The Crash: A Story in Several Acts.
In the moments immediately following the crash, I didn’t feel any of the physical injuries on the right side of my body that are still with me 2 months later. I didn’t yet know I had a concussion. I was unaware that I had briefly blacked out. Adrenaline is magic.
A few notes before I go further:
You do not get to use this story to stop riding a bike, fuss at someone you love who rides a bike, or use it as an excuse for not riding a bike. No. Just no.
You do not get to use this story to hate on people. Not drivers. Not police. Not medics. Not engineers. No one.
You DO get to use this story to invest your time, talent, and treasure to create safer streets for all of us.
The Crash: Act I – Impact
On February 12th, I was traveling from the Near East side towards downtown in a bike lane on Spring Street. It was a little after 3pm on a Thursday afternoon. The street was busy with cars in all three travel lanes, and the sidewalks were busy with people around Columbus State. I was the only person in the bike lane. I imagine the intermittent rain had something to do with that. The speed limit on Spring Street is 35 mph, and though busy, the road wasn’t full enough to slow car traffic easily passing me.
A car turned in front of me and I immediately began braking as hard as I could. Strava, a GPS tracking app popular with cyclists and runners, records me traveling at 20.4 mph when the rapid deceleration starts. It quickly became clear I wasn’t going to avoid the crash by braking. I instinctively began turning with the driver. That didn’t work either. Strava shows me at 15.4 mph when impact happened.
My next memory is hazy, and for hours after the crash that memory came and went. A hand is reaching towards me to help me off the ground. The person’s face is not clear in my mind, but I do remember him asking if I was OK. I feel shaken, but fine. Adrenaline is magic.
As I’m being helped off the ground, I look back at my bike. It is 3/4’s of the way under the driver’s car between the front and rear wheels. (I know, right?!?) I have no memory of impact. I have no idea how I moved from being seated on the bike, now under the car, to being perpendicular to the car facing away from the car. My memory of this moment is so fuzzy, that several hours later when I was getting dressed before leaving the hospital I couldn’t figure out why my skirt was wet on the right side but not the left. I had forgotten even hitting the ground.
A sweet young woman asks if I’m OK. She is horrified and apologetic. She did not see me. This is the driver. She is the same age as my daughter.
The mom in me does not want to get her in trouble. The mid-western girl in me is concerned we are blocking car traffic trying to get in and out of the parking lot. The traveler in me is concerned about my bike, I need it to get to work. The employee in me hopes I won’t be late to my next meeting. The bike advocate in me immediately realizes a protected bike lane or on a multi use path would NOT have prevented this crash. These thoughts are simultaneous and happen in less then a second as I’m standing.
The person who helped me off the ground has picked up my bike. The driver is moving her car into the parking lot she was turning into when she hit me to allow traffic to return to normal flow. I turn off Strava. The trip ends at 3:16pm. I remove my gloves and check for abrasions, I check my knees. Nothing but a small hole in my merino wool stockings (damn, those are expensive). I must be ok, right?
But I work in transportation biking for a living. I know stories of people who don’t realize their injuries until later. I understand the importance of crash reports to creating safe infrastructure. I call 911 to file a crash report. That 2 minute and 37 second call is here.
Stay tuned for The Crash: Act II – City of Columbus First Responders
Broken. Photo credit: Dan Monnig