Hit by a car

The bike population at home dropped to zero temporarily, and the broken helmet population increased to three. It can mean only one thing—that I crashed.

Closer to the point, I was hit by a car two weeks ago on Monday the 27th. It ruined a great ride.

Earlier in the ride…

This year’s weather theme to date is windy. It’s incessant. I’ve grown weary of battling high winds day in and day out. But I have to acknowledge that it’s making me a much stronger cyclist.

On Saturday the 25th coming home from work, I bagged my usual long loop in favor to the two-mile direct route, and still felt completely spent after two miles, but my numbers were like a calm day a year ago.

After a full day of rest on Sunday, Monday afternoon it was warm and windy. I had errands, and I was not about to waste a sunny afternoon in the mid-80s. I headed out to pay the RG&E and Time-Warner bills, then ride directly into the wind for as far as I could, up to ten miles.

Then come home for lunch, a nap, shower and go to work at five.

The first part of this plan worked gloriously. The lines at both RG&E and Time-Warner were the shortest I’ve ever seen. The winds just through downtown left me panting and my quads burning. Still, I kept to the plan and headed south on the west bank of the Riverway, then crossed the river in Genesee Valley Park and took the Canalway west.

Winds were from the SSW, so on the Canalway, they were more like quartering headwinds. Even so, it was a challenging workout. It was made even more so by a kid on an old Bridgestone. It was weird because he was dressed in full fixie-hipster regalia, even had a Chrome messenger bag, but his Bridgestone had gears.

At the grade crossing at Buffalo Road, he saw two guys on bikes behind him—me and a shirtless, helmetless guy on an MTB.

Traffic cleared, he crossed the road and took off. I made quick work of MTB guy just as I saw Bridgestone guy ease off from his sprint. Easy, peasy, I thought. I put my speed on slowly, gained on him and blew by before we got to the I-490 underpass.

I led the climb out and settled back into my pace. A few hundred yards down the pike, I hear whirr, whirr, whirr coming up behind me on the left. Fixie-hipster guy’s giving it all he’s worth. He eased by me, I nodded, and said, “Nice day, ain’t it?”

Fifty feet ahead of me, he blew up. I coasted up beside him (Yellow Bike has the sweetest sounding freehub around, and it’s little on the loud side too, so you know I’m coasting), hit the brakes and said, “Dude, if you’re gonna make the breakaway, be certain you can sustain it.”

I downshifted, spun up, worked my way thorough the gears—snick, snick, snick—and left him gasping in my wake.

It felt good.

He caught up with me at the grade crossing at Lyell Ave. We had a nice little chat before he headed down Lyell into the city and I crossed and continued on the path.

The crash

So this was the kind of ride I was having before I decided on the way back that I didn’t want to battle both winds and traffic downtown, and bailed on Wilson Blvd through the University of Rochester. I took Ford St to Mt. Hope Ave, then took Alexander St with the intention of turning on Park Ave, then home on Goodman St.

This was a tailwind leg and I was enjoying it. Crossing I-490, I eased up the grade to Monroe High School where the road doglegs left and heads down again to the intersection with Monroe. As I crested the hill at the dogleg, the light at Monroe turned green. The two cars that were waiting went through.

Two other cars were waiting in the Left Turn Only lane facing me. The first, a geezer in a Buick, turned through with plenty of time to spare. The second car pulled into the intersection and stopped, as you do when you’re waiting for oncoming traffic. That oncoming traffic was me. There was no one in front of or behind me.

As I proceeded through the intersection, the car started its left turn. At my speed (somewhere in the lower 20s) I didn’t have room to swing behind him. Holding my line, I’d hit the car broadside and fly over the roof. I tried to go around in front, hoping he’d see me and stop.

He didn’t.

I watched in horror as the bumper hit my left leg just above the ankle. Realizing I was going down, I tucked and rolled. I landed hard on my right side, the bike passing over me as we both rolled. Listening for my collarbone snapping, I was relieved when I didn’t hear it.

As Yellow Bike passed over me, I kept rolling and heard the back of my helmet crunching on the asphalt. I stopped rolling and sat up, facing the direction I’d been coming from. I looked left, and completely freaked when I was staring at the bumper of an RTS bus. It took just a split second to realize the bus wasn’t moving.

Meanwhile, the car that had hit me stopped. The window rolled down and the driver leaned his head out and asked, “Dude. Are you okay?”

“Fuck no!” I shouted back. “You just t-boned me with fucking Pontiac.” Forgive me for my limited choice of expletives. “How could I possibly be okay?” Shaking my finger at him, “And don’t you dare leave the scene of a personal injury accident.”

He didn’t. He completed his turn and pulled to the curb in front of Arby’s.

I turned and tried to get out of the road, but passersby kept me from moving. I took inventory. My right shoulder hurt like hell, but there was nothing poking through, and I had some limited movement. I had some bumps and scrapes on my legs, but nothing bleeding. There was some road rash on my left elbow, a little blood, but that was it.

A passenger boarding the bus was on his cell phone to 911, so I didn’t have to worry about that. Someone else dragged Yellow Bike out of the street.

