Sorry in advance if I cause offence for using the BAC Bikes blog to air a personal tale of woe, but I think it might be a little instructive for other cyclists hereabouts –
6pm Tuesday last: kick the volunteers out of the shed who just want to hang around and fix bikes all night (damn their black hearts!) 🙂 quickly get changed into some ‘proper’ cycling clothes and tootle off down to St Kilda for the traditional Tuesday night bunch ride down to Mordialloc and back – the ‘back’ part of it somewhat faster than the ‘to’ part. A guy on a roadie passes me in the Ferrars St. bike lane doing a fair clip, and, running a little late, I jump on his wheel for a fastish tow down Canterbury Rd. via Grey St to the assembly point on the corner of Barkly and Carlisle Sts. I see another guy I know pull up behind me at the Kerferd Rd lights so I say ‘hello’ and ‘how are you’. We were slowing down after passing Albert Park to allow for the two lanes of stopped traffic on the small rise to Fitzroy St., and a woman in an oncoming grey sedan (rego # TXI 097) don’t know the make/model – Ford Laser/Telstar maybe? – continues turning right through the two stopped lanes of traffic, through the ‘Keep Clear’ zone, across the bike lane, heading into the underground carpark of the Metropole apartments and directly into my path. BWAAANG! Bike and I fly through the air after hitting her off-side wing panel, somersault over her bonnet and land on the road on the other side of her car. I lie there, no sharp pains, I sit up gingerly, still no sharp pains, to see the driver’s stupid face glaring at me – she wasn’t going to get out of her car, was she?
“YOU &*%$ING IDIOT!!!” say I as I get up, checking for blood or bones protruding. I simmer down. “I want your rego and details, please” in a tone of voice that uses all the self-restraint I have available. She tries to drive off into the car park. “Stop and give me your rego number!” I shout at her. She pulls the car into the driveway of the car park and tries her best to convince me that it was my fault that she didn’t see three oncoming cyclists with the latest in bright, white LED lighting on the front of their bikes, and that she pulled into the path of oncoming traffic, i.e. me and the two guys following me, one of whom stopped and asked if I was ok, hung around while I tried to reason with the motorist. I said I was ok – stupidly forgot to get his name and number, and he rode off. The motorist and I exchanged further words – I tried to ascertain if she was in fact cognizant of the concept of ‘Give Way’. I went to get my bike off the road, noticing the sour expression of the passengers in a car just adjacent, to stop it from being run over. I just caught her driving off into the bowels of the car park. Luckily I could see her registration number as she went. I couldn’t chase her in my road cycling shoes. I went and sat on the kerb for a while to collect myself.
Hitting the car wasn’t the hard part. It happens sometimes, and you are just glad if you get up and walk away from it. The hard part was her carelessness and not thinking about the total road situation and ignoring one whole lane of traffic on that road as unimportant. The other hard part was having her drive off on me, without her attempting to exchange details. I was lucky, only a few cuts and bruises to my lower legs – and my bike is not too bad, apart from the trashed front wheel, knocked-about right-hand STI lever, bent handlebars, slightly wobbly rear wheel and dings in the RH seat stay and down tube (not bent), but it’s still going to come to just shy of $1000 to fix. I couldn’t ride the bike due to the bent front rim hitting the forks, so walked up to Fitzroy St in search of a phone box (I don’t carry my mobile if I’m riding in a bunch) in my bare feet to save my cycling shoes soles and my socks. A kind lady took pity on me and rang me a cab on her mobile when I asked her for the number in a phone booth near Princes St. 10 minutes later one turned up – a station wagon (thankyou Jacqui!). Someone else kind lent me a pen to write down the offending rego number before I forgot it. The kindness of strangers, when you say “Excuse me” and “Please” and “Thankyou”, it’s always humbling.
I sat in the foyer of the South Melbourne Police Station for a while, after being dropped off by the taxi, listening to stories of much harder luck, or much greater stupidity or accident than my own. Snr. Constable Brad Caulfield was as helpful as he could be, and let on that he was a cyclist himself. He rang me back later saying that I hadn’t mis-remembered the rego of the car, had located the woman, so I now have an accident record number (phew). But I still need a witness – so, tall guy on a road bike with a Catlike helmet and Specialized 3/4 length knicks who was riding down Canterbury Rd last Tuesday evening at 6.20pm right behind me, can you give me a call? (number’s in ‘contacts’).
I’m glad I wasn’t badly hurt, and that my bike isn’t a write-off. I’m quite fond of my old steel Wilier, and am sad to see her lovely paint job with chips and dings in it now 😦 . If I’d’ve been on my carbon-fibre bike, it would now be raw material for pencils. I’m pretty angry at the behaviour of the motorist – not only in her refusal to see my point about giving way, but in leaving the scene without exchanging details.
So, I’m waiting to get the motorist’s details from the police, and she’ll find a letter with quotes for $1000 in repair charges in her letter box pretty soon. That’s the least she owes me, and any other cyclist she comes in contact with: a bit of forethought and carefulness is what I’m after, and perhaps an apology. I might be waiting a while for the last.