The Accident

Yesterday I was in an accident with a car.  I am ok, more or less.  My bike is destroyed.

And the accident was my fault.

I was two miles from home on a sunny day with warm temperatures, looking forward to a 50 mile ride out to Haymarket and back.  I was on Rte 234, pedaling slowly as a light in front of me was red.  I saw two cars on the side street waiting to turn left and I watched them do so.

Then I did something I almost never do.  I got into the cross walk and crossed the side street against the red light.  The light was getting ready to turn and I had already seen the waiting cars go through the intersection.  What I did not see was a third car, zipping up to the intersection in order to get through it while the light was yellow.

Sadly, the driver of the car did not see me either.

We became aware of each other’s presence about three feet from contact.  I heard the brakes screech and had a moment to brace for the impact.  The car’s license plate hit my right pedal, at which point my bike and I parted company.

The evidence indicates my bike briefly made an attempt to remain in contact with the street.  In so doing, the front wheel was bent and the top tube cracked as pressure forced it into a slight “v.”  At this point, the bike traveled about 15 feet, where it came to rest in the intersection.  It appears the right brake hood bore most of the impact, as it is badly bent inward.

As for myself, I recall sliding across the hood of the car on my right side.  The next five seconds are a little hazy for me, but the location of various abrasions and contusions indicates I landed about ten feet from the car, mostly on my hands and head.  My helmet cracked by the right temple and I received some nasty gashes around there and my ear.  The helmet twisted violently and the pressure of the strap caused another large abrasion under my chin.  Somewhere in all of this, I received a nasty blow to my left knee.  That may have been the first body part to hit the street.

I gathered myself and attempted to stand.  I was very pleased I was able to do so.  My head and knees both hurt, but I was encouraged that I was conscious and ambulatory.  The driver of the car – a teenage girl – was now outside the vehicle asking me if I was ok, and if I needed an ambulance.  She was very distraught.

I tried to convince her that I didn’t need an ambulance, but by now several bystanders were present.  When each one saw my face, they became very concerned for me.  This was quite troublesome for me as I could only imagine what was wrong.  I then noticed blood dripping from my right glove.  Fearing for the worse, I took it off and discovered only a deep cut – no compound fracture.

An ambulance arrived very quickly and the EMTs brought me into it, where they checked me for concussion symptoms and dressed the cut on my right ring finger.  They looked me over and recommended I go to the hospital.  I refused, saying I was ok.  They made me sign a form on an electronic tablet, indicating I was refusing treatment.  They chastised me for not having any ID and were surprised to see my Road ID.  Amazingly, they had never heard of this and were intrigued by it.  They took pictures of it which they intend to use in their training.  I had always placed a great deal of faith in my RoadID and was very disappointed to see two actual EMTs would never have thought to look for it.  Good thing I was still conscious.

When I left the ambulance, the girl’s parents and a police officer had arrived.  I asked the father if there was any damage to the vehicle.  He said the vehicle was fine and that he was more worried about me.  I told him I would live, but my bike would not.  The only damage to the car was a bent license plate and the plastic frame that held it to the vehicle was broken.

My wife soon arrived with my daughter and they helped me put my bike into the back of the vehicle and took me home.  They were both concerned I didn’t go to the hospital.  While I showered, my wife called a triage nurse who advised taking me to the ER.  I relented and got to experience the brand new ER at Ft. Belvoir Community Hospital.  It was quite a nice facility and everyone was very professional and helpful.  The resident doctor confirmed that I did not have a concussion and a nurse further cleaned and dressed my wounds.

It was at this point that the nurse remarked that I should shave my legs.  Gerry, I believe that in all the emergency rooms in all the hospitals in the entire world, I was the only person who thought of you yesterday afternoon.

(For those not aware of the back story, Gerry is a very nice Canadian who lives in France and takes pride in shaving his legs, which I tease him about occasionally – the shaving part, that is.  I generally don’t tease him about living in France.  Some things just aren’t appropriate for teasing.)

I woke up today in decent shape.  I am now sporting a black eye and the wounds on my face have scabbed over, making it look worse than it did yesterday.  Four of my fingers and both thumbs work without difficulty.  I’ve got scratches down my right thigh, an abrasion on my right knee, and a slight pain in my right ankle.  My left knee has a larger abrasion and is swollen.  Sigh.

And that’s my accident story.  I knew I would have one eventually.  I wish it didn’t involve my own stupidity, but I am glad that I made it through the crash with as little damage as one could hope for.  I’ll rest up and think about what I’m going to do for an encore.  Hopefully, it will involve keeping both wheels on the asphalt.

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47 thoughts on “The Accident

  1. Sorry to read about you accident, but glad to read that you are (more or less) ok. Best wishes for a speedy and full recovery. As a glass-half-full-of-silver-linings type of guy, I would look at this as an opportunity to start shopping for a new bike!

