I got knocked off my bike again on Friday. I say again because I got knocked off about 2 years ago – on that occasion I was unceremoniously rear-ended. I got knocked off about a year or so before that by some chumps pulling in without checking.
On this occasion a small red car pulled out from a side road onto the main road. The lady saw a gap and went for it, hard and fast. The only issue was my untimely presence on the stretch of road. I got absolutely mullered by the car. I had about a second or so to protest loudly before making contact with the side of the car and going flying. I’m not sure where the bike ended up; I ended up in a heap on the road. It was a big smash and I was a bit freaked out by it; I felt very nauseous and had a lot of pain in my ribs. I could breathe though and wasn’t concussed. It’s that strange feeling of being pootling along, excited to be out on the bike, to being ‘oh shit no oh STOP…’ to being on the floor. The lady got out of the car – stopped across the middle of the road – and was screaming and crying. I think it’s quite a terrifying thing to drive into an invisible cyclist. Essentially, I decloaked at the wrong time.
I remember saying something along the lines ‘calm down lady, I need to get out of the road’. I was confused; as shocking as it must be to experience a cyclist at such close quarters, the reaction of the lady seemed disproportionate to mine. I was sat there for a bit because I wasn’t sure what the damage was and was in a bit of shock. Some friendly passers-by helped out and I ended up sat on a bench for a bit. The difference between bike vs car and car vs car is that in the former the car driver becomes suddenly and forcibly aware of the vulnerability of the cyclist. I wish it didn’t need a crash for this to be evident.
Perceived wisdom in these circumstances is to call an ambulance and the police. It’s a road traffic accident (although someone once told me there is no such thing as an accident, they are incidents, and I’m inclined to agree) and it’s best to have the experts on hand just in case. Being English and terribly reserved, I sat for a bit, told people not to call the ambulance and waited it out. I spoke to the lady, got a bit ranty, but in a very passive aggressive manner. It’s not like culpability was in question. I also warned her that the cost of a replacement wheel (should it need replacing) might be considerably more than she might think, but that’s life, and she should choose her crash-victims more carefully.
After about 20 minutes I got back on my bike and went to work, it was only 5 minutes up the road. This was a matter of practicality rather than stupidity; at work I could have a cup of tea and see where I was. Colleagues were friendly and supportive, the universal panacea of tea with sugar was provided and I began an in-tray exercise so that I could free up time to head to A+E later if I needed to. I did need to, and headed off to the BRI at lunchtime.
The A+E department at the BRI is quite bleak. I’m not sure that I was expecting a bijou residence, some kind of chi-chi post-modern, televisual set-up, or even some sort of post-Holby City shiny palace of care, but it doesn’t really measure up to those kind of expectations. It’s a grimy triage unit, and grimly effective. The staff are focused, rapid and fantastically effective. I was triaged after about 90 minutes; it involved a detailed examination of my ribs, locating two fractured ones through the time-worn process of the prod-and-poke = patient scream. They can’t do anything about ribs. The advice was as follows:
“They are fractured. I’m going to give you some really strong painkillers and a leaflet called ‘managing your rib injury’. They might make you go a bit funny (the painkillers). If they do, don’t drive, because it’s a drug and drive drug. The pain will get worse before it gets better. You’ll be constipated. You’ll probably need more drugs than this what I am giving you. Rest and don’t lift stuff. If you cough up blood or weird sputum, come back at once”.
And thus my weekend has been fairly restful. Those fortunate enough to have had a rib injury will know it’s a particularly nasty thing, making it hard to breathe much above a shallow sort of emphysemic intake, and sneezing/coughing is like being stabbed with knitting needles. At the same time though, it’s not completely debilitating and as long as I keep stacked up on the prescription medicine, it’s manageable. The A+E lady said I might need a re-up in a few days. The only thing I find troubling about the saga is that it’s the third accident I’ve had in Bristol in 8 years, and on each occasion the car driver has been resolutely at fault. Which means it doesn’t matter what I do, how safely I ride, how many lights I stop at, how deferential I am to motor vehicles, how many lights or flourescent items I use, at some point I will get whacked by a car. On average, once every 2.6 years. I don’t like this. I guess it’s not as random as that. However, experience of my fellow cyclists and commuters – even people at work – would suggest that there’s an empirical truth and it’s not a nice one. If there is ever an argument for segregated cycling facilities, dutch style, then this is it.
I have had to rethink my training plans for this year and may come in under my planned monthly mileage for January, reducing it from 200 to 150 miles. Epic.