Before this year I’d never had a reason to call 911. Since April, I’ve done it three times. Two were bike related. My buddy Anthony touched wheels on a rainy ride back in May and cracked his collarbone. Amazingly he was back on the bike in a couple of weeks, so not much harm done there.
Last weekend I was on a group ride, in a paceline with two unfamiliar riders who, along with me, had been dropped by the guys who really know what they’re doing. A couple of miles from the end we were coasting down a gentle hill when we came upon a car stopped in the travel lane with its right-turn signal on. This is a setup for the classic “right hook” accident: bikers overtake on the right, driver doesn’t see, driver cuts across bikes’ path and winds up with one or more bikers half-prodruding from passenger window. If the car is a large truck, this type of accident is commonly fatal.
I was 2nd wheel. The guy in front saw the car, braked and yelled “slowing!” I saw the car, braked and faded a little right so I didn’t hit the lead rider. While I was doing that, I heard the sickening scraping sounds of Guy #3 grabbing too much brake and going over the bars. Of course I didn’t see that, but that’s what he said he did, and somehow one of his water bottles ended up jamming under my rear wheel, so I have no trouble believing that his bike cartwheeled.
Cam (as Guy #3 turned out to be called) was probably not seriously injured – a spot of road rash on his hip and a sore back for sure – but we got the EMTs on scene and he was transported to a local hospital in full neck-brace-and-back-board ensemble. By the way, the whole E911 cell-phone-locator system is a ways from being fully implemented. If you have to dial 911 from your mobile, you’d better have a pretty good idea of where you are.
I’m writing about it, so it’s obvious that this sort of thing gets in my head. As I like to say, I have a lot of reasons to live. This is just a sport, and I’d rather not need some guy I don’t really know trying to figure out how to call my next of kin because I just aced my hood-ornament tryout. And no matter how good I am, this can happen to me. In fact, it probably will happen to me if I keep at it. But I can’t ride around expecting that it will happen. That’s a sure way to bring it on. So instead, I’ll just leave all the bad juju here. Maybe you shouldn’t read this entry more than once.