Saturday, October 23 2010 @ 04:47 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
From Bicycling Advocates of Howard County
I got run off the road / run over by an SUV yesterday, the driver of which really and truly believed she had the right of way. I was riding on route 216 East in Fulton early this afternoon when the SUV passed me from behind, then turned right into the gas station, passing directly in front of me. She could not have been more than 8 feet in front of me when she made the turn, so I had no choice but to do my best to brake without skidding and turn sharply with her. Well, it was too fast and too sharp for me to be able to stay upright on the inside of her turn, so the bike and I went down, and the bike slid under her rear wheel. Thankfully that stopped the bike (with me attached) from sliding further under her vehicle. The poor rear wheel is taco-ed! Handlebars are a mess, derailleur still to be checked out, etc. My brand new bike helmet is already cracked from hitting the pavement.
There was a vehicle that passed me just before she did, and that car had his brake lights on, so I got out of the aero bars and onto the brakes when I thought he might turn. He didn’t, and I’m glad I was already on the brakes when this next driver cut me off, or it would have been worse.
The most upsetting part of the whole thing was how she was yelling at me for not stopping when she made the turn – she really and truly believed that she had the right of way. Her teenaged daughter was rather foul-mouthed as well, giving me the finger and dropping the c-bomb, and I must admit I lost my temper! Unfortunately, I did not leave them with a very good impression of bicyclists, as surely she will remember my reaction more than she will remember the fact that my bike was under her vehicle after she cut me off.
I did call 911 right away, because it was immediately apparent that she wasn’t going to believe me that she was at fault, and I thought the cops would make more of an impression. HoCo emergency responders are simply awesome! The ambulance and fire truck were there in just a couple minutes – and I apologized to them, because I really only called 911 for a cop to come give this idiot a ticket. They didn’t mind, though, as a couple of them were cyclists so ooh-ed and aah-ed over the bike, others learned about Road ID (they’d never seen one before), and they chatted with the witnesses, one of whom was a retired EMT and also took good care of my road rash. The cops weren’t too far behind, and they were wonderful as well. They did ticket the woman, and indicated a huge amount of support for cyclists, and intolerance for drivers who don’t share the road. I did thank them for all their support at the local triathlons!
So what are today’s lessons? First and foremost, I need to be better at keeping my temper – it’s far more important that bad drivers learn the rules of the road, instead of learn that cyclists are rude. I didn’t help that cause today, I’m sorry to say. Also, I’m really glad I was already up out of the aero bars and on the brakes – it is much safer to ride as if you might have an accident, than to ride as if invincible. It might not make a difference, given the circumstances...but then again, it might. Bike handling skills are also key! Knowing how much the bike can safely turn at different speeds, and knowing how to handle quick stops, are critical. Today was my first ride in aero bars, so while I’m pleased that I made as much of the turn as I did before going down, I wonder if I could have stayed up if I knew the bike better.
Finally, and probably most importantly, the driver got ticketed because the police officers were educated, in large part due to the continued efforts of Bicycling Advocates of Howard County. If she wasn’t ticketed, she would have left the situation still believing she had the right of way. I plan to be at the forum next Monday night, the 18th. It’s really important that our voices be heard, to help improve safety on the roads for cyclists.
My bike – my brand-new tri bike, my birthday present, is at the bike shop. They’re giving her a solid checking-over and writing an estimate for the driver’s insurance company. Yesterday’s ride was her maiden voyage, and I only hope the rest of her life is easier!
Ride safe and ride smart out there,