Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Batavus Takes a Licking!

So here's how it all went down: I was minding my own business, riding my bicycle up Cambridge Street around 7:30 this morning. About two blocks from Harvard Yard, I was approaching a side street where an oncoming car was preparing to turn left. I slowed down a bit to make sure the driver would wait to let me pass and then proceeded to pedal onward. Except it turns out, the driver decided not to wait after all. There was a split second where I could see it happening and was thinking, "Wait, this is no good!" and I thought I might just be able to clear the car; but it ended up clipping my rear wheel and knocking us both over. I fell back, mostly on my elbows, comme ca:
Really, they look worse than they feel (but they do make me look kind of badass, no?). Anyway, a few people on the sidewalk rushed over to help me with my bike and scattered shoes and things, and the cops directing construction traffic a block away came right over. They even called an ambulance, which while really unnecessary, was also the first time I've ever seen the inside of an emergency vehicle. The girl driving the car, who was maybe a little bit younger than I am, was beside herself. I know I would be too. Hitting a cyclist while driving is one of my worst nightmares, and I can completely understand how she felt. She said the sun was in her eyes, and all it takes is that one second when you're not quite paying attention.

My main concern from the first moment was for the Fryslan! The brand new, purchased-on-Friday, gorgeous Fryslan. I was terrified.

I am pleased to report, however, that everything you've heard about the sturdiness and strength of these Dutch city bikes is true. The only damage was cosmetic, and really, her paint was barely scratched. Some faint-to-medium scuffs along the left side, scraped rubber on the left handlebar grip (which I was hoping to replace anyway), and the right skirt guard came loose and lost one of its clips. It's now secured with a zip tie, which is pretty unobtrusive:

The main two areas that got slightly bent out of shape were the two stays (?) holding the rear rack on the left side and also the rear fender.
In this one, you can kind of see also where the stay (or whatever) on the left side bends inward toward the bottom compared to the one on the right.

I took her back to Quad Bikes for a checkup, and they confirmed that nothing was structurally wrong. The guys were impressed with the Frys's sturdy steel construction and said the frame performed as well as it could have in a collision with a car. Someone also mentioned that since the bike was brand new, it may be possible to get replacement costs from the driver's insurance company, which would be pretty nice. The thing is, the cosmetic damages don't really bother me-- I think they add to Frida's (I'm calling her Frida, because I think it sounds strong) character and are a sign of her resilience. But, they're things that aren't really fixable/if I wanted the bike back to pre-accident condition, I would more or less have to buy a new bike. In any case, I took photos of all the scratches and scrapes (on the bicycle and on myself), and we'll see how it turns out.

Incidentally, I wasn't wearing my helmet. I always wear it at night, because I put big reflective stripes on it, or in the cold or rain; but otherwise, I really prefer to go without. Part of the joy of riding my bicycle is the feeling of freedom it gives you, with the wind blowing in your hair and the sun shining on your face. But everyone I've spoken to today is adamant that I wear the helmet all the time now, and it seems hard to argue.... Sigh.

After lunch, Frida and I took a well deserved rest in the shade of the Radliffe Quad. This was kind of a bonding experience for us, but a somewhat tiring one.

Thanks go out to the passersby on Cambridge Street, Officers Mahoney and Douglas, Brian the EMT, and Dave + other guy whose name I didn't get at Quad Bikes, who never seem to want to charge me for their services (I always go for the tip jar though).


Velouria said...

So glad to hear that you are okay.

If the bicycle is structurally fine, than there is nothing to worry about. Think of the "silver lining": It has now been initiated into Life and you will no longer be afraid of scraping a brand new shiny bike.

Out of curiosity, did you have your lights on? In the early morning and pre-twilight evening when the "sun in the eyes" thing happens, having your lights on is a good idea even though it's sunny out, as it can make the sun-blinded driver notice you.

As for helmets... I would urge you not to let this incident inform your decisions in that regard. I am not going to go there beyond that, but just wanted to offer my point of view.

Ride safe and enjoy Frida. You're old war buddies now!

Dottie said...

Your calm and even humorous approach to this situation is quite inspiring. Even empathy for the driver who struck you. I should take lessons from you, as my red-eyed rage monster seems to take over a lot regarding stuff like this.

So glad to hear that you and the Bat are doing well, and that the police and bystanders were helpful and reacted appropriately.

margonaute said...

Can I first just say how flattered I am to have my two favorite bicycle bloggers in the comments?

