A Story of an "Accident" – A Time of Many "Crashes"
During this wondrous holiday season I feel the deep gratitude I have for life – for being able to use my body and mind and for being free. I’m also a holiday baby. I won’t tell you the exact date but it is within days of a big holiday – thus, the thought of life in December is personal.
I was in a dreadful accident approximately 18 months ago that involved me and a deer accidentally colliding on a beautiful rural road. As the New Year approaches and I reflect on the past year and a half I'm filled with gratitude for my health, family, friends, job, recovery and so much more. I will tell you just a bit of the story. I don’t remember any part of the accident so this story is pieced together by friends and strangers who told me what happened. I was riding with many of you on a five day bike tour in Virginia. It was the last day of the tour and I was bicycling down a long decent at about 30 mph. The road was narrow and a truck was traveling toward me. I was riding a few feet from the right side of the road where a ditch ran along side the road. Unexpectedly, a large doe jumped out from the ditch directly in front of me as the truck coming toward me was about to pass me. I'm very sad to know that I immediately hit the deer and broke its spine. The deer died from this injury. I was thrown to the other side of the road. I barely missed the truck and landed in the other lane on my face - I had serious head, neck, facial and other traumas. No one had done anything wrong - just an "accident" - bad timing with the deer.
When a fellow Baltimore Bike Club member, who luckily is a seasoned nurse practitioner, arrived a minute later, I was face down and covered in blood. I've heard from many people that she helped me in many ways – she was loving, smart and compassionate. She lied down on the road next to me and put her arm around me and told me I would be just fine. She stayed with me until I was in the ambulance. It was later, in the hospital, that I was diagnosed with two neck fractures. Luckily, no one moved me. As I was coming out of the semi-conscious state, the doctor's were stitching my lip back to its normal location on my face. The helmet I purchased the day before the bike tour saved my life. The straps were tight and it fit like a comfortable glove. Thankfully, the folks at my local bike shop assisted me as I sought a helmet that fit correctly.
When I was 14 years old my parents introduced me to bike club riding. They must have bribed me to get me to participate in the bike club experience as a teenager. But soon after the experience, I began to love biking. I felt free on a bike. For 30 years I've continued to love the bike.
While I'm on my bike I experience many things - really experience things like: wonder, freedom, the sky, changing of the seasons, my body, my breathing, laughter, pain, myself observing myself, concentration, the ground/dirt, smells, land, space, lack of energy, intense energy, deep feelings, hunger, my heart, my legs, sounds, quiet, wind....the terrain, sweating profusely, being freezing cold, being perfectly at ease, seeing disturbing things up close like dead animals smeared all over the pavement, seeing incredible wildlife – deer, fox, eagles, hawks, herons, frogs, bear, turtles, groundhogs… deepening relationships, time with friends, new friends, adventures, challenges, joy, easy gentle spinning, lungs bursting, love of life and the earth, beautiful landscapes, sunsets, trees, fields of wheat, woods, farms, communities, new places, family, gratitude for my dog, knowing what it is like to be chased by many dogs…. and so much more. And, I still have amazement that this object (the bike) is something I have the pleasure to enjoy – unlike so many others – I have the pleasure and freedom to enjoy it. A bike - a means of transportation; a racing machine; a piece of joy; a way to experience the world. I imagine that I will always be hooked.
So why this personal story? There have been many bicycling crashes and fatalities this year with automobiles and I hope that you will be grateful for your life, for your right to bike and that you will take an interest in increasing bicycle safety. The terrible and tragic crashes and fatalities are typically preventable. They are "crashes" -- NOT "accidents" or unusual coincidences like my experience above. Crashes are very different from accidents. Crashes involve a collision that could have been avoided. Dangerous activities, like distracted driving, are often avoided if the consequences of a certain action, i.e. intoxicated driving, are significant. If drunk driving laws didn't exist, there would be many more tragic road fatalities.
YOU can make a difference in decreasing crashes and fatalities. Crashes and fatalities are heart wrenching tragedies often consisting of a car hitting a bicyclist from behind; causing the injury or death of a father, husband, daughter, sister etc. while the person is bicycling with a friend, or to a job, or exercising, or relaxing on a lovely day. Any one of us could be a crash and fatality statistic. I never thought I would have the story above as part of my history.
Delegate Jon Cardin (in suit), Tammy Bensky (in black - widow of 2010 fatality victim Lawrence Bensky), Carol Silldorff (to Tammy's immediate right), 75+ bicyclists ride to Annapolis to support pro-bike safety legislation.
Many of you knew someone this year that lost their life or was seriously injured while bicycling due to an automobile crash by a reckless driver. Horrifically, and unlike my experience, most of these bicyclists didn't have a friend who got on the ground with them and told them they would be ok. Some were left as hit and run victims. The New Year is around the corner. Will you, as a bicyclist, friend or family member of a bicyclist, commit to these three tasks?
- Support Bike Maryland - click here to support Bike Maryland - we are your bicycle advocates. Right now your support is being matched dollar for dollar.
- Five minutes of your time is needed to perform this task that can decrease your (or your friends or loved ones) chances of injury or death. You do not need any sort of expertise to do this simple act that can save lives. Bike Maryland will, in the next few weeks, publish a list on the Bike Maryland website of pro-bike bills to support. These are bills that over time will make Maryland a safer place to bike. When this list is published, call your State Senator and/or Delegate. These people need to hear from you! You do not need to discuss the bill in depth. You will make a difference by saying , “Hello, my name is abc and I live in your district. It is very important to me, as one of your constituents, that you support xyz bill.”
- Send this newsletter to everyone you know - spread the word about Bike Maryland.
Thank you - Happy New Year - I wish you peace, love, freedom and safety - Carol Silldorff.