Bike Crash

After my awesome first day off yesterday, today I managed to injure myself. I fell off my bike after some enthusiastic braking and bloodied both my knees.

I was riding my bike into town to meet a friend for coffee[1]. As I made my way along the street I saw a couple of pedestrians who looked as though they were probably going to cross the road.

An Interlude About Being a Cyclist

I try to be an aware cyclist[2], constantly watching for things that might turn into a hazard. If I pay close attention to what is going on around me I can preempt potentially dangerous situations and react by slowing down, ringing my bell, or what ever is right for that moment.

The reason the pedestrians in this particular story caught my attention in the first place is that I’ve come across some problems with this exact situation before. If you’ll allow me explain my observations:

When a pedestrian is about to cross the road, they often step out onto the road without so much as a glance until they’re already on the road. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I think it’s because they’re expecting to be able to hear anything that is coming (i.e. a car). They’re absentmindedly relying on their ears to alert them to something on the road. Unfortunately, a push bike is all but silent on the road, so the pedestrian either has to see it or hear the bell of a diligent cyclist. If the cyclist isn’t paying attention, all of a sudden there is a pedestrian in the middle of the road even though the cyclist has right of way. As you know, you don’t want to get in the way of a cyclist with right of way!

As I hope you’ve picked up, I’m not getting on my high horse about this. As a pedestrian, I do it too. In fact, I was only able to figure out that this was what happening after I did it to some poor unsuspecting cyclist. People are just walking around minding their own business and don’t realise they’re doing it.

The fact is, we all share the roads and it’s everyone’s responsibility to pay attention even if you have right of way.

Back to the Story

Because I’m in the know about this ‘invasion of my right of way’[3] happens, I was wary of these pedestrians and expected them to step out wantonly onto the road at any moment. Much to my surprise, they looked directly at me well before stepping out onto the road. So, assuming that looking at me meant that they’d seen me and processed the information accordingly, I thought the hazard had passed and shifted my mind elsewhere.

Unfortunately for me, assumptions are dangerous. All of sudden they stepped out onto the road and caught me unprepared. I think they saw me but didn’t realise how fast I was going and figured they would be able to get across the road safely. In any case, because they took me by surprise I slammed the brakes on, lost control of the bike, and hit the road hard knees first[4]. It was an overreaction made worse by the fact that I was holding something in one hand[5] so probably hit my front brakes much harder than the back.

As I picked myself up off the road, the two pedestrians came rushing over to help me. They apologised profusely. In my shocked state I told them I was okay and that they’d caught me by surprise. I admitted to them that it was my overreaction to the situation that had caused the accident. They offered to help me, but sensing that the injuries weren’t that bad I simply sat in the gutter and caught my breath.

To these two unsuspecting pedestrians the whole thing must have been comical. They’re just walking along minding their own business when suddenly a cyclist yells out, slams on the brakes and ungracefully hits the road about 10 metres away for no apparent reason. I’m sure I caught them by surprise too. Hopefully they got a laugh out of it afterwards, I know I did.

As it turns out, I was wrong about the injuries. One knee in particular is pretty bad and needs ice, elevation, and rest. So I’m using the down time to do a guilt free catch up session on my Swift development videos. Oh, and even though the fall drew blood, I somehow managed to avoid putting a hole in my favourite pants.

There’s always an upside!

  1. the coffee was lovely by the way. You really should go to The Cupping Room.  ↩

  2. And road user in general. I do the same sorts of assessments on the fly as I drive in a car.  ↩

  3. Otherwise known as “Attack of the Silent Cyclists”. It’s a perspective thing.  ↩

  4. Because as any great stacker will tell you - “always fall with your knees first”.  ↩

  5. This is Canberra - I had to take a jumper with me! The stupid thing is, as I first started this ride I thought to myself “it could be dangerous to ride with something in my hands” but shrugged it off. As it turned out, to my peril!  ↩