There’s a firehouse on that corner too, so they were the first to arrive. Because of the high school, there are ambulances and cops stationed nearby too. It seemed they were all there instantly.

The fire truck guys wanted me on a backboard with a collar. If I’d snapped my spine, I wouldn’t be sitting up, shouting and pointing my finger at people, so I politely declined. Still, they held my head while the ambulance people arrived and begin their procedures.

After a while, we all agreed there was nothing seriously broken or bleeding. I also agreed that it was a good idea to get checked out nonetheless. Getting off her radio, a paramedic told me the wait at Emergency was 8–12 hours.

There was no way I was going to sit around the ED in a sweaty chamois for 8–12 hours. I politely declined their offer, and signed the waiver, promising to call my doc when I got home.

As it turns out, the police officer who responded is an avid cyclist and triathlete with road, tri and mountain bikes at home. We even use the same bike shop.

After ticketing the driver for failure to yield, he put Yellow Bike in the trunk of the squad car, me in the back seat, and drove us home. He even carried Yellow Bike up the fire escape stairs to my kitchen.

I made several calls in rapid succession. I got an appointment with my doc, and my sister-in-law to drive me there. I called-in at work, the first time I’ve done so in seven years. And I went online, got the the insurances company’s claims department phone number, and got a claims number for my doc to bill against.

Less than two hours after the accident, I was being seen by the nurse practitioner at my doc’s office. If you ever want to completely impress the people at your doc’s office, stroll in after getting hit by a car, with a BP of 110/60 and heart rate of 44.

It was too late in the day for x-rays, so I left with fresh bandages, a note keeping me out of work, and an appointment with radiology the next day.

Poor Yellow Bike

Among my calls that first afternoon was one to Full Moon Vista. Shana offered to drop by the next day and pick up Yellow Bike. On hearing that, Jake, their newest mechanic, exclaimed, “We do that? That’s awesome!”

It is. And that’s why I’ve built a good relationship with them. They know I’m loyal, and they try to keep me that way.

Skipping ahead a bit, Full Moon Vista’s estimate is $960, including tax and a new helmet for me.

Yellow Bike’s entire front end is trashed. My nice blue handbuilt wheel is not so much tacoed as it is pretzeled. The fork is twisted, the shifters are all gouged up and the yellow-and-blue bar tape that it took me months to find is all torn up. The pedals took a beating too.

But, the frame is not bent. We can rebuild it.

At first I thought the fork damage would total the bike, given that the fork and stem were seized in the headset. But, Chris told me that since those parts were now sacrificial, he could cut them out then easily remove the headset.

Carping the diem, I asked, “So does this mean I could upgrade to a carbon fork?” The reply was affirmative.

After thinking everything over for a few days, today I dropped by and asked them to order me in a full-carbon fork, new headset and stem. I’ll be chipping in some of my own funds to cover the difference between a new steel fork and a carbon one.

I also asked if it could be ready by the weekend after Memorial Day. That’s the weekend I have several friends coming to join me as I lead the bike club’s Ten Parks Tour ride. Depending on when the fork comes it, the answer was yes. Cool!

My recovery

My recovery has been nothing short of remarkable. The x-rays showed no broken bones or damaged joints. I forget the term the doc used, but is was something like deep tissue bruising.

What helped tremendously was that I tucked and rolled. Yes, the initial impact shoved my whole shoulder straight in towards my neck, but I was rolling so it didn’t take the full force of the impact.

Monday I couldn’t get my jersey off or another shirt on before seeing the doc. Tuesday I had to shampoo one-handed. Wednesday, I put my hair in a ponytail—gingerly, but I did it. By Thursday it hurt only when I moved it or there was pressure, like when sitting on the couch, which is high-backed. Pushing and pulling were the worst. I had trouble tying my shoes because of pulling on the laces.

At the follow-up appointment, based on how quickly things were mending, the doc and I figured I could be back to work the following week (last week). He wrote a note to that effect, and since my job description requires that I be able to lift and carry totes full of books, up to 50 pounds, he put in a lifting restriction for a week.

I asked when I could get back on the bike. He told me “Right away.” Awesome! Earlier that day I’d had my parents take me to Full Moon Vista so I could bring the Portland home from its spring service.

But I waited until Saturday. I ran my errands on Friday by bus, but on Saturday I had to go out to East Rochester, and the bus schedule was not helpful. I kitted up, and carried the Portland downstairs on my left side. It was less than graceful.

I gave myself several opportunities on the route to turn back if things didn’t feel good. I started the cyclometer, and pulled out into traffic, five days after being hit.

I took it pretty easy, by my standards, and comfortably passed every bail-out point I’d planned. Remarkably, my shoulder felt better on the bike that it did sitting on the couch. I took a nice, easy, fairly level route out and back, putting in 1:02:05 saddle time at an average speed of just over 16½ MPH.

It felt wonderful. I was relieved to find the five days off the bike didn’t knock as much off my performance I thought it would. Even so, I took Sunday off.

