Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Backing the truck up

Thanks again for all the well wishes and messages of concern after my "run in" with a car two weeks ago. Several of you asked for more details on what happened . . . I write a column for my local newspaper and had to wait for my article on the incident to be published before sharing here. So, without further adieu . . .

Cyclists facing danger on road

By, Times Fitness Writer

I'd spent the morning repeatedly checking, scrutinizing the hourly forecast and radar maps in search of the best window of time for a bike ride. Finally, seeing my chance, I quickly set off for what was to be a two-hour ride. Instead, just 15 minutes later, I was hit by a car.

As I was making my way along the road, an SUV up ahead attempted a U-turn and was brought up short by oncoming traffic. Idling at an angle and blocking the road, it suddenly reversed direction and backed into me as I was riding by on the shoulder.

When I saw the reverse lights illuminate, I shouted and tried to swerve right to avoid being hit, but the SUV kept coming back and collided with my left leg, sending me and my bike skittering across the shoulder and into a nearby yard where I landed in a heap beside my bike.

My left calf seized immediately, the gastrocnemius turning to stone. As I sat massaging my lower leg, I began to take stock of the situation: Am I hurt anywhere else? (Yes, my left knee.) Is my bike damaged? (Not that I can tell.)

As the driver rounded the back of his vehicle, looking more irritated than concerned, he loudly began defending himself and became angry when I asked for his insurance information. While the driver was retrieving his documents from the vehicle, the passenger finally spoke up, asking if I was

OK. I replied honestly that I wasn't sure.

I found it ironic that the driver had not once apologized or asked if I was OK and I said as much when he returned, which totally set the guy off. He began cursing and swearing, and generally behaving aggressively. Clearly this person was irrational and possibly dangerous. If I ever hit someone with my car, I'd be apologizing and bending over backward to make sure that person was OK. The passenger, who was the only other witness, refused to give me his name. By then, I just wanted them to leave and hoped I'd be able to shake it off and continue with my ride, despite the rain that had started to fall.

When I finished copying the insurance information, the driver got in his car and sped away. With my body still quaking with shock, anger and pain, I readjusted the bent rear brakes, clipped into my pedals and realized with the first stroke that I wouldn't be continuing my ride; my left knee could not bear the pressure, so I slowly made my way home, coasting as much as possible and using only my right foot to pedal.

Ultimately, I filed a report with the police and the insurance company. My knee was swollen and lacking some range of motion, but thankfully the injury does not seem to be serious. In retrospect, the driver's aggressive behavior was just as scary as being hit by a car so, be careful out there: cyclists can easily be victims of road rage and we don't stand a chance against the SUV's of the world.

That was the newspaper version of the story. To add a little more color to the incident, let me tell you a bit more about my "conversation" with Mr. SUV driver:

My first thought after being walloped like a ping pong ball was, "I can't believe I was jut hit by a car!" Total disbelief. My instinct to "survey the scene" (a term familiar to anyone who's ever taken CPR or Live Saving courses) took over and I began to assess the situation. My second thought was, "What was that guy doing?" This is the question that popped out of my mouth when the driver rounded the vehicle, arms in the air, shouting, "I looked. I didn't see you!"

"Well, I was there," was my insightful comeback. "I was shouting. Didn't you hear me?"

"I didn't hear you. You should have shouted louder."


As my calf muscle softened, I struggled to my feet and shakily tried to collect my bike and water bottles from the ground. My left leg buckled, my knee swelling. Other than bent rear brakes and some scratches, my bike appeared, surprisingly, unharmed. But I was concerned about my knee and my mind was racing, trying to figure out what to do as the driver and his passenger just stood there looking at me.

"I'm going to need some information," I said to the driver, "Insurance."

"Oh, you're gonna give me some information too!" he shouted and stalked off to his car. He returned with registration and insurance documents.

"I'll need a pen and something to write on," I said.

"Damn," he muttered, shaking his head and returning to his car. This is when the passenger finally spoke up and said, "Are you okay?"

"Honestly, I'm not sure. My knee hurts." It was then that I realized that the driver had not once apologized or inquired as to my well-being. Anger and annoyance momentarily replaced shock and pain. The passenger went on to add that he'd seen me when they passed but didn't think I would have "gotten there so quickly." (The passenger later told the insurance company that he heard someone yelling as the driver was backing up and he told the driver. The driver continued to reverse without stopping again to look or double check.)

When the driver returned with an envelope and a pen I said, nodding toward the passenger, "At least this guy had the decency to ask if I was okay."

Mistake. Totally set the guy off.

"Aw, hell! I asked if you were okay."

"No, you didn't."

"You're gonna stand here and call me a damn liar?" He shouted. I just looked at him. "Well f*@k that!" he said walking toward me, flinging his arms around. I put my hand up in warning and said, "Stop. Just stop right now. I don't want you to say another word."

At that, the driver leaned toward me and said menacingly, "Don't you put your hand up at me."

I looked over at the passenger and asked for his name, reasoning that he was the only witness to what had happened and how the driver was behaving. The passenger refused to give me his name. "I don't want to get involved," he said. Hmm. I decided not to point out the obvious: As the passenger of a vehicle that struck a cyclist, he was already involved. Instead, I held out the pen to the driver, who grabbed it back, got in his SUV, and sped away. I was left standing in the rain, hurting, angry, shaken and shocked.

Silly me, I thought I might actually shake it off, that my knee would loosen up when I started pedaling and I could continue my ride. Not happening. So, I lamely made my way home, called my husband (voice mail) called my mom (burst into tears) called the police (almost started crying again--and I'm not a crier!) and made a report. Cops came to my house. I had to ID the driver on a screen in the squad car and answer some questions. I was told the driver would not be cited; presumably since the police were called after the fact and not to the scene. I'm sure the sight of two police cars in my driveway had some neighborhood tongues wagging.

My husband rushed right home and took care of fielding other calls and making an insurance report while I soaked in a hot bath, trying to put the incident behind me.

In follow up, my knee was sore and swollen for a few days. Stairs were difficult. Walking was slow-going. Range of motion was about 50%. But I was leaving the next day for a girls weekend. The SUV driver had already taken away my ride and the better part of my day, I was not going to also give him my whole evening while I sat at urgent care or endured x-rays. I believe in holistic treatment and the body's ability to heal itself. If my knee had taken a turn for the worse, I would have sought medical care. But, with rest, ice and ibuprofen, my body did indeed begin the process of healing.

When I finally connected with the driver's insurance company to confirm that I did not have medical bills to claim and would not be suing, I asked that my personal info not be given to the driver. The insurance agent, a local woman, said, "After talking with the insured on the phone, I can understand why you'd say that."

Apparently when the insurance company contacted the driver to get his statement and let him know that he was, in fact, at fault, the driver became argumentative, combatative and defensive with the agent to the point that she ended the call and asked her husband to accompany her when she went to take the required photos of his vehicle.

Fine specimen, eh?

So that's the whole story. Be safe out there everyone. As my mother in law always says, "watch out for the nutsies."

No comments:

Post a Comment