Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hit by a car

I got hit by a car last Friday on the way to work, just a couple blocks south of the house.

I was riding my scooter and not my bicycle, but I intend to make a few bicycle related comments by the time I’m done.

First of all, I’m okay. Couple scratches, scrapes and bruises. I’m pretty stiff and sore, but uninjured.

Secondly, this was my first accident. As a rider of a scooter and a rider of a bicycle, I considered it largely inevitable that I would eventually encounter traffic, that I would at some point gain corporal knowledge of it. And with that in mind, assuming that it is something that had to have happened at some point, it really happened the best of all possible ways it could have.

I was going down a little two-lane residential street, and a big Mitsubishi SUV started pulling out of an alley to my right. (I can’t be positive about this, but I am of the impression that she was on her cell phone. I seem to recall her hand up by her face, and seeing her mouth moving.) She appeared to slow down. I really thought we had made eye contact, and that sh was stopping so I could pass. So I thought she had seen me and I kept going, but then she started inching out. She wasn’t inching out in an aggressive kind of way, but more in a manner that said she anxious to get out on the road once I had passed. Nonetheless, I noted that she was inching out, and I moved over to the middle of the road and kept an eye on her. And then she lurched forward.

I honked at her and swerved farther away, but couldn’t swerve too far out because a big Toyota Tacoma was parked on the other side of the road. At this point, I had almost cleared the length of the front of her SUV, gotten all the way passed and around her. But then she swerved, and unfortunately, she swerved right into me. Her passenger side headlight connected with the paneling over my rear wheel and engine. That panel flew off, and the rear of my scooter bounced off the car, knocking me over onto my right side and flinging me across the road.

The scooter continued to slide across the road until it slid underneath the Tacoma. (Good clearance on that truck.) The front of the scooter stopped against the rear drivers side wheel, shattering the front of the scoot and cracking the column almost clear around. I rolled off before that impact, skidded out into the street, away from both the Mitsubishi and the Tacoma.

The point at which I might have been seriously injured, and my most lucid memory of the whole event, is the moment when my head bounced off the ground. There are a couple good dents in my helmet. There are so my cyclists who don’t wear helmets, and even more scooterists who don’t wear helmets. Those dents and punctures on my helmet would be in my head right now had I not been wearing mine.

Please, everybody, please wear your helmet.

Total damages to my person:
  • Scrape on my right ankle, sprained right foot.
  • Small road rash across my left thigh.
  • Small hole in my right pants leg, and tearing in my jacket along the right arm and on the back of my right shoulder.
  • Cracked camera lens on my cell phone. (I think it rubbed on the ground, making the hole in my pants leg.)
The damages to myself were pretty superficial. The collision took place at very low speeds. All in all, I’m very lucky. The scooter will likely total out, which is fine; I’ll just get a new one.

I got on my bicycle and rode to work the next day, which is something that was very important to me; I wanted badly to be able to get back out on the road right away.

In the time that has elapsed since the accident, I’ve come to believe that it wouldn’t have happened if I was on my bike. There is of course the fact that had I been on my bike, I would have left 20 minutes earlier, and there is the fact that I can stop quicker on my bike, and so would have avoided her in that regard. But I’m also toying with the idea that cyclists (at least in Denver) are more visible than scooterists.

Well, maybe not more visible. In fact, they are probably just as equally visible, but cycles are arguably more appropriately visible.

During the six months that I have been biking in Denver, and during the three months that I have been scooting in Denver, I have had more conflicts with traffic on my scooter than on my bike.

Despite many cyclists’ objections, most drivers view bicycles as inferior vehicles, and to varying degrees they treat them accordingly. They’ll leave the shoulder for them, give them passing room, and otherwise tolerate them for the few moments that they interact with them, or for as long as it takes to pass them.

I believe that many drivers also view scooters as inferior vehicles, and mentally ascribe to them the qualities — speed and size — of a bicycle. I have had cars box me out of lanes, pass me in inappropriate lanes (crossing the double yellow line into the other lane), and otherwise resent my presence on the roar, all while on the scooter. Many drivers, if they see two wheels and it doesn’t look like a Harley or a Japanese crotch rocket, then it is a bicycle. And that is what, perhaps, happened.

I don’t know. It’s a half baked notion. But I am of the impression that motorists react more appropriately to seeing a bicycle than a scooter. I’ll keep thinking on it.

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