Through the week last week my bruises became visible. Apparently, deep tissue bruising floats to the top with time. I’d started out with no externally visible signs, and a week later my entire shoulder, chest, back and arm were school bus yellow. Injuries elsewhere followed the same pattern.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as I returned to work at each location, I received a hero’s welcome. And a basket of cookies from the folks at Presbytery. 🙂

Easing into work worked well. The repetitive motion of checking-in carts full of books seemed to work wonders for my shoulder on Wednesday night. By the time the week was out, I was feeling pretty good. Still some residual pain, but I was amazed.

I knew I was back in the game after my morning commutes Friday and Saturday. On Friday I drafted a landscaper’s truck up Winton Road. He had a load of mulch and shrubbery (Arborvitae I think) on his low-boy trailer and it was throwing a hell of a draft. It would have been a shame to waste it.

On Saturday, it took the better part of three miles coming in on East Avenue, but I chased down and dropped a guy on a scooter. Gas Power 0, Bike Power 1! You should have seen his face when I went by. Remembering my own advice from above, I made sure I could sustain the breakaway.

Today, two weeks after the crash, I am all but fully recovered. I expect I’ll have a few twinges for another week, and sleeping on my side—my preferred position—is still problematic, but for the most part, everyday stuff has become once again, everyday.

Insurance

Thus far, the kid’s insurance company is being very good. My medical expenses, lost wages, damage to the bike, and incidental expenses (like bus fare) should all be covered in full. It’s amazing that in this day and age, someone actually had car insurance. I don’t know where I’d be if he didn’t have insurance, or if he didn’t stop.

Wrap-up

I am grateful that everything went the way it did. If the driver had been going a little faster, if that bus had been moving, if I’d forgotten to tuck-and-roll, if, if, if so many things, then the outcome would have been much different.

I was very fortunate, and I know it. And for that, I’m grateful.

12 Responses to “Hit by a car”

  1. Julie Says:

    Wow…what a story! Funny, I was rear-ended (as a passenger in a car) 6 weeks ago, and am STILL recovering. You were indeed fortunate…glad you’re okay!

  2. brucew Says:

    See? Those cages don’t help at all. 😉

    No, seriously, I’m glad to hear you are recovering. I’d been wondering why you hadn’t been posting over at RocBike.com.

  3. Josh Says:

    Glad to hear you are okay. Maybe it would be a good idea to seek legal counsel just in case the insurance company tries to dodge any long-term issues that may not yet be apparent?

  4. brucew Says:

    No problem. A lawyer who is a member of the Rochester Bicycling Club offers his services to members. We’ve met.

  5. Apertome Says:

    Yikes, that’s scary. You are lucky that you didn’t have any major injuries, and that the guy stopped and was insured. I’m glad that all your bike damage is repairable, as well.

    Good job with the tuck and roll, I’m going to have to try to remember that, just in case.

  6. brucew Says:

    Yeah, it’s the second time I’ve used tuck-and-roll with good effect.

    It beats the pants off the stick-your-arms-out-and-break-your-wrists method and the slide-down-the-street-peeling-off-your-skin method.

    I’ve tried ‘em both, and find tuck-and-roll to be superior to either.

  7. Onno Says:

    8-12 hour wait at Emergency… amazing.

    What a story, I am very happy you came out relatively ok and able to give scooters a run for their money!

  8. gwl Says:

    bruce, I am glad you are all right. You fared better hitting a car than i did doing something stupid like trying to secure my mirror and then crashing breaking my thumb. I will be off my bike for 6 weeks.

    see you on the road in 6 weeks.

  9. Chris Says:

    Glad to hear it was only the bike that took lasting damage. Maybe in future it would be safer for you to use the subway

  10. brucew Says:

    Onno—It’s been that way since they closed Genesee Hospital a few years back. Interestingly, the crash was just a block away from the old Genesee Hospital.

    And as for the scooter, well, you’ve ridden with me so you know that it’s an unusual event. For everyone else, I’m not one of the fast guys, which is why whenever I can pull something off like that, I crow about it here.

    Ginn—Sorry about your crash. I wondered what had happened when I saw your post on rbc-list.

    Chris—Where did you dig that link up? That map is distorted, similar to that famous one of the London Tube. What that article missed is that in the 1960s, they used the old canal bed to run I-490 east from downtown to I-590, and I-590 south to the current canal. If the subway is ever resurrected, the Blue Line won’t be following that route.

    FWIW, the Halfway stop is correctly positioned on the map. It’s halfway from downtown to the eastern terminus.

    Here’s some trivia: Two old stops (Court St and City Hall) are still accessible through a hatch in the basement of the Rundel Building of Central Branch of the Rochester Public Library. The library itself actually stands on pilings above the old canal/subway bed. A couple of years back at the annual staff training day, we had a guided tour. I felt like Indiana Jones or something.

  11. monkeyrider Says:

    WOW! amazing story Bruce. glad you survived so well. got any pics of the wrecked bike?

  12. Alan Says:

    Sorry to hear about this whole mess, but I’m glad you’re doing well.

    Heart rate of 44? That was the most impressive part of the story for me.