V: I'd never heard of using lights for that, but I will certainly keep it in mind now!! And I don't think I would replace Frida with a new model even if given the opportunity. Her slight imperfections make her more uniquely mine. I've always liked battle scars like that-- like a cat with notches missing from his ear! Scrappy!

D: The poor girl was just shaking and crying the whole time, and she was obviously horrified. Meanwhile, I was able to continue on the gym (my original destination) after we wrapped everything up. I was actually hit as a pedestrian in almost the exact same situation a few years ago. In that case, I was so shocked by what had happened that I didn't even get the woman's information; and she seemed entirely unrepentant----- for knocking a person down on the street with her car!! Now that's something to get steamed about. Anyway, I imagine that my previous experience was part of what helped me handle this accident so well. :-)

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you came out alright, and that the person actually cared they hit you. Not that I want people to be in agony over a minor injury, but it's just nice when someone is honestly concerned, because being hit by a car, even if you don't suffer any major physical injuries, is psychologically disturbing.

The only thing I'd really be worried about getting fixed on that is the rear rack, since being bent, it probably won't hold as much weight. The rest does add character in a sense :) You've gotten, in 10 minutes, to where most bikes are after several years being ridden and banged against bike racks and falling over.

I'd echo Velouria in urging you not to let this incident make you put a helmet on all the time. After all, you sustained no injuries anywhere close to your head, right? Wearing a helmet in this situation would have made no difference whatsoever. Don't lose that sense of freedom you have on a bike, it's important.

The fryslan is beautiful, I hope you have many years of joy together :)

Herzog said...

Sorry to read about your accident. I too would encourage you not to change your helmet habits.

Do you have a loud enough bell? I like to give mine a little ring in ambiguous situations like this -- it works pretty well around this time of year, since many drivers have open windows.

Herzog said...

Oh and echoing portlandize, your bicycle is hott.

cycler said...

Oh man!
Sorry to hear about your crash- am glad to hear that you're OK!
Did you get a police report? I'm guessing that if they called an ambulance, they would have done a crash report, although if they had their "rent a cop" hats on, they might not have.
A crash report is important if you want to get damages from the insurance, otherwise it's she said-she said, and motorists have the tendency to change their stories when they're not having to look you in the eye (or look at your bleeding elbow). I'll second Portlandize about getting the rack replaced if you can get them to pony up- it's surprisingly tough to find durable replacement racks for dutch bikes- they're mostly made by Azor, a company with no retail presence here.

I'll politely disagree with the folks above, but this kind of low speed urban crash is exactly why I wear a helmet when riding crowded city streets. Saw a guy hit an icy pothole last winter and go down sideways- his helmet literally bounced off the ground. It's totally up to you of course, and I wouldn't encourage anyone not to cycle if they just couldn't bear the idea of a helmet. I just make my living with my brain and would hate to have it damaged in a stupid little fender-(literally) bender. I think my helmet is cute, and it fits well, and I literally forget I'm wearing it all the time.

Even better than a bell is a heartfelt "OY!" or "Hey" I had a noisy enough bell that cars could hear it, but it ended up scaring the bejeezus out of pedestrians. A good bellow gets a driver's attention and helps vent any pent up aggression you might be harboring.

PS- I love the name Frieda. It calls to mind Norse Goddesses and magical realism, and to a lesser extent unibrows :)

margonaute said...

Thanks for all the concerns! As sprightly as I felt yesterday, it was a slightly different story today, with aches and stiffness all over, especially in the neck. I did go in to get that checked on this afternoon, since one of my co-workers panicked when I mentioned neck pain, but it's nothing serious. Just uncomfortable, like the day after a night on a bad pillow (that weighs two tons and knocks you down on the pavement! :-) No, not that bad really).

C + H: I don't know if my bell would've been loud enough; there was no time to use it. I actually remember thinking, as I went from "hey, thanks for letting me by" to "holy what, you're going now??" that I wanted to ring my bell to get her attention. But before the thought could be translated into action, I was already falling over. It was so quick, I didn't even have a chance to yell. Maybe I'll start waving to every car I pass in this kind of scenario, so that way I'll either get their attention and/or just seem really friendly!

Anonymous said...

If nothing else, you'll get a lot of drivers wondering what you're up to (but at least they'll know you're there) :)

Sox said...

I am very glad you are ok.
As I survivor of a bike crash, I am asking you to look after that neck stiffness. If you can afford physiotherapy, go. I am still dealing with cervical spine crankiness nine years later.

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