A suprising thing happened as I made my way to the park for CX practice yesterday: I was hit by a car.
Cyclists are often quick to point out that if you ride a lot you are bound to both crash and / or get hit by a car at some point, but I’ve had an amazing stretch of crash free and car free riding over the course of my life on a bike.
Yesterday my streak came to an end however, as I rode down a hill and through an intersection. I clearly had right of way and was riding with traffic as I cautiously eyed a line of cars attempting to make left turns across my path onto the freeway on ramp. One car, then a second car passed as I approached. I locked my gaze on the third car in line which appeared to be on a trajectory for me if he kept up his current rate of speed. I looked for his eyes and his gaze to determine whether or not he saw me. I caught a glimpse of his eyes. I thought eye contact assured that he saw me and would yield, so I continued at my 20mph pace. As I got closer and closer however, it became evident that either he didn’t see me or wasn’t going to yield.
I swerved to the right to avoid the car, but impact was inevitable. The bumper of the car smacked me on my lower left shin, and I was flung sideways into the air. Surprisingly and amazingly, I didn’t go down. I landed perpendicular to my direction of travel, but with such force that I heard my rear tire explode and go flat. Stans sealant was sprayed as if a water balloon had impacted. My leg hurt badly.
Similarly, I exploded into a string of expletives directed at the driver. I was completely shocked and my first reaction was rage that I had in fact been hit. I couldn’t believe he didn’t yield!
I regrouped a little, and felt a pretty sharp pain in my left leg. I couldn’t put any weight on it. I thought it might be broken. The driver (somewhat surprisingly) pulled over. Denver seems to have a shocking number of hit and runs so I was prepared to memorize his license plate as he sped away, but he stuck around. As we exchanged some notes and insurance info, it became clear that this was a total accident. He was extremely shocked and sorry, and it became hard for me to stay mad. We both gazed at the sun from our vantage point and saw that the glare was absolutely immense. What was worse was that I came out of the shade into the glare, and I don’t think his eyes could pick me out of the visual confusion. I’m some could or would argue that he was somehow at fault or irresponsible but knowing myself, I could have made the same mistake he did. It seemed hypocritical to be judgmental or punitive.
I told him I’d let him know if there was any serious damage to me or the bike and I limped back about five blocks to where my car was parked. Walking hurt, and I was in a daze, but I felt like I was probably going to be okay. I actually wanted to continue on to CX practice (which may have been stupid), but when I went to try to re inflate my tubleless tire, even more Stan’s simply shot out of the gash. The tire was beyond sealing.
And… that was that. My leg is deeply bruised but not seriously injured. My confidence is shaken. My sense of safety in traffic is at least temporarily banished. All in all though, it could have been so much worse. If I had not swerved or had been going faster, I could have impacted the car instead of the car impacting me. I’m sure I would have been vaulted over the top if that had happened. I also could have kept flying in the direction I was heading and impacted a steel light pole. Both options would have been much more painful and damaging than a simple bruise.
I’ll file the whole experience away as a learning episode. I will revise my guiding principles when interacting with cars: Right of way means nothing. Cars hurt!
My kids greeted me at the door when I got home and smiled about how “daddy got hit by a car!”. They had no sense of how serious it could have been, and I hope they never find that out.