  2. Steven,

    You’re only done what I’ve also done. sparingly, before. It only takes once, though, so I’m reading your story as a cautionary tale. My wife has gotten on me for rolling though stop signs and I am known to run a red light in the early morning (5 or so) darkness. No more. Get well soon and I hope to see you back in the saddle. -will

  3. Holy crud – that’s a scary story. Really glad you made it out with relatively minor injuries. Rest, get better and start planning for your new bike!

    Also – I’m pretty surprised about the RoadID. I was thinking of getting one, but now not so sure!

  4. I was really sorry to read this. I hope your recovery proceeds as you would wish. I am glad that you were wearing a helmet as there is often quite a pressure not to wear one from know-alls.

    An unwanted word of advice: don’t try to do too much too soon. Keep posting even if you are not cycling.

  5. Wow, Steve, so glad that you’re OK. I was just joking with friends about my eventual maiden crash (7 years of riding without one seems a bit much) so your post hits home for me. I’m especially interested to hear about the Road ID part of the story–I have one coming for my birthday next week and have always wondered how well they might work. I always figured that it would come in handy most were I to be unconscious, thinking the EMT’s might search me more fully under those circumstances and come across it that way.

    Knowing that it was your fault must make the injuries a little more painful. Knowing that a new bike is in your future might ease them a bit. But just a bit.

    Stay well! Now that it’s happened, you’re off the hook–don’t need to do it again. 🙂

  6. Wow, very sorry to hear about this, but I’m glad to hear that you are mostly alright. Also disappointed to hear about the Road ID issue. I may make it a habit to carry my driver’s license on my bike. A friend of mine was able to get a separate state ID just to keep with his cycling materials, but the state stopped issuing them to existing license holders.

    By the way, I passed two historical markers this weekend and thought of you. Probably the only person to ever think of you in the middle-of-nowhere, SC.

    Again, sorry about your accident. I hope you get some rest and try not to spend too much time off the bike. Use it as a learning experience.

  7. So sorry to hear about your crash! What an awful experience especially given it is something you know you shouldn’t do, don’t usually do, but, just this once…A good reminder for all of us.

    I am also disappointed to hear about the unfamiliarity with Road ID. I live around the corner from a fire and rescue station. You’ve inspired me to stop by and ask if this is something known about in this area.

  8. I sorry this happened and very glad that it wasn’t worse. It’s so easy to gradually slip into risky behaviors, as a cyclist or a driver. Please take good care of yourself and keep us updated. I, too, am glad you were wearing a helmet.

    For what it’s worth, there are likely components on the Trek that could be salvaged to go on a new frame, to keep as spares, or to sell.

  9. Sorry to hear of your accident Steve, but thankful it wasn’t as bad as it might have been.
    I think accidents are part of a cyclists ‘rite of passage’ you just have to hope that when it happens its not going to be too bad!
    As has already been mentioned it gives you a chance to start thinking about the next bike and benefitting from your experiences gained from the Trek.
    Now looking forward to hearing about your next ride on a road bike, make sure its not too far away, your audience waits expectantly !!

  10. relieved to read that you are ok. We have all made those split second judgements in good faith and very occasionally get it wrong. Respect is due for your candour. Comfort is due to the female driver who must be suffering too. Here’s to your speedy recovery.
    Richard G

  11. Steve – as everyone has said, thank goodness you are not more seriously hurt. It is scary out there at times and we have all made foolish decisions at one time or another, of course usually with no repercussions. This is a warning to all of us to respect the fact that we are sharing the road with cars, and they have the advantage..

    I have a RoadID and I also hope that if ever I am unconscious there would be a search for it. Many people wear bracelets that provide medical info, so I like to think it is a place that gets checked.

    As a few readers have mentioned, we are now looking forward to a) hearing about your quick recovery and b) your new bike!

    Do keep us all posted and speedy recovery mate!

  12. Steve, I of course echo the sentiments of everyone above. Thank goodness it’s the Trek’s frame that’s bent and not yours!

    And you know, you really should know better. You’ll think twice before going out without shaving your legs next time, I’m sure.

    I suppose Ol’ Ironsides will be getting a good workout when you are ready to get back on the bike. Heal well and I hope to see you back on the bike soon. Which brings me to the future. I hope I’m not being too insensitive to wonder what your next ride will be. I remember reading something about a dream bike recently…

  13. Steve, thought I’d drop by your site this morning for a nice read of a weekend ride with pictures! Wasn’t expecting Mad Max 6 pictures! However, glad to read that you are OK. Rest up and get well, I look forward to future posts of rides on the new bike!

  14. I like most of the people above was shocked to hear of your accident, and very glad you where not too badly injured. The bike looks a little sad though, but it could of been worse. I hope you are soon back to your old self. We’ve all had one of these at some time, and it takes a little longer to repair as you get older. Plus it will make you a bit nervous the next few times out. Take care.

