Saturday, July 20, 2013

Car vs Bike. Who Wins?

This ride could be my last.

It's something we cyclists and runners pretend won't happen to us, something we ignore so as not to take away from the joy we find while out there pushing our limits.

But running and cycling are dangerous pastimes, and each time we leave our door it could be the last.

Truth is, out there on the roads, with the cars, trucks and vans flying past, there's not much between us and the brutal honest truth to be found in a 1,000 lbs plus automobile with zero feelings.  Sure, there's a driver behind each steering wheel, but what they don't see or notice, the car won't care about.

Yesterday morning, a car and I disagreed on how best to navigate a roundabout, and I lost the argument.

I woke up early feeling a little sluggish but otherwise very healthy after a week of fighting off a cold.  I took off on my bike into a delightfully cool, cloudy morning with only the hint of a headwind.  12 miles into my ride, I came to a roundabout that signals the return trip to my house.  There was a car to my rear left so I signaled to make sure he understood I was continuing through the roundabout until the next exit.  Apparently he didn't see me, as he kept going straight to the exit, and that's when we collided.

I immediately lost my balance along the side of his ugly orange Charger and rolled to the left as I hit the ground.  The bike came up above me and I slid along the pavement for quite a few feet.  The driver hit his brakes right away and we both stopped next to each other.

I have no memory of what I was thinking about during the accident.  Other than a few swear words there was nothing intelligible in my speech or thoughts.  Once I skidded to a stop, my first thought was a prayer of thanks for being able to see cloudy sky and not the undercarriage of a car.  The driver was already out of his car and asking me if I was alright.

Chronic cynic and sarcast, I answered very honestly, "No, I'm not alright.  You just hit me with your car, dude."

He helped me up and the driver that had been following behind him called the medics.

I expected a lonely Soldier in a van with a trauma bag.  Instead, a full caravan of at least four MPs, one fire truck, one ambulance and the post police chief arrived with sirens and lights blazing.

So embarrassing.
By then I'd had time to check out my bike.  There were scratches on the left side pedal, rear quick release and handlebar tape, plus the brake horn needed to be twisted back into place (which explained the bruising on my hands).  I'd also been walking around and drinking water to both calm down and take stock of my injuries.
Blood soaked bandage for trophy?
After much ado, including an epic mooning of passing traffic while the paramedic dressed the road rash down my entire hip and thigh, I was left alone to finish the police report before pedaling home.

Road rash extended from my hip to upper thigh, and the bruising started in today.  Very pretty.  And it hurts a lot worse than it looks, trust me.
Most people were shocked, both at the incident scene and later on during the day, that I finished my ride home on the bike.  But, honestly, I couldn't imagine doing anything different.  Can't explain it; it was just natural to get back on the bike and head home.  And I made good time, with some PRs for a couple Strava Segments.

When I got home, Char was waiting for me, upset but relieved that things hadn't turned out worse.
Most of the damage was bandaged up or underneath my bike kit.  
The baselayer I was wearing under my jersey kept my skin from getting tore up more, though the bruises still hurt.
Char helped me clean up the scrapes and road rash and get ready for work.  My knee and hip were swollen and bruised, so walking, standing and sitting were each equally challenging.
Most of the impact was absorbed by my hip, elbow and back.  I shudder to think what bones would have been broken had I not rolled and then skidded along the ground on impact.
The best part was getting served a traffic ticket later that morning at work.  After a long discussion with the traffic investigator I learned that both the driver and I had been "in the wrong."  We both received tickets for "failure to maintain" our lanes.

Points deducted off my on post driving privileges, otherwise nothing to worry about.
The roundabout where the collision occurred seems to have been designed by dyslexic monkeys.  In a normal roundabout, you can stay in the right lane (and should as a cyclist) and remain in the roundabout until you arrive at your chosen exit.  You can never exit from the left lane (as the driver that hit me tried to do) but have to pull into the right lane to do so.  At the exit where we came together violently, you must exit if you're in the right lane, there's no continuing in the roundabout even though there is a lane that continues around on the right side.

To navigate this roundabout, you have to pull into the left lane and then immediately dart back into the right when your exit comes up.  Sound safe for a cyclist mixing it up with much faster and heavier traffic?  Yeah, I didn't think so.

Here's an easy and short description on how best to navigate a roundabout as a cyclist.

Every time I leave on a ride from now on, my first thought will be about how each ride could be my last.  I've come face to face with the potential consequences of riding with traffic and will never again take for granted the costs of my passion.

But honestly, if you're going to go, let it be doing something you love.