Tonight I witnessed what looked like a pretty bad collision between a cyclist and a car. Thankfully, the cyclist was OK.
I was riding down a pretty busy street in a residential neighborhood here in Boston, and the car traffic was slow-to-stopped for several hundred feet before an intersection. It’s an intersection that cars from the oncoming lane frequently make left-hand turns onto.
As I was riding, a young woman sped by me on her bike, very close, and I muttered under my breath “thanks for the heads up.” I thought to myself that she was riding awfully fast, given that there was not a lot of room between the stopped cars on one side and the parked cars on the other.
As I was completing this thought, she passed through the intersection and a car making the turn hit her full on, sending her flying off her bike.
Cars & pedestrians immediately stopped to help her and see if she was hurt, and she stood up right away and said she was OK. The driver of the car got out and was extremely apologetic and said he didn’t see her coming. She was understandably angry and said he should have been more careful, that there are a lot of bikes in the area.
I’m not sure he could have been more careful — maybe he took the turn too quickly, but maybe he didn’t — I couldn’t see how fast he was going.
But he was absolutely right that he didn’t see her coming — there was no way that a car in the oncoming lane making that left turn could have seen her behind the other cars stopped in our lane. Had she been going more slowly, the collision probably could have been avoided. Had she stopped at the intersection, even for a moment, she definitely wouldn’t have gotten hit.
Had I been going a little bit faster, or left 5 seconds earlier, it could easily have been me.
For me, the moral of the story is a boring one: Ride defensively. Expect cars to make sudden, and often stupid, moves. Don’t zip through stopped traffic unless you want to get doored or hit a pedestrian. And don’t barrel through intersections when there’s even a slight chance that a car will be making a turn! The experience of seeing this has certainly made me more likely to ride with traffic, as opposed to riding past it, and to stop at intersections and red lights.
There are plenty of situations in which riding fast is fine and even necessary — but zipping through stopped traffic is a recipe for disaster. This young woman is very lucky she wasn’t seriously hurt, or killed. And yes, she was wearing a helmet.
Be careful out there!