  15. Thank you all for your well wishes. Everything is healing up nicely, though I’ve got a few more days before I’ll feel well enough to hop on a bike. My wife has been extraordinarily supportive and has encouraged me to look for a new bike. Stay tuned.

  16. Glad to read you are doing better! And that your wife is being supportinve of your riding. [Mine would probably freak and most of her gf’s are convinced she’s nuts letting me commute, assume I have an exteneded mid-life crisis, and she allows it because our kids are college age and I carry lots of life insurace.] Your experience supports my paranoia at intersections – too many drivers treat the yellow/red as a warning, not an order!

    I’m surprised the EMTs were unfamiliar with RoadID – I’ve been wearing one around NoVA (Fairfax, Loudoun) for years and assumed they’d know about it. Our Cub Scout Pack just had a “meet the firemen/EMT’s” sessions; I should have taken the opportunity to ask them what ID they look for (Road ID or Medic Alert bracelets, id cards in wallets, ID info inside helmet, “ICE-” entries in cell phone, etc.). I’ve had one serious crash (also my own bloody fault – overlapped wheels with a stranger) and while I didn’t break any bones, my body let me know when I was ready to even think about getting back on a bike.

    Ease back into things, and make sure you’re healed up! Get well soon, ride safe!

  17. Glad you are OK. The scariest part of your article was the fact the EMTs did not know about Road ID — I have always comforted myself in the thought that in the event of a bad crash they would know to look for something like Road ID.

  18. So glad you you walked away from that crash. I echo post about a cautionary tale.

    Will go our local fire department and tell thm about Road ID.

    Again, glad it was only cuts and bumps.

  19. Steve, Glad it wasn’t any worse. Hope you’re able to get back in the saddle soon. I’ve been advised that whenever a person is in a crash and an ambulance trip to the hospital is offered–take it. I also don’t share your attitude that an accident will happen. I am a cautious rider, who tries to ride alertly every time I’m on the bike. That doesn’t mean I won’t crash, but I don’t have an expectation that I will.

    • It certainly looks like one, doesn’t it? I’m working feverishly on my tale, but my day job (which pays me considerably more than this blog) is getting in my way. I’ll get something together by tomorrow, I think.

  20. Glad to see you are recovering well. It does help to have the concept of getting to buy a new (or new to you) bike hanging out there, doesn’t it?

  21. Could have been so much worse. Very glad you are healing up. Be patient, don’t be stubborn. Not that there’s any reason anyone would ever think of you as stubborn…. 🙂

    Get well.

  22. willbagby and I occasionally mention one of your posts during our brief moments of calm in the school day (we teach). Glad you’re ok. Take time to recuperate. What’s the story re: bike replacement? Annoying that a brief error results in bike damaged beyond repair. Hope to see you on one of the spring time rides coming up. Powhatan Historic Ride, Cap2Cap Ride down here in the Richmond area. Get well! Glad that the extent of the injuries aren’t more than some abrasions and slight swelling.

    Steven

    • I’m currently planning on doing the Lake Anna Century in April. It’s their first year and I haven’t hit that part of the state yet. I’ll be needing a new ride for that and tomorrow’s post should address that issue nicely, I think.

      Thanks for your well wishes!

  23. First, Glad to hear you are OK. Second, your post brings a few thoughts to mind,
    1. I don’t use road ID never did. I use a dog tag. Most folks, especially emergency responders (who tend to be familiar with military/police) immediately recognize dog tags as ID.

    2. A cyclist is not a car, obvious I l know, but a cyclist cannot rely on a traffic light to guarantee safety. I have been bike commuting and riding in traffic for years. Green is not safe and red is not safe. Stop look and listen is safe.

  24. Glad to hear you’re OK, Steve. I have to say I share your point of view that sadly accidents are an inevitable part of being a cyclist. I see that Bike Noob doesn’t buy that though!

    • I don’t believe it is “inevitable,” but I do believe that humans are flawed beings and prone to mistakes. When these failings are combined with other factors such as acts of God and bad luck, an accident becomes a possibility, however slight. At this point, the issue turns into a math problem: the percentage chance of an accident in a given trip multiplied by the number of trips taken equals the total number of likely accidents for a given period of time. All we can do as cyclists is ride smart (as Bike Noob does) and reduce the percentage chance. The chance, however reduced, still remains.

  25. Yikes, Steve! It’s terrible to hear about your accident and great to hear you are more or less ok. What a relief. Just read about it … when I saw the start of your next post immediately came back here. So be well, heal up fast, and now I’ll go look at that beautiful bike that I just barely saw a photo of!

  26. Only just catching up with this. Horrible incident, Steve. Glad you got off comparatively lightly and I hope your injuries are just about healed.

    Excellent that you were properly kitted out with a helmet. I can never understand the “helmets don’t save lives” debate. I don’t even want to think about the head injury you might have sustained if you weren’t wearing that helmet. Take care out there 🙂

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