Notes on a bicycle crash

Earlier this evening [^1] I turned from Evans Street, Rozelle at great speed onto Henry Street. Inexcusably, I looked over my shoulder as I navigated the corner into the narrow side street. When I returned my gaze to where I was piloting the iron steed I was alarmed to see a parked car in my direct path. Just before impact, I squeezed the brake levers hard but sensed the effort was to no avail. Careening towards the car in slow motion the thought flashed through my mind that this was a very grave situation indeed. In that split second I asked myself, no I told myself, I’m stuffed! I slammed into the stationary vehicle and somersaulted over the bicycle.

In the distance there were no spectators to witness my bloated body tumbling over the handlebars of my vintage bicycle. I executed the forward roll I had been trained to perform as a younger lither man, perfectly, if not modestly. I was surprised to find that in middle age I had retained the body memory of my sixteen year old self.

I picked both myself and the bike up swiftly. It was dark, the temperate evening air, a small comfort. My main concern was the bike. Priorities, all wrong. I knew I was hurt but wasn’t sure how seriously. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I noticed that my bicycle helmet had a slight depression below the surface of the shell, obviously at the point where it had made impact with either the car or the ground. As I write the first draft of this entry, the right hand side of my head feels somewhat displaced. I’m not concussed, but mildly shocked. The helmet is not cracked, but it did absorb undue force and is no longer useable. I don’t have a scratch or bump on my head. What a relief!

In the aftermath I noticed the wooden box attached to the front carrier had absorbed the impact of the crash, bending the carrier out of alignment to the bike. Unlike more modern materials used for bicycle construction, steel is quite forgiving. I detached the carrier from the bicycle, bent it back into shape with various blunt instruments and then reattached it. As good as new!

Frankly speaking, without the helmet I would have been in a fair bit of strife. Moreover, fortunately I was wearing gloves and long pants. These second layers of skin saved me from serious abrasion. My upper body was less protected. I only wore a tee-shirt but luckily escaped harm with some very light inconspicuous scratches on my right forearm. Keen to get back into the saddle, I ordered a new helmet the following day. The brand, aptly named ‘Nutcase.’

Feeling vulnerable, at first I only confided in my partner and a few close friends about the crash. After a few days I loosened up and allowed the unfortunate incident to bubble to the surface of casual conversation with colleagues around the office. Because my narrative did not involve a careless driver who didn’t see me and so on, there was no ‘I told you so cycling is dangerous’ glances directed my way. My story could only be made sense of through the caricature of the absentminded dimwit, more along the lines of ‘why didn’t you look where you were going you idiot?’ It was beyond careless I admit. But mistakes happen. Tiredness was not the direct cause, but tiredness impaired my better judgement.

What if it wasn’t my fault? What if I hadn’t crashed and then proceeded to a main road only to collide with a reckless driver or an invisible pedestrian cloaked in darkness? Perhaps it was the hand of God that shepherded me to relative safety, which translated into the accident I actually had?

Fanciful thinking? Who knows? I’m not religious. Well I’m Greek. Before the Romans, we used to believe in many Gods. If we still did, we would have had to make up the God of Cycling and pray to that. In any case it was a close call and I got away with it largely unscathed.

I live to ride another day.


[^1] Tuesday 4 February 2020, approximate time 9 PM.

5 comments

  1. For some reason wordpress won’t let me ‘like’ this post .. anyway, glad you are okay. I recall arriving at work one morning and because I was so tired I couldn’t recall the drive in at all – now that is a worry ..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good story – glad you were OK. We all have had crashes like that. My last one is when I decided to ride my road bike to work instead of my fat-tire commuter. At a railroad crossing I felt the narrow front tire drop into a space between rubber pavers that my commuter wouldn’t fit. Like you, the muscle memory of rolling kicked in as a flew over the handlebars. Luckily, there was no car behind me.

    The good news is I reported this to the city and they replaced the rubber pavers with concrete at all railroad crossings. Will wonders never cease.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good story and it happens to the best of us, the most important thing is that you’re ok….even with all the hoo haaa from some sectors of the cycling communitiy, even if helmet rules were to be relaxed one day, I would still choose to wear one as you never know, as you found out that you relied on it to save your noggin.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting story about deciding to use a helmet. I use one for my commute too. I’d like to invite you to consider your analysis at a slightly deeper level, though.

    What if, instead of devoting so much effort and resources to enforcing a measure which only protects after the crash, and punishing non-compliance with substantial penalties, government spent that time, funding and policy effort on crash prevention and safety in the form of protected bike lanes and lower speed limits like they have in other parts of the world?

    Then perhaps you wouldn’t be having those silly “see I told you bikes are dangerous” arguments (or at least, not nearly as much), because we’d have healthier, less car-choked urban living space, with more people feeling like it is safe and practical to leave the car at home and take the bike instead.

    Janette Sadik-Khan, previously Commissioner of Transport for New York City, has an interesting perspective on governance to consider:

    “If your streets are so dangerous that you must compel people who ride bikes to wear armor, you have failed in your mission.”

    Liked by 1 person

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