In the past three years, I’ve gotten really into cycling—I get such a rush from it and feel so liberated. Nothing wakes me up better than an hour long bike ride from Brooklyn into Manhattan in the morning, and nothing ends my work day on a more positive note than great music in my ears and the wind streaking through my helmet. Long tours are my favorite: Exploring new areas is a passion of mine, and getting to do so from my saddle only enhances the experience.
Yesterday I participated for the first time (and possibly the last) in the Tour de Staten Island with my riding buddy/shark pal, Angela. We were really bummed that we missed out on the ride last year and were so excited to start off the season with a 55-mile ride through a borough that we don’t really ever go to. Before this I’ve only briefly driven through Staten Island, but yesterday I had the opportunity to explore the developing Freshkills Park and the island’s many MANY hills. Yesterday I also got hit by a car for the first time.
Part of me knew this sort of thing was inevitable, but there was also a naive part of me that thought that it just wouldn’t happen to me. It makes sense, though. They never shut the roads down for these long tours because it’d be completely impractical, and drivers would probably riot through the streets and push us off our bikes anyway. Almost every cyclist I know in lower New York has been hit by a car, in either a minor or extreme way, or at least doored. I figured the culprit would either be some irresponsible cab or bus driver, but instead it was an older Eastern European woman.
I was riding along the road entering a park and heading to our 40-mile rest stop, the last one before we completed our final 15 miles. I felt great. I had just oiled up my gears and chain, my legs were feeling the familiar aches that I’ve come to love from riding a lot of miles in one day, and I was excited to rejuvenate with some fruit and Kind bars. It happened so suddenly, and I know everyone says that, but I didn’t understand just how quickly something could really happen. She was way too close to the line and if it wasn’t me, she would have hit someone else. There was no shoulder, just gravel, and I hit her car two or three times before crashing to the ground with my bike flipping over behind me. I braced myself for the fall, shielding my head/face, and dragged my bike with me to the side of the road in case the drivers behind us didn’t see the crash and kept going. The tears were immediate and I was surrounded by witnesses who were jogging or driving nearby. No one from the ride was close unfortunately except for another girl Angela and I were riding with, and I asked her to find a marshal and Angela at the rest stop. She said she didn’t really see what happened, another witness to just how quickly these sorts of things occur. People were trying to get me to calm my breathing, stop crying, and move my limbs to make sure I wasn’t seriously injured (Spoiler: I’m not, just a sprained wrist and lots of bruises). I was overwhelmed by the help while trying to contact my friend and find some familiarity for comfort. The woman who hit me got out of her car briefly then drove away. No one saw her license plate number or where she went. EMTs arrived shortly
after and I took my first ambulance ride to a nearby hospital.
Every time I tell someone what happened, they seem disappointed and dumbfounded when I tell them I didn’t get her plate number. That is one of the most annoying things that I’ve dealt with in the last 24 hours. When I’ve thought of possible scenarios where I could have gotten hit in the past, I always imagined that I’d chase the person down if necessary to make sure they stayed in the area. Now I’m just relieved that my instincts were to protect my face and head then drag myself to safety. Unfortunately there’s probably no chance that this woman will be found, but I hope she at least feels horrible for hitting someone and then leaving. I hope that guilt plagues her for the rest of her life.
I’m going to pick my bike up from the Transportation Alternatives office on Wednesday, pay the probably high price to get it fixed up, and continue to ride every day that I can. I’ll be more paranoid than I was before, but let’s face it—generally, I’m a pretty paranoid girl anyway. I won’t let this deter me and will continue to find my inspiration and happiness from the saddle of my Schwinn. I’ll just be hyper aware of my surroundings and risks that I’m taking while doing so now.