Photo: Author Mark Eller, IMBA's communication director, getting treated at the scene of his road biking accident.
First, I'm under no illusion that getting hit by a pickup truck while riding my bicycle has made me an expert on traffic safety. I've had close calls with cars before, but this is the first time I've been walloped. Maybe a bit of reflection will reveal a few insights for both cyclists and motorists.
I was fortunate to escape without any major injuries — despite getting knocked to the pavement while moving at almost a 20 MPH clip. The driver was cited for turning right at a four-way intersection without making sure the bike lane, where we collided as I attempted to go straight, was clear.
Here are a few observations:
1.) A malicious driver isn't required. There's been a spate of horrible stories about car versus bike attacks lately in my hometown, but I couldn't have hit by a nicer guy. He wasn't speeding or driving like a jerk, and he stopped immediately to help me out of the roadway and call the authorities. This was just a traffic accident, though it still could have killed me.
2.) Drivers don't expect cyclists to outpace them. We were in heavy morning traffic, meaning that I was moving faster in the bike lane (no, I wasn't exceeding the speed limit) than the cars. I suspect the driver didn't anticipate this possibility. As a driver, I've been often been surprised by how fast a cyclist zips through my blind spot.
3.) Be extra paranoid during rush hour. I've ridden unscathed through this particular intersection hundreds of times, but generally in light traffic. At busy times, more cars, more bikes and more pedestrians bring increased chaos and greater chances for disaster.
There's just one more thing I can offer. Getting hit by a truck is a painful but effective reminder of how unbelivably fragile we are. (I haven't even mentioned the obvious and vitally important advice to always wear a helmet when you ride!)
A few days after the accident, I'm sporting some nasty abrasions and wince when I try to move my shoulder. But those things will soon fade. I hope what won't is my realization that if the speed or mechanics were just a little different I might have died in that intersection. I love cycling and I'll certainly keep riding, but I'm going to take every lesson I can from this and use it to ride, and drive, as safely as possible. I hope you'll do the same.