Watching The ChainLink Crowd Analyze A Bicycle vs. Bicycle Accident

Summary

A pretty nasty accident occurred a few days ago when a ChainLink denizen hit the pavement on the Chicago Lakefront Trail:

How did I fall, was it avoidable, and are there any lessons to learn?

Posted by Serge Lubomudrov on October 18, 2012

Serge Lubomudrov’s Hand
© Serge Lubomudrov

First of all, thank all of you for your good wishes. I’m getting better, nothing is broken (that’s good news), but I will not be able to ride for some days, not sure for how long (bad news), as I can’t do it one-handed.

It happened around 5:45 p.m. last Friday, on my way from work. I just cleared the narrow part of the LFT next to Ohio Street beach…

there was almost no one there, except for couple of people on bikes, heading south, may be two or three hundred feet ahead. I just started to speed up, when one of them, a girls about 11 or 12, turned right in front of me.

The last thing I remember before hitting the concrete, is the sparkling fragments of my bicycle mirror shattered by that metal basket mounted on b-cycles.

Boom!

I am almost sure I did not hit the brakes—that would have sent me over the handlebars. I landed on my left side: left hand, elbow, knee, left eye, but my bike was on its right side when I peeled myself off the ground. The tip of the right grip was literally shaved off by concrete.

My theory is: I managed to avoid a headlong collision, but the b-cycle kicked my bike from under me, hitting the frame behind me from the left. I’ll never know for certain.

Was it possible to escape the whole thing altogether? I don’t think so. I saw them, mother and daughter on bicycles, riding in opposite direction, didn’t notice anything unusual about them before the daughter swerved right in my path. I was told by people who helped me afterwards that they saw that girl shortly before my accident; she was, apparently, zigzagging all over the place. Had I seen her for a bit longer, I might have given her a wider berth.

So, the first lesson: Beware little girls on bicycles.

Lesson two: I usually carry with me a small medical kit, but that little Neosporin spay thingie is totally not enough. Need a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, iodine, gauze, etc. Just in case.

Three: if you wear glasses, have a spare pare with you. I didn’t.

*****

. . . Anything else?


TakeAways

The ChainLinkers always have a standard (i.e. knee jerk) reaction to accidents:

Reply by James BlackHeron 12 hours ago

Ouch! Those pictures look worse than the ones of your face you posted earlier.
I’d contact one of the cycling lawyers.

Did you get any contact information? Did someone contact the B-cycle people with regards to personal injury and damage caused by someone using their property? I think they do have liability insurance regarding this type of thing.

You should see a doctor if you have not already, that pinkie finger looks like it needs stitches badly and looks to me like a real source of infection if it is not closed up properly. Iodine or no, that hand looks really bad. Those scabs should not be that dark IMHO. Take care of that hand. Infections are nothing to scoff at and it is easy to get your hands infected even if you are trying not to use it.

Of course when you are dealing with a cyclist-vs-cyclist accident things get a bit murky, especially when you have handed the lawyers of the other party a really nice gift by admitting that you really do not know how the accident happened. The zig-zag riding that little kids do is pretty common. Did she collide with you is the real question. Did you pass out without knowing it?

Diabetics are not unfamiliar with the blackout syndrome. It is often the first indication that they have the disease. But before going the litigious route see your doctor. You would really like to know if you have anything wrong inside that would account for your vague recollection of the situation.

Contributing Factors and Increased Ridership

Everyone in the movement is “hell bent” on growing the ridership everywhere at all times. But with increased numbers of riders comes increased accidents. That you can count on.

Some of this will be due to newbies and children who are less capable riders having either little experience “driving” a bicycle or lack the motor skills that they will develop as they age. Either way you can count on collisions occurring at increased rates. In fact the shear numbers of people on foot along with the increased numbers of riders makes for a fairly toxic mix where collisions are concerned.

You only have to be on the Lakefront Trail during any of the Lollapalooza concerts or the numerous walk-a-thons or the Chicago Air Show to know what it feels like to be on a multi-use trail when in future the numbers of riders and pedestrians grows. Now try and imagine how things will look when these same newly minted riders begin commuting to work or riding to school only this time in the buffered bike lanes that the city has on tap.

It will not take long before ChainLinkers who were wildly ecstatic with the advent of buffered lanes begin to dream of the “real” version of segregated bicycle infrastructure that we really need.

But this sort of thing is a very long way off and will further off yet if we elect leaders who are not sympathetic to our goals. Time will tell if Americans really want this sort of expensive infrastructure built. It will take time and most importantly it will take an inviting vision of the future that is largely going to be shaped by the actions of the very activists who will gather every time a death occurs on the streets to harangue motorists about their responsibilities while blowing every stop sign and red light on their way to the gathering.

You really have to choose the future by deciding now what kind of ridership you personally want to display.

This is hardly a popular message on the ChainLink. The cyclist as victim narrative is the one everybody feels most comfortable with. And it is precisely this point which makes the analysis by ChainLinkers of a bicycle-vs-bicycle accident so very interesting. There are no talking points in the cyclist as victim narrative for situations where motorists are not involved. Then the wheels come off and everyone stands around bemoaning your injuries and suggesting that you see a lawyer, for what exactly?

Vehicular Cycling that now discarded strategy for dealing with just about any situation imaginable is not useful anymore because well it is no longer fashionable among the “I want more buffered lanes” crowd. It is ridiculed by the Europeans and the Americans who love anything European as a relic of a long ago debunked American cycling religion. The current crop of cycling activists have problems with understanding the European reaction to Vehicular Cycling because there are very few places indeed where we have anything resembling the kinds of segregated infrastructure that are in Holland. Excepting of course on the Chicago Lakefront Trail.

So ironic as it may seem, this accident happened in the one venue here in Chicago where we are most likely to experience the European style cycling experience (of course that excludes the times when lots of pedestrians are wondering all about). Serge was using the trail at the most wonderful of times, late fall and after 5 PM. The place as he admits was virtually empty.

So how on earth do you find a place in your “cyclist as victim” narrative for that sort of thing. There were no open car doors, no vehicles whizzing by closer than the allowable three feet, no vicious police ticketing folks up ahead for blow stop signs, literally nothing to hand an excuse on. Excepting a little girl who was doing a zigzag, the way kids of all ages do when riding a bicycle. You of course could hardly have predicted that would have been happening, right?

You can look for a few scapegoats to emerge. Had there been Segways on the trail you can bet your bottom dollar they would have been seen as the problem. Segways are not popular among the ChainLink crowd. But my money is on the rental bikes. I will bet a farthing that before long somebody is going to suggest writing your alderman to have rental bikes banned from the trail altogether. There have been discussions to this effect already earlier this year.

If none of these approaches works perhaps someone will decide that banning pedestrians from the trail will help to minimize the confusion that cyclists feel when traveling at speeds topping 15 MPH on training runs up and down the lakefront during the weekends when the place is usually filthy with people.

You can bet that whatever the suggestion it will always leave the poor victim cyclist devoid of responsibility for what befalls them. Maybe the best idea is to allow the occasional motor vehicle on the trail so that at least some guy behind the wheel can be blamed for cycling accidents. We simply need someone to blame. It really is not fun when we are reduced to asking one another how could this have happened when virtually no one was around?

If you can have serious accidents under these conditions, it is time to go back to the drawing board and develop a few additional scenarios for the “cyclist as victim” crowd to mouth when the cameras start rolling. Hey! I want to be a fly on the wall during that meeting.