SO I GOT IN A COLLISION TODAY WITH A PEDESTRIAN.
As a NYC cyclist, I often get asked how I deal with taxis & trucks and all that. “Aren’t you scared?” is the most common question. My answer is always the same, “No, not of the cars… it’s the pedestrians that scare me the most. I’m invisible to them, no matter my loud bells & my blinking lights & if I’ve got the right-of-way, I just don’t exist to most of them. They see a gap between cars, they take it. And once they start crossing, they never look again.” This is usually followed by odd looks, like I was speaking a foreign language.
Well, it finally happened. What started off as a great morning turned decidedly shitacular when a pedestrian & I collided.
Here’s how it went down. I was cruising down a one-way street full of slow moving cars. I was in the bike lane on the right side of the street, as I do every day (see diagram). The light was already green as I approached the intersection.
So far so good, right?
Then, just as I was part way into the intersection, a man on my right started to cross the intersection. No problem, I just veer to my left some, reach over to ring my bell, and be on my merry way, right?
Not this time.
Suddenly from in front of a truck, some kid, about 14 years old or so, popped out exactly where I was heading. She had headphones on and didn’t even glance my way. I immediately forgot about my bell and grabbed a handful of brakes yelling, “SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIIIIT!” The whole thing was the equivalent of a kid chasing a ball out in the street! One second, no kid, next second, kid.
The man who had started crossing on my right stopped and looked at me, the girl kept her slow pace as I started sliding toward her. Eventhough I had some control of my bike, a collision was unavoidable. She hit the flat of my arm and down I went.
By the time we collided, fortunately, with the braking, I wasn’t going that fast. She was startled and scared more than anything else. I landed on my knee and side, and quickly got up to make sure she was okay. Some guy came out to check on her as well.
Now, if this was the end of my story, it would be enough to rattle your day and freak you out, right? Regardless of the situation, no one wants to hit another person, let alone a kid! A couple slight changes to the situation and someone could’ve got severely hurt or worse. Unfortunately though, there’s one more bit to the story, a bit of lemon juice on my bleeding knee.
As I was getting up, 3 boys about the girls age, if I had to guess, started yelling… at me. First, how I should be more careful. Second, how I shouldn’t be going “so fast”. Finally, how I’m on “a tall bike” and should be able to see. I answered back to each accusation reminding them that a) I had right of way, b) I wasn’t going “fast”, c) tall bike, what? she came out from in front of a fucking truck and d) I HAD THE RIGHT OF WAY!
Why should I have to defend myself for something that was simply not my fault? If I was a bad cyclists (and there are tons here) sure, yell at me, call the cops, do what you have to do, whatever, but some kid just walking into an intersection essentially blind & deaf & extraordinarily ignorant of the possible dangers, when the big red hand is blaring at them from across the way, has got to be responsible to whatever happens to them, no?
Well, fortunately, we are all okay. I have a bloody knee (and lost my water bottle) and (hopefully) she will be a bit more cautious crossing the street when she doesn’t have the right of way. But oof…. harrowing!
The moral of the story?
It’s a tale as old as intersections themselves. Want to cross when you don’t have the right of way? Fine. Want to listen to headphones so loud you can’t hear anything? Knock yourself out. But, for fuck’s sake, LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING!