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.

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10 comments

  1. James · October 17, 2013

    Very happy that you are ok. I hope I never need these guidelines, but they are very helpful should the need ever arise. When I first read about your efforts to cycle more, I was inspired to give it a try. Missing links in my own commute have made me slow to adopt this transportation shift, but it is a start, one I hope to see continue. Thank you for your advocacy on behalf of all those who travel in Waterloo and are concerned about the safety of their fellow travelers.

    • dianelfreeman · October 18, 2013

      Thank you for your comments. I hope you keep trying to cycle commute. It will seem easier every time you are out.

  2. Graham Roe · October 18, 2013

    Thanks for sharing Diane, invaluable information. Can I reblog on http://waterloobikes.ca ?

  3. Pingback: Diane Freeman: What to do if you’re hit by a motor vehicle – Lessons Learned from My Cycling Collision | Waterloo Bikes
    • dianelfreeman · October 19, 2013

      Under item 10 I make reference to seeking the assistance of a personal injury lawyer. I think seeking legal assistance is a very personal choice, therefore it is not a separate point.

  4. kitchenr jon · October 18, 2013

    Thank you for this post, Diane, very thorough and helpful. I’m passing it along to friends and family.

  5. Graham Roe · October 19, 2013

    Hi Diane, we had someone on Waterloobikes.ca wonder why you didn’t recommend talking to a lawyer? Apparently several of this person’s contacts who have been hit by a car received adequate settlements. Any reason?

  6. Norma Moores · October 22, 2013

    So sorry to hear of your collision and injuries, Diane. In all my years riding, I’ve had close calls, but only SMBs (single moving bicycle) crashes. Can Bike certainly gave me skills, but sometimes that is not enough. We need more cyclists so, “I didn’t see them” is not an excuse. I wish you well on your recovery and future bike rides.

    • dianelfreeman · October 22, 2013

      Thanks for the post Norma. Thanks for what you do to help engineer bicycle friendly infrastructure. I am back on the bike, but it will take time to fully heal.

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