happy running

Nobody wants to be a statistic.

This has been a rough month for Austin cycling. TriZones member Kit was found in the road beside her bike, unconscious, and she still hasn't fully come out of a comatose state. A woman was killed while riding her bike on 360. A woman collided with a car on FM1431.

With all of that in the back of your mind, it's hard to not feel some trepidation when you go out and ride. But you can't live in fear, so we met up this morning for an easy ride on Parmer.

We had a lot of folks this morning (maybe 12 or so), and pretty quickly after we got on Parmer we divided up into equivalently-paced groups. Laura and I were riding together and approaching a stop light, when we noticed that there was a group of cyclists stopped ahead of us. I first noted that it was our lead group (Matt, John, Karen and Russ). At first I figured they'd stopped to wait for us, maybe to let us know they were gonna do some speed work and make sure we knew where to go. Then I noticed that it looked like someone was off their bike. And I figured someone had stopped and fallen over, or just wiped out. Then I noticed there was a car stopped in the intersection, and that people were all leaning over the down person.

It's at that point that Laura and I realized that someone had been hit by a car. I knew it wasn't Matt, because he was on the close side of the intersection on his phone calling 911. Laura and I jumped off our bikes and ran across the intersection to see what had happened.

First we found Russ. He was most notable because he was bleeding profusely from his head. He was upright and conscious, though. Becky took off her shirt for him to hold to his head to try to stop the bleeding. Then we saw John sitting on the ground, and realized he'd been hit, too. Everything is kind of a blur. We established that John mostly had bruises and a cut on his nose from his sunglasses. He had hit the back of his head, but since he was wearing a helmet, mostly it just shoved the helmet into his head and he had a cut from that on the back of his head.

We got John's bike out of the middle of the lane, meanwhile trying to convince Russ that he should sit down. John used his phone to call Belle, Russ' wife, who couldn't join us for the ride because she's a doctor and was on call. I'm sure that's not the call she was expecting.

We finally got Russ to sit down. He was afraid of getting his head below his heart, but we helped him to lower down to the ground so he could rest. His knees were raw, as were his elbows. He had a gash on his head, which is what was causing all the blood. And he looked to have other cuts on his face, but it was hard to tell, with all the blood, where it was all coming from.

The police showed up first, and Matt became their contact as to what happened. And what happened was that John and Russ were in the lead. They had a green light, so were heading through the intersection. As they got partway through, a car rolled up on the right side of the intersection (who had a red light). He slowed down as if he was going to stop, then rolled through the light and turned directly into John and Russ, hitting both of them. In addition to hitting them, the car also went over Russ' bike, which completely annihilated the front wheel.

Then the fire engine showed up. They came over to check on Russ. The first thing they asked him is if he knew what day it was. He said "Um.. Saturday, the 21st." All of us non-paramedics looked at each other and shrugged, as we had no idea, and we WEREN'T suspected of having head injuries (any more than normal, anyway). (At least I think that's what he said. I seriously didn't know what the date was, but I thought I remembered him saying 21st, which my calendar informs me is wrong)

The ambulance showed up and wrapped Russ' head up in gauze and took both of the fallen into the ambulance to check them over. Belle showed up and they discussed the situation and decided that Belle would take Russ to get stitches, and he wouldn't leave in the ambulance.

John was deemed in okay health, aside from being banged up. He wanted to keep riding, which nobody thought was a good idea, and it became a non-issue when he discovered his back tire wouldn't turn. So we loaded John and Russ' bikes into the car of another John (he was going to ride with us, but was running late, so was going to drive up further onto the route and hook up with us as we went by.. then he rode by the flashes lights and noticed it was us), loaded Russ into Belle's car and John into John's car, and headed back to the hospital and Taco Deli, respectively.

We deliberated at this point. On the one handed, everyone wanted to be done and off the bike. On the other hand, nobody wanted to end up frightened of riding the bike again. So we rode about another 3 miles down Parmer, then turned around and came back. 11 miles instead of the roughly 40 we were intending to do.

It was strange to have heard about all these accidents, then suddenly to be right there in the middle of one. It could have been much, MUCH worse. John will be fine, Russ will be fine. I can't say the same for the driver. He was majorly freaking out, as was his passenger. He kept coming over when Russ was sitting on the side of the road and apologizing and crying and being generally unhinged. I let him apologize, then as he just continued doing so and crying, I asked him to please step back, because this was not what Russ needed right now. Russ was fairly gracious, considering.

The driver had a dog in the car, too, and at some point Lori went up to him (or her, I'm not sure which) and said "You already hit a bicyclist, can you go open the window for your dog?" or something along those lines. We were a scared and/or angry bunch of cyclists.

Speaking of angry.. the guy was not ticketed. Why, you ask? Well, the officer informed us that cyclists are supposed to be riding in the actual lane of traffic, not the shoulder, because you're not supposed to ride on a protected shoulder. So.. apparently we're supposed to ride in traffic. That's complete bullshit. Additionally, even if we HAD been riding in the right-most lane instead of the shoulder (well, we would probably have already been hit 3 times already by TRAFFIC), this guy STILL would have run the light and hit someone. But when Matt asked about the fact that the guy ran the light, the officer said he (the officer) hadn't seen it, so he couldn't do anything about it. So, legally the guy escaped unscathed. Emotionally I suspect he's gonna have some issues.

Karen has contacted some people about the issue, to see if we can get some sorta Seven on Your Side sort of expose of this. Or SOMETHING.

So, please, please, please, please, PLEASE be careful out there. And remember that no matter how careful you are, how much you're looking and paying attention, you can never assume that anybody else is, because odds are high they aren't.

(Anyone who was there: If I've forgotten anything or gotten anything wrong, please feel free to clarify or correct in comments (you can comment anonymously if you don't have an LJ account).)

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