beat us?
I knew we were going fast, Nicki later was able to show me on her GPS bike computer that we were going 29.5mph just before impact. 29 mph! 29 MPH!
The speed limit is 30mph so although I was not speeding (ha!), I certainly was not slowing anyone down.
The police followed us to the hospital and waited with me until Phil got there. Jenny showed up after making sure every thing else was ok at the workout (a bunch of folks who had done the other route didn’t know what had happened, but also it can be pretty unnerving watching your friend get into a wreck). Coach Tracy came by the hospital with a Birthday cupcake and a sweatshirt, since they had to cut off my sports bra (if you have ever tried to get out of wet tight clothing before
imagine if you couldn’t move your shoulder)
After several hours at the hospital and a couple a scans it was determined that I have a grade I separation of my left shoulder which I hear isn’t too bad and should only take a couple of weeks to heal (of course I have a race next weekend, so that will be a be “We’ll see.” I don’t know how I could swim the way this shoulder feels now I can’t even get my hair in a rubberband). Then I have the general bruises and pains that come of the day after a big wreck, so pretty much everything hurts.
Regardless of how you feel about cyclists, keep in mind that in a collision between a car and a cyclist the cyclist will always lose regardless of whose fault it is and if it is your fault (and probably even if it isn’t) you’re gonna be much later than 2 seconds late, it’s gonna be traumatic, it’s gonna be expensive and you could change both y’all’s lives for the much worse.
Be kind to cyclists.
Bicycles are traveling faster than they appear.
and for goodness sake,