August 23, 2011, started out like any other beautiful summer day - I rode my bike to work. After an acupuncture appointment in Copley Square, I started to ride home. As always, I was wearing a brightly colored bike jersey and had both my front and rear blinky lights flashing, even though the sun was still shining high in the sky. I was aware of a car behind me as I descended the hill on Corey Street toward VFW Parkway in West Roxbury, but since I knew I had the green light to cross the intersection, and since there was a hill to climb on the other side, I took advantage of the downhill to gain some speed. The car was behind me for about 1/2 mile, overtook me as we crossed VFW Parkway, then started to slow and turn right into the driveway to the gas station just after the intersection. I was going quickly and was beside the car's right rear quarter panel when it started to turn right. There was nowhere to go so I started to also turn right to try to mitigate the full effect of the impact. I was right hooked, flew off my bike, into the air and hit the front hood of the car before making contact with the sidewalk. I don't remember anything between hitting the car hood and lying on my back, surrounded by many people, including one holding my head steady in his hands. I was shivering, despite the 80 degree temperature so someone else brought a blanket. Then the pain hit - I thought I had broken every bone in both arms. The pain was worse than childbirth!
The fire department arrived, then the paramedics. They bundled me into the ambulance. I was told that the police officer would come to the hospital to speak with me about the crash, but after a 3 day admission, no police officer arrived or tried to call me. I then called and was connected with the officer who investigated all bike/ped crashes in Roslindale and West Roxbury. No response after 3 calls. When someone picked up the police report for me (which was completed without ever contacting me for my statement), I read that the driver had reported "the bicycle was speeding up to pass me on the right" and "I never saw her". Apparently, this was accepted as gospel as the driver was never cited by the police for turning right into me, even though that is specifically precluded by MGL.
After two hospital admissions, one surgery, many months of PT and issues with pain control for my injuries which included a spinal cord injury (central cord syndrome), three ruptured cervical disks (which were surgically fused two months post crash), concussion (which would have been much worse if I hadn't been wearing a helmet), and a shoulder impingement injury, and after being out of work for four months and off my bike for eight months, having to be reliant on my friends for food and help with many things, I was very unhappy with the decision of the investigating police detective who, when I finally spoke with him several months after the crash, told me that I was "lucky" not to be cited for trying to pass on the right. As cyclists know, the only reason I was appeared to be go speeding up as compared with the car is that the driver was slowing down to turn. The driver's insurance, however, did find her liable, which is not usually the case when the police find no liability. After the driver appealed this decision, the case was finally settled with the driver responsible for the crash. Because the driver who hit me had minimal insurance coverage, I ended up with nothing because I had to use the entire settlement to pay off liens placed by my health insurance for the cost of my medical care, which actually exceeded the total amount I received for the settlement.
The part that continues to irk me to this day is some of the statements made by the police detective:
"Bicycles don't belong on the road. They should only be on off-road bike paths."
"Bike lanes are the reason there are more bike accidents."
"I know that you told me that bikes can pass cars on the right but that law isn't right and I just won't uphold it."
And the best: "The driver didn't see you. She's not at fault."
I'm hopeful that my story and those of others will spur some action in the tragic deaths recently in Cambridge and Lincoln and yesterday's critical injury in Dorchester. I applaud Wellesley police and Middlesex DA for bringing the death of a cyclist to trial a few years ago and am incredibly frustrated that the driver was acquitted by a jury, despite the proof and law to the contrary. I am upset that no charges have been brought in the deaths of several other cyclists in Boston and Cambridge over the past several years. It's time to do more!
Thank you, MassBike and Richard Fries, for taking this on!