Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It Finally Happened...

...I finally got hit by a car on my bike.

Even though I love to tell people that riding a bike on city streets is not that dangerous if you obey the laws, I also readily admit that if I ride long enough, I'm going to get hit. I ride between 5000 and 6000 miles a year, nearly all of them on city streets, and of course I see inattentive drivers every single day. Hell, I myself am an inattentive driver much of the time. Up until this point, I've had four encounters on my bike with cars that almost hit me. I only avoided getting hit by those four cars because I am hyper vigilant on the bike. I always assume that drivers coming out of driveways and turning drivers don't see me, and I slow down accordingly.

I was off at noon today and was riding up 6th Avenue, and a car passed me and then turned into a driveway right in front of me. So technically I hit the car, but there was literally nowhere else I could go and no time to stop. In the millisecond before it happened, I realized I was about to get hit and even had time to identify my feeling about it -- fascination with an undertone of annoyance at the inconvenience that was sure to follow. It's the same feeling I remember one time when I lost control of my car driving on Highway 12 in California going around a corner too fast and knew I was going to roll it and die. (I didn't; I regained control of it and it was like nothing ever happened.) I knew in that split second that I wasn't going fast enough to really do any damage, so there wasn't any reason to be terrified.

The crash happened and my bike and I ended up on the ground in a patch of gravel and bushes. I shook myself off and didn't feel anything at all. I looked at my bike and it looked fine too. The crash happened right by a shady bus stop so there was a big crowd of South Tucson street people for whom this was big excitement. They all came rushing over and started asking if I was okay. I said, "I'm fine, but I'm going to kick that driver's ass," and they cheered at that and followed me over to the car, like they were ready to help me if help was needed in the promised ass-kicking. I checked out the car -- piece of shit Toyota with Sonoran plates. The driver was a really young Hispanic woman -- really a girl -- and she had tears running down her face and looked completely terrified as I came up to her window. I knew I wasn't going to kick her ass or even do anything at all about it since my bike and I were fine. But I put on my best mean face, knowing I had an audience, and told her, "You're lucky I'm not hurt. I'm not going to call the police, but you need to watch where you're going. You have to yield to a cyclist in the bike lane. This town is full of cyclists and you need to pay attention!" I wasn't even mad, really, but I did want to at least scare her and make her a little more careful in future. (Yeah, like I am when I'm messing with my stereo and playing Words With Friends and reading books and trying to keep dogs in the back of the car while I'm driving. But in my defense I have never even come close to hitting a cyclist.) Meanwhile she was crying and saying, "Sorry, sorry" but I don't know if she even understood English or not.

I picked up my bike and put the chain on (and got grease on my fingers doing so, which did piss me off  and made me briefly reconsider the ass-kicking -- she was so meek and scared and small I could probably drag her out by the hair through the window with no problem). The street people were disappointed that I wasn't doing anything. "You gotta call the cops, man!" one of them said. "You might have a hurt neck or something! You should sue that bitch!" I was thinking of the crappy car and the Sonoran plates and knew I wouldn't get anything out of her. Besides, in all honesty I wasn't hurt, and she was freaked out and she knew she was in the wrong and I like to think she did learn a lesson -- I know I would have in her situation. Also, what I really wanted was to be sitting in Epic Cafe with my laptop and a coffee and writing, not standing around talking to South Tucson cops. So I got out of there and now here I am, sitting in Epic Cafe with my laptop and a coffee and writing and realizing that I did, after all, sprain my pinkie and get some (unimpressive) road rash.

I have to say that the biggest feeling I got out of this was excitement. I felt more alive and vigorous than usual riding away from there. Not relief, not leftover fear, nothing but excitement. I sort of think that is an inappropriate reaction to a right hook, but there it is. I was briefly afraid that this experience would make me paranoid, but I felt completely fine riding the rest of the way to Epic. I'm not going to do anything different since there was nothing at all I could have done to prevent this from happening in the first place aside from not riding my bike. And then, hell, this could have happened to me and my student on a mobility lesson if there was a driver not paying attention. You can't make drivers pay attention, and every time you venture out in places where cars can drive, you have to accept the risk of inattentive drivers (the rationale I use to justify my own bad driving habits). All I can do is continue to observe the safety measures I always do when riding. At least this justifies my habit of not riding that fast in town. If I was going 20 mph, I could have been flying up and over the car on impact instead of just falling down. So, if you see me in town only riding 13 mph, that is the reason, not because I'm fat and lazy and dead-legged. Sure it is! I promise!

One more good thing -- this experience inspired me to write in my blog for the first time in seven weeks! I've been writing plenty -- just not in this blog and not for public consumption. I will try to be more diligent in future though. I can sum up the last seven weeks briefly: lots of running, even more cycling, pretty much ready for Pikes Peak in 2 weeks.


  1. Yikes!!!! Glad that you are okay!

  2. Well, I sprained my pinkie :) good thing it was the one on my left hand and not my right; it's actually pretty swollen and sore.