It’s spring, and I’m head over heels


You can't really tell from my crappy, left-handed into-the-mirror photo, but that lump is about the size of a golf ball.

You can't really tell from my crappy, left-handed into-the-mirror photo, but that lump is about the size of a golf ball.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Me, I mean.

Between work, weather and other assorted issues and obligations, I hadn’t been able to get out on my bike for over a week.

But today dawned under a clear blue sky, at the gateway of what promises to be an extended warm spell. For once, my calendar was clear. And I was feeling good as I set out for a long, fast ride up the coast.

That lasted for about a mile and a half.

Before I even got out of my own neighborhood, I found myself at the end of a long line of cars, lead by perhaps the most indecisive driver I’ve ever encountered. He’d come to a dead stop in the middle of the traffic lane, forcing the drivers behind — and me — to jam on their brakes. Then he’d pulling over towards the curb, before jerking back into the traffic lane.

This was followed by a feint to the left, another to the right, and yet another full stop in the traffic lane. Finally, he put on his left turn signal, and I saw my chance. I slipped past the line of cars on the right, and was just about to blow past him and into the clear.

But at that exact moment, instead of turning left as his signal indicated, he swung hard to the right to make a U-turn — despite the line of cars behind him and oncoming traffic from the other direction. And despite my presence in the space he was about to occupy.

I grabbed my brake hard — exactly the wrong thing to do, since I only had one hand on the handlebars, and the only brake within reach was the one in front. Instantly, I got that eerie feeling of briefly defying gravity as my momentum carried me forward, while my rear wheel rose up off the ground to follow.

As I felt myself flip over the handlebars, I took my own advice for once by tucking my head down, pulling in my elbows and rounding my shoulders.

Sure enough, I flipped over the front wheel, landing on my shoulders and rolling forward to absorb the impact. Luckily, his U-turn had stopped traffic in both directions, so I was able to clip out of my pedals and get the hell out of the way before traffic started moving again.

And needless to say, words were exchanged; needless to say, the driver considered himself blameless in every possible way.

But the bottom line is, I have no one but myself to blame.

I was the one who trusted his turn signal, despite his previous actions. I was the one who failed to have both hands on the handlebars. And I was the one who grabbed only the front brake, despite decades of experience that should have taught me what happens you do.

Fortunately, I’m fine, more or less. I’ve got a jammed left wrist and lump the size of a golf ball on my left elbow, along with other assorted aches and pains. But both will heal with a few days rest and a lot of ice.

But one interesting thing came out of it.

After icing my elbow for an hour or so, I rode my bike down to the shop where I bought it to get everything straightened out again for next week. And while I was there, I struck up a conversation with another rider who was also having a little work done.

Turns out, he was someone I knew, if only from his blog.

So, I’ve got a few bumps and bruises, a freshly tuned bike and a new friend.

I’ve had worse days.

Gary writes a heartfelt explanation of why he won’t be cranking with the Mob this weekend. Caltrans can’t find enough shovel-ready bike projects to fund; maybe they aren’t looking hard enough. No Whip takes in bike night at the Hammer Museum. Velocouture explains the concept of a city bike. The San Gabriel paper offers advice for competitive training. Albuquerque get its first bike boulevard, while Bulgaria gets bike alleys. The UT student paper notes the importance of the upcoming city council election in making the city more bike friendly. Sound familiar?


  1. LisaNewton says:

    I’m so glad you are okay, except for a very large bruise. Everytime I get on the road, I worry, but if I don’t ride, I worry more. It’s funny how that works.

  2. timur says:

    Glad to hear it didn’t end too badly – best wishes for a quick recovery.

    And I *loathe* indecisive drivers, whether I’m on a bike, in a car, or walking down the street.

  3. Gary K. says:

    So glad you okay considering, yikes that really sucks. Although I think in any situation a cyclist might look back and think about some more defensive thing they could have done to prevent an accident, that doesn’t change the fact that bad drivers should be held responcible for their bad driving.

    Although one should for the sake of safety expect the unexpected, that doesn’t make signaling one thing and doing another okay. Last year I was nearly slammed into once by a car in the left turn lane who mid intersection suddenly changed their mind and floored it to make a right turn accross 3 lanes from the left turn lane. Luckiely I slammed the brakes and did a perpendicular skid to come to a on a dime stop a foot in front of the path of the car all without falling over and managed to unclip and recollect my self as I watched the driver speed off into the distance after we briefly made eye contact.

    Hope you heal quick.

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