Day’s Verse:
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.

1 Cor 13:4-ish

It was bound to happen sometime: On a group ride yesterday, there was a crash. Three riders went down, but fortunately I was not among them. I just started to write a detailed description of what happened, but I’ll just summarize, since the details aren’t that important:

We were riding in a loose paceline with a good amount of space between us, because we were on a very curvy stretch of road. I was towards the back. Riders 1, 2, and 3 were just ahead of me, with the ride leader ahead of them. As we went around a corner, Rider 1 (two bikes ahead of me) slipped and fell; we still don’t know why he went down. Rider 2 (one bike ahead of me) promptly ran into him and went flying over his handlebars. Rider 3 (directly ahead of me) slammed on his brakes and crashed, but didn’t hit anybody. I had time to see the crash happen and react safely — I honestly don’t remember what I did, but it was some combination of steering and stopping. I just remember tossing my bike on the side of the road and running to check the damage to my buddies.

Rider 2 got up fairly quickly, but Riders 1 and 3 stayed on the ground for a while. We established that Rider 3 hadn’t hit anybody, and he seemed okay, but he took a little while to recover and get up. Rider 1 we kept on the ground, because he reported head and neck pain in addition to stomach pain from where Rider 2’s front wheel had run into his stomach — ouch! We called 911.

Then we waited, the ride leader taking care of the guys who’d crashed, while me and the other uninjured rider (who was behind me) directed traffic around the blind curve. This was actually fairly important, as Rider 1 remained in the road, and cars couldn’t see anything until they were right on top of us. We used the familiar “car up” and “clear” to communicate and it worked very well.

The Medic One aid car arrived after a few minutes. They checked everybody out, talked to Rider 1, and started the process of putting him on a backboard preparatory to moving him. They patched up Riders 2 and 3, too, and then waited around for an ambulance to move Rider 1 to the hospital. Rider 2 called his wife, who picked him up and took him to the hospital, too. Rider 3 suffered bruising and some road rash, but he and his bike were okay to go.

A Mercer Island police officer arrived after a while and he started asking what we’d seen. He took my information, as I was the only one who’d actually seen the whole thing firsthand. Then he warned us that Riders 1 and 2 could both receive moving violations for their bike handling failures, because they were operating as vehicles on the roadway. That’s right: In addition to paying craploads of money for medical care and bike/gear repair & replacement, and having weeks of agonizing bruises (if not worse injuries), Riders 1 and 2 could actually be ticketed, too. The cop said that Rider 1 was “driving” too fast for the conditions, if he couldn’t control his bike at that speed; and Rider 2 was following too close if he wasn’t able to stop without a collision. The cop seemed irritated that we’d had this crash on his road, and mentioned all the paperwork for such a minor collision. He also mentioned, almost wistfully, that if this had happened on the I-90 bike trail, it would be a whole different story. Well, too bad, buddy. We were on the road, and you get paperwork.

Eventually we split up. The Medic One aid car took Rider 1 off to some ER. Rider 2 and the ride leader waited for Rider 2’s wife. Rider 3 and I headed back home. I kept an eye on him the whole time, and he seemed okay. Later we found out that Rider 1 “only” suffered from bangs and scrapes. Rider 2 — the guy who went over his handlebars — came off the worst: He fractured his collarbone. He has a one-week-old baby at home, too, which I imagine will add to the fun of recovery.

So that was the first significant crash I’ve witnessed on the road. It shook me up. I wasn’t immediately involved, thank goodness, but it wouldn’t have been difficult for me to be Rider 1 or 2. A different ride order, is all it would’ve taken. As the cop pointed out: Everything has risk. Riding in a paceline on a curvy, damp road is risky. We accept that, and usually it’s fine. I’m grateful I wasn’t in the crash, but if I had been, I’ve accepted that as part of riding — the benefits of riding outweigh those dangers. Even so, I’m feeling a little twitchy about group riding.

One thought on “On Mercer Island, Bike Crashes are Ticketable Offenses, Apparently

  1. Unfortunately the privilege of riding on the road makes you vulnerable to the penalties too. That thing where you get a ticket for having an accident can be unfair. I once skidded off the road because of black ice and got a ticket! No one else was involved and even my car was fine.

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