In the fall of 2014 I was doing an exercise ride. I was pushing myself and getting my speed up. As I rounded a curve I took note of a man working on a roof. When I shifted my focus back to the road I was right on top of a parked SUV. I swerved and fell. I had a few cuts. The bike threw its chain and the front derailleur was bent. It could have been much worse.
I ride a bike for exercise, to run small chores and I bike commute to work fairly frequently – probably 100 days in most years. Often as not I shuffle these together. I ride a couple of thousand miles in a year. In terms of exercise, I’m definitely not a competitive rider, but I thoroughly enjoy a nice 15-20 mile ride to burn off some calories. Works out perfrectly that I can integrate this with errands sometimes as well as my 16 mile round trip to work.
On January 5, 2015 I was on ride that was a combination of exercise and running supplies to work. There had been a little cold snap and a few days before with a couple of inches of snow, but this was long gone. As it happens there was a fairly major intersection close to work with a railroad track cutting diagonally across it. I swing wide through intersections where possible to stay as far away from the traffic moving in my direction as possible. This course took me along the track for just a few feet. I was 100% focused. And I was also on the ground before I knew it. There was a little ice on the rails and the tires had no grip. No damage to the bike, but my helmet was crushed when I went down along the edge of a road with dozens of cars lined up to my right. Eventually it turned out I’d tweaked my shoulder and it was sore for a while (this is what a novelist calls foreshadowing). It could have been much worse.
In the summer of 2015. I was riding in New Smyrna Beach. FL near the Atlantic Ocean. It was the start of vacation and I’d noticed a slow leak in one of my tires so I was looking for a bike shop that I’d spotted on the way in. it was looking like rain, but I thought I could get to the shop and back, and after a day of driving I was ready to get out. A few minutes down the road it didn’t start raining. It started a torrential downpour. I went on for a while and decided to turn back with water that was running a couple of inches up my tires at street level and awful visibility. On the plus side, there weren’t may cars crazy enough to be out. I considered pulling off and waiting it out, but I kept not seeing a place I liked. So I stayed with sidelwalks as much as possible and stayed focus. Unfortunately, New Smyrna sometimes lines up the access ramps on sidewalks for the disabled in different places. I was using the access ramps to cross streets block along the sidewalk. I was paying complete attention, but I didn’t see I heading into curb until I hit it and went down. I was pretty badly scraped up and lost the chain guard on the bike. It could have been much worse.
November 27, 2016 was the kicker. I was again doing an exercise ride. I was under a mile away from home and I was beginning to pick up speed. For much of this route I would be on Huguenot road, the same road where I smashed my helmet and tweaked my shoulder 21 months earlier. The shoulder had been recently diagnosed as a 60% rotator cuff tear and I was getting in one of my last rides before surgery scheduled for three days later. I was on Huguenot Road and it has a bike lane, but people every now and then confuse this for a good place to leave their garbage and there was a big garbage can in front of me. I use a mirror to see check traffic to my rear, and I did what I always do when I come up to this type of obstacle. I checked and found there were no cars coming and I swerved out into Huguenot, watched the traffic and intent on cutting back to the bike lane as quickly as I could. Unfortunately, there was a smaller can right behind the big one I’d dodged. When I saw it I had a small fraction of a second to try to dodge it and almost certain dump down in the middle of Huguenot or go through it and 100% go down. I went through it.
I don’t remember the impact, but when I got up I had some impressive abrasions and a hump on my left shoulder. Bike was fine. I really hurt and cound tell shock was keeping me from feeling worse. I got myself back home and my wife took me to the emergency room. They patched up the abrasions and told me I had a severly fractured collar bone that required surgery and a 4-month rehab. After that’s done I can look forward to rotator cuff surgery and another 4-month rehab. It could have been much worse.
It could have been my neck.
I can be a bit dense, and I suspect I’m not the only bicyclist that could make that statement, but it’s pretty clear to me that if I keep this up, one day it will be worse. Looking back I can see that I haven’t actually had the same accident for the same small reason twice. I’m learning little lessons. But I’ve been missing a really big one and that’s that safety needs to come first and come from planning for problems rather than learning from them.
So I’m writing this to keep from breaking my own neck. I’m hoping along the way I can help some others as well. I looked around and saw plenty of booksand websites covering bike safety, but the bulk of it focuses on children’s bike safety. This is good stuff, and there’s certainly useful advice out there. That said, I think that there’s a place for putting some thought into bike safety from an adult perspective. Thinking about the problems an adult rider is likely to run into on a decent length exercise or communte ride.
That’s what I intend to do here. Think through the safety hazards I have and will bump into and hopefully solve them in advance. The idea is to figure out how to address these if I’m making safety #1 while still having fun, taking care of business and getting a good workout in.
I’ll add that I’m hoping to get lots of input. You should have picked this up from the first few paragraphs, but I’m nobody’s expert here! I’m just a guy trying to work through problems. I’d love it if you’d help me cheat.