What to do when you find yourself head over handlebars

I recall reading once that the average bicyclist can expect one accident serious enough to require medical attention for every eight years of riding.

By that standard, I suppose I’m ahead of schedule. Prior to the infamous beachfront bee encounter, I’d passed through the ER three times in 27 years of riding. So that brief holiday in the ICU means I should be good for another six years.

You, on the other hand, could be another matter.

You see, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that everyone hits the pavement sooner or later. No matter who you are, or how good you are. Or how good you think you are.

Then again, maybe you’re the exception. Maybe some other poor schmuck will take your fall for you, balancing the cosmic books and enabling you to ride off into the sunset accident free.

I wouldn’t count on it, though.

So when and if the day comes when you find yourself getting intimately acquainted with the asphalt, try to learn from my hard-earned experience.

These few tips won’t keep you from getting hurt, but they could keep you from making things worse. And help you get back in the saddle that much sooner.

Stay down

Remember when dad told you to just shake it off? Great advice when you’re six years old and take a tumble; not so good when you’ve just taken a spill that would score a 10 from the Russian judges. Just make sure you’re out of traffic or other danger zones, then sit or lie down until help arrives — or at least long enough to make sure getting up is the right thing to do.

Take a quick inventory

While you’re down there, take a moment to make sure all the parts are still attached, facing the right way and still work properly. Fingers don’t flex? Leg has an odd bend that wasn’t there before? Probably not a good sign.

Assume you’re hurt

After an accident, your body gets flooded with enough feel-good and pain-killing chemicals to stock your local pharmacy. But it’s not every day you can pull off a wipeout worthy of a SportsCenter highlight reel and escape without a scratch. So assume that something is wrong, and you just don’t know it yet. Chances are, you’ll be right.

Listen to strangers

Other people can see what you can’t and they’re probably thinking a lot more clearly. So pay attention if someone tries to tell you that you’re hurt. I once wiped out on a high-speed turn and slid across six lanes of traffic, breaking my elbow and skinning my right side from ankle to chin. I just wanted to get back on my mangled bike and finish my ride; instead, a good Samaritan wisely insisted on driving me to the hospital.

Trust authority

Odd advice coming from an old rabble-rouser like me, but however it may seem at the time, the men and women in uniform really are there to help — and unlike you in your current state, they actually know what they’re doing. So if they think you should go to the hospital, go. Your life just might depend on it; mine probably did.

Be prepared

Never ride without a current ID and emergency contact numbers, as well as your insurance card — or at least your group and policy numbers. And pack a cell phone; you can use it to call for help, or someone else can call for you if you’re incapacitated. Or you could just answer it when your spouse/significant other calls while you’re in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, like I did.

Be ready to help yourself

Accidents have a nasty habit of happening when help is far away and there’s no one else around. So shove a first aid kit into your bike bag, and learn what to do if you or a companion gets hurt. (Hint: an inner tube makes a great sling or tourniquet, and can be used to bind a bandage or splint.) Visit www.redcross.org for a list of first aid courses near you.

Alex notes a new petition asking LAB to rescind Santa Monica’s Bronze Award. Stephen channels LADOT’s Dear John letter to the bike community, and notes that the Bike Plan has no clothes. Streetsblog calls your attention to tomorrow’s Transportation Committee meeting to discuss several major biking issues; Gary reposts the LACBC’s eblast on the subject. Will comments on Specialized’s new pre-fab ghost bike. Travelin’ Local joins in on Bike to School Day. Green LA Girl answers the burning question of where to recycle your old inner tubes. Columbia, MO bans the harassment of cyclists. SF Streetsblog reports on the Mathew Modine sans skid lid controversy. Vermont cyclist celebrate the World Naked Bike Ride, while Boulder’s police chief warns that participation could mark you for life as a sex offender. A San Diego writer quotes Mencken to observe that cyclists don’t need stop signs. And finally, even Seoul recognizes the need for better cycling infrastructure.

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