My First Crash: Lessons Learned

During my first months working at MassBike I was spending time adjusting to my new bike, riding to work and to the idea of being almost car-free. After I moved to Brookline, my commute doubled and, despite the more intimidating route on Beacon Street, I was enjoying the change in weather and the longer ride. Two Sundays ago, I decided to take a bike ride around 5pm.

Then it happened - I was doored.

It happened so fast and I was in such a state of shock my brain shut down. A driver broadsided me with her car door and after I fell, another passing vehicle ran over my foot that was sticking out in the road.

Despite all of this, my first reaction: I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.

[caption id="attachment_19854" align="alignright" width="300"] I made it out with a broken finger; My bike was unscratched![/caption]

What happened next is where my experience working at MassBike should have guided me. I should have called 911 and insisted on getting the names of both drivers and their license plate numbers. I didn't do this. Both drivers made sure I was OK, and the woman who doored me walked me back to my apartment. Despite being somewhat kind to me, she told me she wasn't at fault and would not give me her information. I was in shock, I didn't respond.

A few hours later I was taken to the emergency room by a family member and was told I have a broken finger, and (luckily) a severely bruised foot. Despite the cast on my dominate hand, I had really great luck and will be good as new soon.

I chose to share my story publicly to let everyone learn a lesson from this crash. A lot of what I learned could already be found at our website, Same Roads Same Rules. Most importantly, I don't want to deter anyone from biking; I have every intention of riding everyday again after I am fully recovered.

Riders:

1. No matter your confidence level, always ride defensively. Be aware and alert. Despite the increase in bicycling, many motorists still do not pay attention to cyclists, so we have to be extra careful to ride safely. For safe riding tips, visit our bike skills page.

2. Don't be bullied. Even if there are cars behind you, it is more important to maintain a safe distance from potentially opening car doors than to cave to pressure to ride too far to the right. Remember, your safety is the most important thing of all.

3. If you are injured in a crash, seriously or not, call 911. I experienced the adrenaline rush that can cover serious injuries. Insist on getting the driver's information, just like if you were in a car crash.

4. File a police report within 5 days. Even if you don't get the other party's information, file a police report. These records are crucial to tracking crash data which can lead to improvements in road design or enforcement.

Motorists:

1. Be aware of cyclists not only while driving, but as you are exiting your vehicle. It is completely your responsibility (driver or passenger) to look before you open your door. According to state law, it is illegal to open a car door without looking first, and if you hit a cyclist or pedestrian, you could be fined and are liable for damages.

2. If you are involved in a crash with a bicyclist, and there are injuries (serious or not), call 911. It is a serious offense to walk or drive away from a scene of a crash. If the bicyclist insists that they are “fine”, you need to call anyway, the bicyclist could still be injured.

If I had it to do over again, I would have insisted that the drivers stay at the scene until an ambulance and police arrived. I am lucky to have insurance, and so getting medical care was not a problem - there are some people with high deductibles or who still do not have health insurance. Furthermore, just like in a car crash, if my vehicle (bicycle) had been damaged then the driver's insurance would have had to pay for repairs.

Unfortunately, we aren't yet in a place where drivers take bicyclists seriously and want to blame us any time anything happens. Sometimes they are right, but this time they weren't. We need to be informed and our own strongest advocates. God willing, this won't happen again. If it does, I'll be much better prepared. Take a lesson from my situation and be prepared, too.

Click here to view the bike law update which makes door-ing illegal.

Also, click here for some great tips on what to do if you are involved in an accident.

Don't be afraid to ride, just be alert and ride safe!

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