Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Accidents Will Happen

"But only hit n' run..." - Elvis Costello

"If you ride a bike a lot, you're eventually going to get into one." - Me

My first memory of crashing a bike, appropriately enough, involves me learning how to ride. Though the details are fuzzy, I believe it involved an abandoned parking lot, a black n' gold BMX knock off, my dad, and the removal of training wheels. I'm guessing I was 7 or 8. I remember my dad pushing the seat, me being scared, and the crude pavement full of broken glass and bits of gravel.

My teen years don't have much to report on this matter as I rarely got on a bike. This might have had something to do with the fact that my small East Los Angeles neighborhood was flanked on all sides by steep foothills, large 40-50 mph streets with no bike lanes, trash strewn sidewalks, and general urban nastiness. There was, and is, basically nowhere you could ride or walk to (save the corner liquor stores) without taking considerable risk.

Flash forward to my '20s and things get more interesting. There was that time around Halloween where after consuming mucho cervezas, I joined a group ride, only to be shown the pavement by a rail road track. Did I mention I was wearing a sombrero and poncho at the time? The next day I had a few minor bruises though at the time of the fall, I didn't feel a thing.

Then there's last year's Benotto incident. It was a lovely morning ride over a wooden bridge adjacent to railroad tracks. The air was crisp and the space between two well worn planks towards the end of the bridge just the perfect size for my front wheel to get wedged into. I had gone on the bridge fully aware of this minor obstacle, confident that while my road wheels weren't fat like a cruiser or mountain bike, I'd be able avoid it. Big mistake.

The notch only caught the wheel for a second but that was enough. I lost control of the handle bars and landed on my side gasping for air. I remember being thankful that I hadn't been riding faster as the velocity might have flung me over the railing and into the water 30 feet below. Needless to say, after a few minutes of chilling on the ground, I got back up, called my supe to tell her I'd be a little late, and kept riding. Flesh wound score 3; scarred pride 8.

(There's also a time about 2 years ago while riding "bro" style with a friend in the woods where I received a big welt and a mouth full of dirt while attempting to jump over a log. I wouldn't call that one accidental though, I'd call it stupidity).

But where would this list be without including any encounters with cars? I'm happy to say, I've only hit/been hit twice. Neither story is very interesting but for the record: The first time was due to me merging into the left lane and bonking the rear bumper of a compact that had slowed down while I was looking back. The driver stopped to ask if I was okay, which I was, I asked her the same, and she said yes.

The second time I was slowly walking/riding on the sidewalk (yes, I know we're not suppose to do this) when a car slowly peaked out of a driveway. I thought the driver saw me, she didn't. Luckily, we were both going super slow and she immediately stopped once she realized she was pushing me into the street. She was apologetic as was I, most importantly, the bike wasn't damaged.

There are of course, much more extreme interactions I've bared witness to - The time a redneck in a monster truck gunned the engines over a friend's mountain bike during a Critical Mass; the kid who, during my freshmen year, had to have surgery on his face after an especially bad accident going downhill. Still, if you ask the average bicyclist to recount his/her crash stories, you're more than likely going to get a list of wistful and amusing tales - The question is though, can the same thing be said about cars?

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