Cyclists beware, this is a rough season. It’s that time of year again here in Flagstaff, Arizona. Fall, that hazy season in between summer and winter. Chilly in the mornings and warm during the day with the occasional wind advisory. All bicyclists know to be cautious when riding alongside cars in busy areas. Riding as if no one sees you (because they don’t) is important, along with trying to make yourself seen by using lights and reflective gear. Drivers are getting more comfortable being in their cars because it’s colder outside, but precipitation has not yet sprinkled the land as to add cautionary measures to motorists’ driving consciousness. With the days getting shorter, added measures should be taken to be seen before riding.
However, traffic is not the only cause of broken bones. Whether biking off-road or commuting in heavy traffic, broken bones are a part of the avid bicyclists lifestyle. It’s a matter of chance. The Bike Trailer Shop has been struck with a case of bicycling blues in the month of September due to broken bones. Here is how we have been coping with temporarily being out of the saddle.
It was a lovely Saturday afternoon in Flagstaff and I was coasting along downtown on my trusty old road bike. Smiles turned into obscenities quickly when I found myself on the ground. A young man inside a parked SUV had decided to fling his car door out into traffic without bothering to take the slightest glance. Being that Flagstaff’s downtown area is fairly congested for a small town, and that cars are parallel parked up and down all of the downtown streets, it is my habit to look into the windows of all the parked cars I pass. This method has been effective in the past.
On this particular occasion, I was not so lucky, and I did not see the rambunctious college kid inside the car. Finding myself in excruciating pain and writhing on the asphalt 15 feet from the point of impact (door -vs- bike), I was appalled at the lack of responsibility and empathy I received from the door-er. He proceeded to protest that it was not his fault and that I was riding too close to his vehicle. It’s kind of funny being argued at with someone standing 10 feet away from you, while you’re on the floor bleeding profusely from your hand with pieces of bone protruding out of your flesh. Ambulance came, etc. as the only two things I could think of were, I hope my wheels are still true and, how long before I can get back in the saddle.
After biking 30 miles per day, every day for 3 years, the attachment to the nuances of the bicycle grows considerably. For me, it’s the feeling of the pedals on each of my tiny feet.
It’s kind of like backwards rehabilitation from an addiction. Acceptance is the first step. You have to first accept your limitations, and then you can slowly get back to inhaling the fresh air and feeling the adrenaline and dopamine coursing through your veins and exciting important neurons again. My co-worker Jeff is going through similar grief, as he broke his collar bone in 4 places 2 days after my injury.
BACK IN THE SADDLE?
Any avid bicyclist would be anxious to get back in the saddle, but there are many variables to consider when recovering from a broken bone or bad injury and still wanting to stay active.
I broke my right index finger at the proximal phalange. The break was a pretty bad compound fracture, which elicited a titanium medal plate and 3 screws. The injuries Jeff sustained to his clavicle consisted of multiple fractures, which necessitated a long, stainless steel plate held in place with 14 screws. Despite the cool plates we obtained, remember, you are not a bike accessory!
I was able to down size my full-hand splint to a finger splint, which allowed me to mount the trainer (uncomfortably) as I had to contort if I wanted to do any fine-tune shifting. It was best to set the trainer, and ride at a single speed.
This was my breakthrough week. I mounted the saddle, and I am able to type again. I tested a few of my bikes before deciding to go around town. The 1966 Schwinn Cruiser was comfortable, and I didn’t have to worry about shifting because it’s a single speed, or braking because you brake with the pedals, but it was very jarring over any cracks or bumps. The 1988 Specialized Sirrus road bike is my favorite, however, problematic to ride on many levels. The bike of choice was my Kona Blast mountain bike. The upright position is comfortable and the rapid-fire shifters allow me to shift using my thumb and middle finger. The front suspension was also nice, to prevent jarring of the still healing bone.
BICYCLISTS FIGHT BACK
I had been doing some research on the subject of getting doored. There have been many cases of people getting severely maimed (yours truly) and even killed. I consider myself very lucky that I did not sustain more severe injuries. Many motorists don’t understand the gravity of the dooring situation. Across the United States there are laws to protect the right to not travel by means of gas guzzling gluttony; the laws vary, but the gist is the same.
Arizona statute 28-905 Opening Vehicle Door
A person shall not open a door on a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic. A person shall not leave a door open on a side of a motor vehicle exposed to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload a passenger.
Here are a few sites dedicated to people who have been doored: bicyclesafe.com, and Riin’srants.info
Crash Maps – Map of various places in New York where either pedestrians or bicyclists have been killed
Street films video of New York street traffic, and how separated bicycle lanes could prevent many accidents
If you survive a dooring incident, the next question is “What about the $20,000 medical bills?” and “I’m so injured, I’m unable to work for the next 3 months, what do I do?”. With my case in particular, the motorist was completely unapologetic and unwilling to accept any responsibility for the accident, even though he admitted to not looking before he acted. Because of this uncompromising behavior, I did have to seek legal help. The site bicyclelaw.com is a helpful source if legal action is necessary. If the motorist has car insurance, the insurance company should cover the medical bills. I will update you with the progression of my case in a future blog once all is said and done.
Despite the minor set-back of not being able to bicycle for a month or longer, I am still very determined to be back to full throttle as soon as possible. I have a bicycle tour up the Pacific Coast Highway coming up in December. I will begin training again in a couple weeks (if all goes well). The biking break is definitely humbling, and reminds you of just how much you love your work horse. My horse’s name is Red.