Is there anything less surprising in the world than a cyclist getting hit by a car? I mean, sure, it’s a big deal to the guy it actually happens to, but it’s so common of a story it’s almost not worth telling, right?
But I just can’t get my head around what happened on my commute yesterday.
It had rained most of Tuesday night, but Wednesday morning was really nice: cloudy, but no wind. I finished writing and posting my entry for the day, got my bike out, cleared the pine needles out from between the tires and fenders (it’s amazing how many collect there in just ten miles, and how much of a braking action they cause), and headed to work.
The stoplight at the intersection of 228th and Inglewood Hill meant that, as usual, I was first off the line. There’s a nice shoulder on the side of the road, though, so people had no trouble passing me. I got up to speed and was cruising along at about 20mph.
Then, about 200 yards after the stoplight, a bronze Toyota Previa passed me and then immediately turned into the parking lot to my right, right in front of me.
I grabbed my brakes and veered right, but there was no where to go — no way to avoid the van.
I thunked hard into the rear-right of the van with my left shoulder and ribs, then crashed to the ground on my right side. My right hip and knee took most of the fall. Stunned, I laid there, looking at the van that just hit me.
I expected the van to stop, immediately. I expected someone to jump out of the van and apologize, profusely — after all, this was clearly the van driver’s fault, pure and simple. It was a classic "Right Hook," Collison Type #4 as defined by www.bicyclesafe.com (Thanks to Mytzpyk of the excellent MinusCar blog; I’m just stealing his link). I expected, in short, the very most basic human courtesy.
Instead, the van continued into the large parking lot and parked at a far corner, near a building.
Maybe it says something about me that I assumed whoever did this would come over after parking. I got up, checking to see how bad I was hurt. Not too badly, as it turned out. My left shoulder and ribs hurt, and my right hip and knee stung, but nothing felt serious. While I waited for this person to come over, I — shakily, due to the adrenaline rush — checked over my bike. The fenders were a little out of alignment, but they wouldn’t take long to fix. Otherwise, it looked like my bike was OK, too. I was sure the person who had caused this crash would be glad to hear that.
Speaking of which, I still hadn’t seen anyone exit the van.
The Not-Very-Surprising Conclusion
I had meant this story to have a twist ending, but the way I’ve been telegraphing details, I assume you’ve figured out by now: Tired of waiting for this person to do the right thing, I finally went over to the van myself.
It was empty.
I assume that the driver either bolted into the building while I was checking my bike or exited from the passenger side of the van and used cover from the other cars in the lot to get to the building.
You had figured out that something like this had happened, right?
But I still do have one little twist I’ll bet you didn’t see coming: the building this driver snuck into was a church.
I got on my bike and left. Within a few miles, it occurred to me that I should have left a sarcastic note on the van’s windshield — something like, "Hey, unorthodox interpretation of the Good Samaritan parable you’re using there." Or I could have given a bike shoe cleat-enhanced kick to the car where I had crashed into it. Or I could have gone into the church, asking everyone whether they knew who was the person who thought hit and runs were OK.
I always have those kinds of ideas, and they always come too late to be of any use. And maybe that’s for the best. Or maybe it’s not.
So, here are the questions for the day:
- What should I have done differently, if anything?
- When you’ve been either hit by — or forced into hitting — a car, how have you reacted (assuming you were conscious and could react at all)
- Is this slink-away-undetected hit-and-run behavior as mind-blowingly strange as it seems to me? Or is it more common than I thought?
The Winner of Yesterday’s Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Giveaway
First off, I should apologize for not replying to comments yesterday. I was not in a cheerful mood, and didn’t want to put a damper on the hilarious bike rack-related postings that were flying around. Here’s my favorite:
While preparing to race the 12 Miles of Hell in Lawton, Oklahoma, my friend had pulled out her fancy trailer-hitch-bike-rack-cum-repair-stand from the Jeep. It’s one of those jobs that swings out away from the back of the vehicle so you can open the tailgate without removing or folding down the rack. Hot stuff.
I came around from the side of the Jeep, full of excitement and pre-race jitters, and CLOSE-LINED the HELL out of myself on the extended rack. I was actually knocked on my butt from the impact. I had bruises for weeks. The best part of it all? We were camped right at the starting line, which was, at the time, crawling with the Pro/Expert riders who were getting ready to begin the day’s racing.
*sigh* I should not be allowed out of the house some days…
"Why is K the winner?" I hear you ask, in a petulant tone. Here’s why.
- Originality: It described how a bike rack can be dangerous not just to a bike, but to a person.
- Relevance: When I read this comment, I thought to myself, "D’oh! I forgot to talk about all the times I have stood up after fastening a bike to the rack with a bungie cord or Velcro strap, whacking the crown of my skull into a sharp metallic corner of the rack in the process."
- Hilarity: I love the image of someone getting clotheslined by a rack right at the starting line of a race, as long as that image is not of me.
- Braveness: Willingness to describe an episode where you are clearly the buffoon is not an easy thing.
K, email me your mailing info and I’ll send you the Banjo Brothers Seat Bag. And everyone else, thanks for submitting your stories. You’ll get another chance next week, so don’t whine about losing, OK?
BONUS: Important Next Week’s Banjo Brother’s Giveaway Info
Last night I emailed the Banjo Brothers and asked if we could mix things up a little for next week. "Instead of giving away a seat bag," I proposed, "could we give away a full-on messenger bag?" They said yep. Because they’re cool.