For the first time in 2.5 years of daily riding in Chicago (that’s at least 10,000 miles) I had a collision with a person today – as opposed to train tracks or ice. Both parties involved are fine, although my knees are a bit banged up.
While riding on the Lakefront Trail after work, I saw a skateboarder ahead of me and I slowed to make sure he was not doing anything squirrely. Once I saw that he was maintaining a straight line to the far right of the path, I moved to the opposite lane to pass. I did not ding my bell as I usually would because I saw that he had headphones on and I felt comfortable that he would maintain his line. Just as I got directly next to him, without warning he turned sharply to the left, crashing into me. I felt like I was tackled from the right, as he and his skateboard pushed me and Betty Foy sideways for a few feet, before I bailed/fell, landed on my knees and caught my upper body with my hands.
As this happened in apparent slow motion, I first thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” and then “Control the fall, control the fall, control the fall.” I think I did a good job of preventing worse injury. I was not in danger of hitting my head – or my teeth! – and two skinned knees isn’t so bad.
The college-aged skateboarder was very sweet afterward. He was perfectly fine and wanted to make sure that I was okay. He apologized over and over again and said that it was all his fault because he did not look before turning. I also apologized to him and said that I should have rang my bell or something before passing. He continued to insist that it was all his fault. Although technically that is correct, I should have been even more cautious before passing, maybe by calling out and making sure he knew someone was behind him, regardless of the fact that he had headphones on. I have a hard time understanding how someone could make a maneuver like that on a crowded multi-use trail without signaling or even looking, but the fact is – this guy did. I need to remember to expect the unexpected. As the least vulnerable user on the trail, I have the most responsibility to watch out for other, more vulnerable users (although it seemed like a pretty fair fight between burly skateboarder guy and me).
My gut reaction to the situation was kinda goofy: I was concerned primarily with reassuring the guy that I was totally fine and getting back on my bike and away from the situation. With the adrenaline pumping, I did not take the time to examine myself or my bike, instead jumping back on and finishing my ride several more miles to my destination before taking stock. I’ve heard from others who have had the same type of instinctual reaction after a collision. Luckily, everything was fine, except my bloodied knees and torn tights. Sadly, no one other than the skateboarder stopped to ask if I was okay, not even the cyclists going by.
On to the positive stuff about my day.
My destination was dinner and drinks with three cycling ladies, Janet, Molly and Samantha, two of whom also ride WorkCycles Omas. Nothing cures the jitters of a collision like steamed mussels, garlic frites and Belgian beer, plus having an understanding group with whom to rehash the events. It was nice not to have to contend with any tsk-tsking about how dangerous cycling is. That’s certainly a huge bonus to having bikey friends.