Lessons Learned from My Cycling Collision

After I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle on September 30, 2013, I found negotiating all of the things I needed to do very challenging.   In addition to managing health and wellness related issues, understanding who to call and when is not easy and can hinder your ability to get better, faster.  I have created this blog to help share what I have learned with others.  It is my sincere hope that you will never need to use this information.

1. Do not get up:  With adrenalin levels running very high, pain caused by a collision may be masked.  I was not rendered unconscious so I got up.  I could have had a fracture in my spine that may have been made much worse by standing up and moving. Assess the safety of your situation, but if you can remain in your “landed” position, do so until medical help arrives.

2. Call the police: Even if you were hit and the driver fled the scene, call the police. Report the collision.  Many cycling collisions do not get reported.  Changes to roadways are informed by collision statistics.  This is important information for Municipalities.

3. Seek medical attention:  Unless you are a trained medical professional do not self-diagnose.  It is very common that pain will set in many hours after a collision.  Your medical injuries often need to be recorded for insurance purposes.

4. Write your statement of the collision:  While every detail of the collision is still fresh in your mind write down the facts as you remember them. I started my statement on my cell phone while waiting in the emergency department at the hospital.  If you cannot physically do the writing try to dictate it to a support person. Include everything you know and what you observed.  This includes information like: Time of the day, how fast you were travelling; how fast you believe the car that hit you was going, weather conditions; road visibility; traffic conditions, make, model and colour of car.  Include a diagram if possible.  I printed off a Google Map of the road and marked each of my lane changes on the diagram. Below is the text of my statement:

Occurrence Number 13-228184
Cst. Z. Gent

At approximately 10:20 am on September 30, 2013 I was travelling west bound on Northfield drive in Waterloo, Ontario by bicycle. I was riding on the right side of the road (in the traditional bike space) and had crossed the level rail crossing. I was travelling at about 20-25 km per hour.

I started the process of moving over to negotiate a left turn at Parkside drive. Traffic was observed to be well behind me. I started checking my left side mirror to check for traffic in back. The way was clear and I signaled with my left arm extended; my intent to change lanes. I checked over my shoulder again, confirmed the way was clear and moved to the right side of centre lane. I again started checking my left side mirror to check for traffic in back. The way was clear and I signaled with my left arm extended; my intent to change lanes into the left turn lane to make a left turn on Parkside drive. I entered the right side of the lane in front of fire station 3. There was no vehicle in the left turn lane when I entered it. About 10 or 20 seconds later just past the rear exit of fire station 3 I heard the sound of car tires skidding on wet asphalt.

Then I was struck from behind by a grey vehicle. I fell very hard on my left side and my head hit the pavement and bounced. I was wearing a bike helmet. Damage to the bike did occur. I observed the left crank shaft to be bent. At the time of preparing this statement the bike has not been assessed by a bike shop mechanic.

In addition to the above I do wonder if the driver might have been distracted through the use of a cell phone or something of that nature. I make this comment because I was the only road user headed westbound. There was absolutely nothing else to see or pay attention to but me. It is my opinion that that this collision was not only avoidable but that any reasonably alert driver would have had no difficulty passing me safely and sharing the road right-of-way.

The observed road and weather conditions were as follows:

  • Overcast
  • Rain had stopped but the road surface was still wet
  • Visibility good to excellent

Attached to this report are three figures identifying bike movements across the corridor.

This statement was prepared by Diane Freeman, P.Eng. and delivered to Waterloo Regional Police on Tuesday October 1, 2013.

6. Call your motor vehicle insurance company: Ontario is a “no-fault” collision insurance Province.  When you are involved in a collision while riding your bike; you can report the collision to your motor vehicle insurance company.  If you have long-term health impacts from the collision your extended health coverage will be provided through this insurance.  Make time for this call as they will require all of the details of the collision including the police occurrence number.

7. Keep a log of your recovery: I don’t “idle” well.  In general I am a get over it and get going kind of person.  Recovery takes time.  Some days are better than others.  Random pain will occur.  Write all relevant information in a log book.  In the book I am keeping I have included information regarding my use of pain medications, medical appointments, loss of work time, pain associated with daily tasks, location of pain, strength of the pain, and type of pain such as shooting/stabbing/dull aches.  This is very useful on many fronts.  You will be able to visually see your progress to wellness.  You can use the information at medical visits so you do not forget anything.  It can also be used to support a 3rd party legal claim if you need to or choose to seek a legal remedy.

8. Repair and/or replace:  Take your bike to a reputable bike shop for repair and a thorough check of all structural bike components including the frame and forks.  If repairs are needed and completed keep all bills associated with the work in a file along with all the collision details.  If you were wearing a helmet (and I hope you all do) and you hit your helmet on anything then replace the helmet.  Keep the bill for the helmet replacement and keep your old helmet.  Many insurance companies request the helmet involved in the collision to be submitted to them with the bill for the new helmet.  They do this to ensure the old helmet is property disposed of an never used again.

