Sunday, May 18, 2014

bikes make for agile first responders

So I was riding my bike.

I stopped at a red light, a block from the library, behind a taxi cab.

The lights ahead of us turned green. The cab hesitated a moment, and then started crawling forward, the kind of particular combination of response time and slow acceleration that can indicate a driver being on their phone, or fiddling with their GPS.

But that's not fair. I don't know what the driver was doing.

I do know that he was turning left, from one one-way street to another one-way street. I had expected this because he had had his turn signal on while we were stopped.

I had also expected, based on the slow speed at which he was cruising through the intersection, that he saw the pedestrian in the crosswalk directly in his trajectory.

I was half able to form a "I hope he sees--" thought before the cab continued sailing right through and under the man, who thud rolled up onto the hood, curling his arms and legs into his body so that he looked like a beetle on its back, then stopped just short of the windshield before rolling off to the passenger side of the car and onto the road.

The cab took a moment to pull over and park, and I was at the man's side and calling 911 as the driver was getting out of the car.

The dispatcher asked me dispatcher questions, in answer to which I struggled for an embarrassingly long time (Seconds, probably. Hopefully.) to figure out whether I was on 13th or 14th, and then to understand that I hadn't even then communicated that I wasn't at an address but was outside. "We're in the middle of the street!"

The driver moped around ineffectively. The victim was awake, with no obvious injuries. Breathing, looking around, talking, and doing people things despite--good for him--having moved not one inch since settling onto the ground.

Traffic had cycled once, and I was positioning myself while still on the phone to obstruct the lane so cars would go around when two beat cops showed. Probably three or four minutes had elapsed.

One of the cops addressed the victim and the other addressed traffic. I disconnected with 911 and gave a statement, first verbally then written, to the cop who was now addressing me.

The ambulance arrived promptly, and things proceeded business-like.

The victim continued to appear just fine and the driver just distraught.

He certainly wasn't getting any sympathy from anybody, and was in fact admonished by at least one motorist as she drove by, rolling down her window and telling him he, "needs to be careful!" (I did note the absurdity in that while she was delivering this scolding, she was in the very same crosswalk and her eyes were on us, not the road.)

I was eventually gathering myself up to leave and saw him by standing by himself, leaning against his car, hands on his face. He looked alone and miserable, and I decided to offer him some comfort if he'd have it.

I offered my hand and he took it in both of his. I asked him if he was okay, and told him I was sorry that this had happened. He kind of shrug-nodded and said, "It happened." I gave him another couple seconds, and then left.

I still can't decipher his response. I don't think that, as it may appear, that he meant, "Hey, shit happens. If you're gonna drive an omelette, you're gonna run over a few eggs." Rather, I hope that it's not taken as an inevitability that cabbies are going to hit people, other cars, or other things. I think that instead he was trying to accept what he had just done, and was grappling with what comes next. Which is something for which I have no frame of reference. Can you even still drive a taxi after hitting somebody? Did this guy just lose his job?

In the end, I don't know what he meant, or what became of him or the victim.

The rest of the way home, though, I knew for damn sure exactly where each and every car around me was.