Friday, September 30, 2005

Car Crash

I saw another bicyclist go flying after getting hit by an SUV this morning. We were both headed south on Wells and were waiting for the green light at Wacker.

Wells is a one-way street and we both started out in the right lane. The El rumbles overhead and creates a somewhat challenging bike route with several imperfect options because the support pillars for the train tracks effect the movement of traffic. There are two lanes of traffic, with a parking lane on each side. The parking lane is quite wide and separated from the traffic lane by the El supports.

A lot of bikers ride in the gap between the support pillars and the parked cars. I don’t usually take that option, because I find it a dangerous place to ride: pedestrians often move into my path, lots of dooring potential, cabs are picking or dropping off passengers and most importantly, there are tons of parking garages that cars pull into without regard for the cyclist they passed two seconds earlier. The other two options for riding involve riding in the traffic lane, but staying close to the supports. This of course tempts cars to pass ridiculously close. The option that I often use instead is taking the whole lane for myself, since there really isn’t room for both a bike and a car to safely travel. Dear Lord, the honking and yelling that this provokes. Even worse is the fact that this stretch is a decline and I usually keep up with, or even pass the traffic in the other lane. To make it even more ridiculous, the way the lights are timed basically guarantees that we will all hit the red light two blocks later at Randolph, so it really doesn’t matter anyway.

Today, I began in the right lane when the light turned green and then took the left lane after a while because the cars were too slow in the right lane. Unfortunately she didn’t follow me into the left lane, but instead stayed to the right, either in the lane or in the space between the parked cars and the support columns. I heard the crunch and looked back to see her flying through the air – her front wheel separated from her bicycle. The offending SUV had made a right turn into one of the parking garages and their paths collided.

I yelled either "Fucker" or "Motherfucker" – I honestly don’t remember which– stopped and ran over to the site. A pedestrian only a few years older than me admonished me that this was no reason to use such language. A woman with a cell phone was debating whether the authorities should be called. I instructed her to call 911. Then ‘no reason for cursing boy’ told me to calm down and not make too big of a deal out of this. I snapped back that there is a woman lying on the ground bleeding because the driver was careless – calling the police & cursing were completely appropriate. Pedestrian boy argued that he "saw the whole thing, it was just an accident, the guy just didn’t see her." Exactly. That is exactly the problem. The pedestrian’s attitude is part of the problem.

It shouldn’t be an excuse to crash into people because the ‘didn’t see them’ when they didn’t begin to look for them and should have just seen them seconds earlier. The driver chose to operate tons of steel at a fast speed during one of the busiest times of day in Chicago’s Loop – one of the most densely populated daytime areas in the country. Given this choice and the consequences of Not Looking – he is burdened with the duty to pay attention and look to see what is in the path of his four-wheeled monstrosity. Most of the ‘accidents’ in our city aren’t accidents at all, but instead caused by carelessness or recklessness of at least one of the parties involved.

Anyway, several bicyclists stopped to help the woman, the cops were called, the driver stopped, we gathered the witness’s contact information (I also wrote down the vehicle description on the back of my business card) and gathered the parts of her bike together. Her leg was scraped and quickly bruising, her knee was also bruising and she hit her head. I left before the authorities arrived, but everything seemed in control. She seems like she will be basically alright, but I wouldn’t want to wake up in her body tomorrow.

As pedestrian boy left, he cautioned all of us bikers to ‘be careful and look where we are going and to watch our language.’ Grrrr.... He wasn’t at all nasty or anything, but he obviously was of the opinion that bikes were inherently dangerous and intruders on the cars’ territory. This pervasive, unquestioning acceptance that cars and all of their dangers are just an integral, unalterable part of human life truly drives me crazy.

Of course I was late to work because of this, and entered my bee’s hive of an office to jump back into trial prep craziness.


At 11:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, there's nothing like being in that situation when am biker's been totally f****ed and some prissy pedestrian law and order type tries to make everything alright. Meanwhile, someone is lying on the ground bleeding. It like David vs. Goliath (aka Stoopid Urban Vehicle Driver), and David's mother is saying everything is going to be alright. BS. Good on you for stopping to help the situation and not give in that to prick that couldn't see the forest for the trees!

*fellow biker

At 8:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised she didn't get a broken arm or somethingg serious.

And I wonder when it will be my turn to be hit by an SUV.

At 3:31 PM, Blogger Nathan said...

I kept waiting for the part where you stuck your fist down Pedestrian Boy's throat and ripped his damn tongue out. Will that be in Part II?

"He just didn't see her! It's not his fault! We should feel sorry for him..."

What an awful story - too bad you had to even just witness it.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger freewriter said...

maybe not rip is tongue out, but HE needs the lecture for sure. And a good shaking! Maybe a slap too. O.k., why not… take the tongue!


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