“I have here an accident policy that will absolutely protect you no matter what happens. If you lose a leg, we’ll help you look for it.”
– Groucho Marx
I have been hit by a car exactly once. It was about as mild as being hit by a car can be, if I’m honest, but if you unexpectedly hit something with your vehicle, as gentle of a tap as it may have been, you have hit it.
I was on a bike path that had to cross over streets and that allows me the right-of-way, as incoming cars have a stop sign. As I approached the intersection, I saw the white Toyota come to its mandatory stop, but something inside me caused me to think that that was about all the caution I should expect from them.
When biking, you really have two choices in moments like this: be ultra conservative or ultra aggressive. My two choices were to come to a stop, assuming the driver would just go without giving me the right-of-way, or to push even harder and blow through the intersection as fast as possible, preceding any potential moment of stupidity from Toyota Driver. What you absolutely cannot do is middle ground it, tap the brakes, and coast through the intersection. However, I was much closer to that option than the aggressive option.
I’ve been almost t-boned–more like t-crushed, if you’re on a bike–a dozen or more times from people either turning right into you or people turning from incoming streets. I have almost hit people walking because they run right in front of you without looking. An 8 or 9-year-old almost got destroyed once for doing just that, running to grab his basketball that had bounced into the street. I found out that day that my brakes work really well thankfully.
As I went through the intersection, I remember distinctly thinking “they’re going to go.” I tried to slow down and they proceeded anyway, just as I had predicted, and ran into me. I had been directly in front of their car; a more square positioning wouldn’t have been impossible.
I was able to maintain my balance–again, quite a mild hit all things considered–but the sheer adrenaline rush from the hit caused my legs to start shaking uncontrollably as I moved over towards the side of the car, walking my bike with my feet before dismounting and addressing the older woman at the car window.
The lady was about as nice as anyone who hits you can be. For starters, she had not driven off (a very common ingredient in many car/bike accidents). She immediately got out of the car to assess the damage to the car, which was non-existent, and I noted my wheels looked out of alignment. Luckily, the only physical damage to me was a bruised inner thigh. To the woman, I kept repeating that I was fine but given that she lived like 600 feet away, she insisted that I come to her house to get things in order. I coasted my way over to her driveway while she went in and wrote down her contact information.
I was texting my wife, telling her what happened during all of this and she, in the checkout line of a grocery store quite a ways away, started formulating the fastest route to me. The woman who hit me had also offered to give me a ride home. The ride I was on was 50 miles and I still had over half the ride to go, so to me, both options of waiting an hour for my wife to get there while I wait in this strange woman’s driveway and then load the bike on and travel home or awkwardly ride with this woman in the very car she had hit me with for an hour were not ideal. Instead, I got the information I needed, saddled up, and headed out for home. The distorted wheel alignment wasn’t too bad and I made it home without incident. The woman, who again seemed genuinely concerned about my well-being, requested I text her when I made it home, which I did.
Bringing the bike into my favorite shop in Kent, OH, resolved the wheel alignment issue, but they were worried about a bent frame, which is something they cannot fix. I took the bike to a specialized shop in Cleveland and he did notice some bending to the frame, but it was so slight that he could not honestly say if it was caused by the collision. I was not going to charge her for any damages that could not be definitively attributed to her so I sent the woman a text denoting the charges for the wheel alignment and an image of the receipt from the repair shop. She agreed to pay the $50-ish to cover the cost of repair. She did not complain or put up any sort of fuss about the charges, which was quite nice.
I recall back in the day when D was working at a hospital in Fredonia and we were planning on riding back home to Falconer together when he got out of work. I instead received a call saying that I had to pick him up in my car because an ambulance had backed into his bike. The damage was extensive and he needed a new back rim, among other things. If memory serves, the bill was about $150 and the driver of the ambulance said he would only pay $100. So, D is left footing the rest of the bill or arguing with the dude and probably losing. So, to have this woman not make a huge fuss about the amount being charged was very nice.
After agreeing on the cost of the repairs, we set up a time for me to meet her at a police station near her home where we could sign a document saying that I could not charge her for any future bike related or medical related items, and she gave me the money to cover the cost of damages to the bike. As I said in the beginning, this incident went about as well as having a two-ton machine smash into your exposed leg can go.
If I remember one thing from the whole incident outside of trust no driver ever, it’s what she said to me almost immediately after hitting me. She said, “I have never hit anyone before,” to which I quickly responded, “Yeah, I wouldn’t make a habit of it.”