9. Request a copy of the collision report:  If you need to seek payment for your broken bicycle and helmet, as I do, you will require the insurance information for the individual that hit you.  This information is included in the police collision report.  I continue to have a challenge with getting this report.  My insurance company has not been able to get it either.  Some things I have done include emailing the officer, phoning the police department and requesting to speak with the officer, leaving telephone messages requesting the officer return my call, attending the police station to see if the collision report may have been left for me to pick up (it has not) and leaving another message for the officer to call me.  I am now, after 3 weeks requesting to speak with the Staff Sargent.  If you still do not get the report, as citizens you ultimately fund police services so send an email to the Chief of Police and make your request to that individual.  With every attempt do not give up and please, please be polite.  The police seek to serve and in many cases are very busy, they are not withholding information and they are not trying to frustrate you.

10. Undertake a claim for damages: With “no fault” insurance I have been advised that I will need to call the insurance company of the person that hit me to make a claim for the repairs to my bike and any cycling gear including my helmet.  Depending on the extent of their coverage; my out-of-pocket costs may or may not be covered.  It may be that the driver never reported the collision if there was no damage to their personal vehicle. I find this process makes me feel like a victim all over again and I understand completely why some people seek personal injury legal assistance to negotiate these murky waters.  Making this claim is on my “to do” list once I get a copy of the collision report.

11. CYCLE ON: For me, cycle commuting is important “me time”.  I need it to clear my head, take in the wonderful fresh air and to strengthen my person through exercise.  The mental battle associated with getting on the bike and more importantly getting on the road is tough.  The longer you wait to do it the easier it will be to find new routines that no longer support active living and active transportation.  Two weeks to the day I got back on the bike.  I have been in conversation with my medical professionals and constantly self-assessing to ensure that cycling is not aggravating my on-going pain. I am not pushing my limits either.  I do not have the strength in my lower back or upper body to ride my road bike, but my upright commuter bike seems to be ok. I am not likely turning the pedals as fast as I did before the collision and I certainly feel tired upon arrival at my destination, but I am so thankful to be riding again.

IS BEING RIGHT WRONG?

I was involved in a completely avoidable collision with a motor vehicle on Monday September 30, 2013. The story of the collision was covered by the local newspaper “The Record” and can be reviewed at the following link:

http://www.therecord.com/news-story/4141918-bike-accident-a-lesson-for-others-waterloo-councillor-says/

Late in the evening the night the article was put on the newsstand I received the following email. I have not corrected the grammar or spelling errors:

“I am happy to hear your injuryes were not more serious than they were and I wish you a speedy recovery. I must speak my mind. You are on a bike and not a car. Stay out of the turning lanes. Stick to the side of the roads. Yes it might be your right but you can be so right your are wrong. A car is a lot bigger and more visible than you. I guess you do get some publicity. Next time you might not be so luck.”

The following is my response to the individual:

“Thank you for your email and your regard for my health. I am on the mend. Your opinion regarding staying to the right-side of the road and out of left turn lanes is unfortunately not possible to abide by. Just a month ago another cycling friend of mine did as you suggested, they stayed to the right in a two lane roundabout. They stayed out of the traffic as you requested, but not only were they driven into by a car, but they were also charged by the Police for being in the wrong lane. It is illegal to ride a bike on a sidewalk. It is illegal to ride a bike through a crosswalk. It is illegal to ride a bike facing on-coming traffic.

Please learn from this article. Please understand that people ride their bicycles for a large number of reasons. All of us are only temporarily able bodied and there are many law abiding, tax paying citizens who have no other options related to commuting for work and business other than to ride a bike. Municipalities and their governors such as I are called to serve all of the citizens in our city regardless of ability. Cities such as the City of Waterloo seek to be age friendly and bicycle friendly communities. To be successful in building a community that supports at home living from infant to senior requires the willingness, on behalf of all road users, to share with pedestrians and cyclists. Sharing of the road cannot be accomplished through police enforcement. Sharing cannot be accomplished through reluctant tolerance. Sharing can only be achieved by enlightened road users who show care towards one another. His Excellency Governor General David Johnston is calling on Canadians to build a Strong and Caring Nation. I see sharing the road as a small step towards this lofty goal.

Best Regards, Diane Freeman”

I struggled with deciding how and if I should respond. I was truly hurt with the contents of the email. I felt victimized all over again. I felt like I did something wrong, when I knew I did not. In the end I prepared the above response with the hopes of educating one and maybe through this blog others on how we need to seek to care for one another.