#bikenyc Dec 23, 2012. A split second ago I’m riding up the Hudson River Greenway. Now I am lying on the dark, cold pathway, head on the curb, my bike askew on the pavement. I have crashed.
Duke Ellington’s “Im Beginning to See the Light” fills my head through my earbuds.
Damn, sounds good. My elbow hurts. So does my left leg. But for the most part I think I’m o.k.. I stare down the dark path into the clear night. What did I hit to throw me off my bike? I see nothing but my blinking headlight, which came off when the bike went down. Ella sings…
“I never cared much for moonlit skies
I never wink back at fireflies
But now that the stars are in your eyes
I’m beginning to see the light.”
Yes, Ella, the stars do glisten over the peaceful Hudson. I’m not in a rush to get up.
I move slowly to see what hurts, and where. My helmet is secure on my head: check.
I make the first technical connection. I hit my head on the pavement and the impact of the helmet on the path triggered the microphone/play switch on my iPhone earbuds, bringing me the comfort of Duke and Ella. Sonorous serendipity: check*.
My right hand and arm hurt around the elbow, as does my right knee. But I can move them and, with a bit of pain, extend them. Chances are good nothing is fractured. I’m also lucky to have crashed in winter, with a layer of clothing (and mittens) between me and the pavement, so if I’m bleeding under my clothes (which I suspect), the wounds are likely to be clean of street debris, and relatively clean.
“Used to ramble through the park
Shadow boxing in the dark
Then you came and caused a spark
That’s a four-alarm fire, now”
O.k., so I’m in the park, and it is a moonlit night. But this is a love song. and lovely as it is, Ella and Duke are not singing about my crash. Time to sort things out and move on.
I struggle up and retrieve my blinking headlight. Using it like a flashlight I find the culprit: A chunk of asphalt, about the size of a fist. I must have hit it at just the right angle and speed (about 15 MPH) that it threw me. I toss the chunk well off the path to prevent any repeat acts.
I check out my bike, a 40-year-old Botechia. Like 63-year-old me, it also seems to be o.k.
I slip my headlight back onto its handlebar rail and decide to continue my ride northward. After a few feet the light falls off, blinking on the ground. I slide it back on and it slips to the ground again. And I am still hurting a bit. All of this is good information: a piece of plastic broke on the light, so it no longer stays secure in its handlebar rail, and perhaps there is other damage on the bike — and me. I hold the light in my hand, ride the next 5 minutes to the George Washington Bridge, then turn around for the 20-minute ride home. Along the way I’m thinking:
- How lucky I am to be riding here, on a beautiful path with no cars. Had I crashed on a street, I could easily have been thrown into traffic, hit, and seriously injured or killed.
- I am very grateful for organizations like Transportation Alternatives (TA) who tirelessly advocate for safe car-free accommodations like this Greenway for walkers and bicyclists. And to the City of New York, for getting the message and responding with its meaningful investment in street redesign that protects us, and makes it so much more enjoyable to get around. While I would rather not have run into this chuck of asphalt, I can’t blame anyone for my mishap. It’s winter, and asphalt breaks (and is very difficult to see, as illustrated in the image). I will ride these stretches more slowly now at night, which probably will help.
- Some people feel it’s not necessary to wear a helmet on a car-free bicycle path. Not true. My Giro helmet (won in a TA raffle at its 2011 Winter Party) was dented and cracked in this crash so my head was not. There’s a morbid joke among emergency medicine doctors: Q: “What do you call a bicyclist who doesn’t wear a helmet?” A: “Organ donor.”
- Also on the good-and-recommended equipment list, the excellent Beamer5 light from Planet Bike, that kept working through multiple falls to the pavement, despite the injury it sustained. Both Giro and Planet Bike also support TA and it will be my pleasure to replace them with new gear at my local bike shop, Champion Bicycles.
When I get home I realize I am, as KC, my wife says, “a bloody mess,” with newly stained red pants around my knees, a bloody elbow and a few other injuries. With good wound care (soaking in warm salt water & hydrogen peroxide) showering with soap and water, and antibiotic ointment and bandages, I heal. Five days later my wounds are closing, and my sore arm is feeling better every day. I am back on my bike, and enjoying Duke and Ella at home. It’s a good love song.
*I ride with earbuds in my head and the microphone/switch dangling near my mouth., not to listen to music, but to hear alerts if someone texts me or calls; thanks to Siri, I can have texts read to me and dictate a reply.