Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A roll on the pavement

Christian Peacemaker Teams has an office just off Spadina Avenue and below College Street. I go there to provide computer advice, work on plans, run errands, or just hang out. When I go, I often ride my bike; I find it a pleasant distance to ride in from Bloor West.

Yesterday, as I rode home along Dundas at rush hour, a car tried to cross at Euclid, which has no light, just a stop sign. By the time I realised they hadn't seen me and wouldn't stop, I had passed in front of them. Trying to avoid them, I felt something push my bike. I tried frantically to stay in control, realised I couldn't, and then an instinct that has saved me more than once took over: I relaxed and let it happen. My bike and I went down, and I came off the bike cleanly. I landed on my left hand, and rolled as I hit. I remember thinking I must look like other cyclists caught on You-Tube falling and rolling. I had my helmet on, but I don't think I hit my head at all. I came up in the next second, and roared at the driver, Stop!

I don't think I needed to yell anything; the two young women in the car stopped immediately and apologized profusely. I remember the next few seconds as a bit muddled; I took out my cell phone and tried to decide whether I should call 911. On one hand, I had just had a car crash; on the other hand, I didn't seem seriously hurt, the police might take a while to arrive, and probably had other things to do anyway. I just wanted to get to a doctor and get checked out. The driver asked me if I wanted to call an ambulance, and I knew I did not need to do that. I hesitated for a moment, then looked around for my bike. I panicked for a second when I didn't see it on the street, then realized a witness to the crash had kindly retrieved it for me. I thanked him, collected my bike, and then told the driver I needed her insurance information. She gave me the card, let me a pen to copy the number, and gave me her cell number. She offered again to drive me to the hospital, but I just wanted to get home with the bike. Also, when someone has a car crash, my first impulses don't include accepting a ride from them.

I went to St. Joseph Hospital. Looking back, I would have done better to go to Toronto Western, just two blocks away, but I wanted to go somewhere I knew. The doctors at St. Joseph stitched my thumb up where I lacerated it on the pavement, and took a few x-rays to make sure I hadn't broken any bones. I went home, had some ibuprofen and a hot bath, and emailed friends who had heard about the accident to let them know I had so far suffered no seriously ill effects.

Looking back, should I have called the police? My instincts say no. The driver should have stopped to make sure she had a clear road (which means no cyclists in the way), but plenty of drivers have made worse mistakes in my presence, and I haven't dialed 911. It seemed a bit unfair to try to bring the full weight of the law down on the driver who had the misfortune to get into a crash with my bike.

In the end, I just feel grateful that I apparently go through it with so little lasting harm. When I think of how badly these encounters have gone for other people, I feel fortunate indeed.


vic said...


Sorry to hear about your crash, but I'm glad you came out if it relatively well.


Darren J said...

Hi John, I'm glad it wasn't any worse. It actually sounds like it would have been painful.

It's hard to tell someone what they should have done, but based on what you said, I would have called the police.

Even if you're not hurt, this type of collision is proof that the driver is driving without paying attention, which I suppose is called careless driving. Ie. she should be charged with careless driving even if she didn't hit anyone, but it's difficult to do.

I keep the non-emergency police number handy in case I don't feel like tying up 911.

If you change your mind, you can probably still file a report at a local police station.

Allison MacDuffee said...


I'm glad you came out of this relatively safe-and-sound.

I agree that you were right not to call the police; it seems that the driver in this case was sincerely sorry and has learned a lesson, without the need to tie everything up in bureaucracy and expense.



Val Dodge said...

Glad you're okay.

I think I would have reported it, if only to add one more data point to the police department's bike vs. car statistics. It's especially important to have a report for any accident where someone is injured.

paul said...

Glad you're alright.

I was involved in a very similar altercation. Was riding along the Queens Quay bike lane and was left hooked by a guy entering a driveway to one of the film studios.

I got his number etc. and decided not to call the police as I was not hurt and the driver assured me that he would take care of the repairs to my bike.

When the driver refused to pay for the repairs, actually cancelling his cell phone, I contacted the police so I could get my insurance to take care of the rather expensive repairs. The police informed me that they are considering charging ME for failing to remain at the scene of the crime, because the law states that the police MUST be contacted in any altercation between a motor vehicle and a bicycle or pedestrian.

In the end I wasn't charged. The police told me the reason for the law was that people tend to be somewhat confused and discombobulated after the adrenalin rush of an accident. You may not realize how severely you've been hurt.

You should have called. The driver most certainly should have been charged.

Hope your bike is ok...