Wednesday 6 March 2013

A Metaphysical-Precision Collision

Tuesday was Super Tuesday in Melbourne. Super Tuesday is the annual bike count organised by Bicycle Network Victoria and saw volunteers with clipboards and counters stationed at 374 sites around Melbourne during the morning peak. The current hot spell we are experiencing certainly made it a super Tuesday weather wise and there was noticeably more cyclists than usual commuting to work.

I'm an avid dry weather commuter cyclist and I love contributing to the bicycle count on Super Tuesday. So I was one of the happy commuters enjoying the morning sunshine in Northcote along the St Georges Rd bike path when disaster suddenly struck. I was on my trusty Harrier single speed, coming quite quickly down the hill city bound from Arthurton Road. At the bottom of the hill, the dedicated bike path starts to climb again towards the intersection with Merri Parade at North Fitzroy. It's on this small incline that I'm usually faster than most other cyclists and invariably I ended up moving to overtake a large number of cyclists that were slowed down by the incline. Just outside Northcote High School, I was probably going at about 30km/h when suddenly one of those cyclists veered out in front of me to turn right towards the high school.

I've experienced a number of accidents now and so I'm well versed in the feeling of slow motion that overcomes you when you arrive at the realisation that a collision is inevitable. Just last year, while driving home one night from the movies with my wife, we were passing through the Arthurton Road intersection that I just mentioned. We had a green light going north on St Georges Rd and a car came from our right and entered the intersection directly in our path. Luckily I was only doing about 50km/h and by hitting the brakes hard and swerving away from the car I managed to minimise the impact. The accident was still bad enough that both cars were a write off but luckily no one was hurt. What I remember most vividly in that accident is how much time seemed to slow down. All these thoughts went through my head. Oh shit. Break hard. Swerve away. Just before the point of impact you close your eyes and get the horrible feeling that this could be very, very bad. In reality it all happens in no more than a couple of seconds.

This time it was a little bit different. Everything seemed to happen very quickly except for the brief nano second that I was hurtling through the air, knowing that at some time in the very near future my body was going to hit the ground and hit it pretty hard. To quote Billy Hicks from the 1980's brat pack classic St Elmo's Fire, "It was a metaphysical-precision collision!"

When I saw the bike come out I immediately hit the brakes hard. 'Fuuuuccckkkkkk!'. The other cyclist wasn't very far in front of me but I can't remember how far in front. I can't actually recall whether I even hit the other bike or whether I catapulted myself over my handle bars due to my extreme braking. But I vividly remember that brief nano second while in mid air. My body was positioned in such a way that it was my head that would hit the pavement first and I remember consciously thinking that I need to rotate my body to stop that from happening. I felt that awful feeling that this was going to hurt really bad.

Somehow I managed to rotate just enough that I hit the ground on the right side of my upper body with my back and right arm bearing the brunt of the impact. My head's momentum meant that it still hit the pavement but my helmet thankfully cushioning most of that collision. However my head rolled and my face also hit the ground. I got up and instantly reached for my face. There was blood but it wasn't too bad. I checked my arms and legs and apart from a few scratches everything seemed fine. Believe it or not, one of my first thoughts was about the triathlon this Sunday and I prayed that there was no injury that would prevent me from participating. I had a sore head but apart from that I was ok. It was a miracle!

I looked towards the cyclist who had caused this and realised he was just a kid going to school. There was not a scratch on him and I think his bike was ok too. He couldn't have been much more than 14 years old. I was angry and definitely had the rush of adrenalin pumping through my veins but my anger showed restraint because of his age. I told him that cyclists come through that section of bike path very quickly and often overtake at speed. He should have done a head check and indicated before pulling out to go right. For his part he was really apologetic and promised that he would do that from now on.

I checked Harrier and she was ok. Steel frame bikes are almost indestructible! Some other cyclists stopped and helped us back up and made sure we were ok. One of them told me that my right eye looked pretty bad and that there was a big cut underneath it so I hopped back on the bike and headed back towards my house and to my local GP to get checked out. Luckily it was only a superficial cut but it was bleeding enough that I must have looked like quite a sight to the other cyclists heading to work in the opposite direction to me.

My ugly mug after the GP cleaned me up.

It was probably a few hours after the accident that the muscles on the right side of my upper body, which took most of the impact, started feeling sore. The GP gave me a tetanus shot on my left arm so, to add insult to injury, even that was sore by later in the day. Crazily enough I'm planning on riding to work again tomorrow morning and then going for a short run after work. Get back on the bike as they say! My legs are fine and I want to maintain my fitness and conditioning for Sunday.

As I write this though, 40 hours after the accident, I still have a lot of soreness in my right upper arm and the area around my right eye has gone black with bruising and is all puffed up. I don't think I could even wear goggles right now! I'm worried that this will mean I won't be able to compete in the triathlon on Sunday. It definitely means my swimming training for this week has been thrown out the window. If the soreness lessens and the swelling around my eye goes down, then I'll do a short session of swimming on Saturday morning to determine whether I will be able to compete on Sunday. However, if there's no improvement then I might just be missing Sunday. The fact that there's a chance of that happening is really bumming me out!

Fingers crossed I come good. Just an added handicap to my preparations is that I've got a boys night out on Friday night at Jim's Greek Tavern in Collingwood which I can't miss because it's going to be too much fun! I will have to try to behave myself on the ouzo shots!!

We'll see how it all pans out!!!