I was ready to write a blog about how happy I was to be back on the best coast and see the manfriend who was in town last weekend and be reunited with all my colleagues at school. Unfortunately, this is my post instead.
Biking home to Santa Monica from campus today, around 4:45 pm, I was in an accident. My route is to take Ohio Street down from Westwood Boulevard (designated bike route), cut south on Westgate, then take Santa Monica for three treacherous blocks, to get onto Broadway (marked bike lanes). This no-bike-mans-land that lies between designated bike routes is a dangerous 6-lane thoroughfare, and cars are moving fast.
As I made my way from Westgate west down Santa Monica, a car turned right onto Brockton Avenue, cutting me off. The driver clipped my front tire. My bike went flying, and I jumped off and tumbled to the street screaming.
As I stood up, my initial reaction was not to assess damages, but to lash out in anger. I have had so many near-misses with drivers and so many confrontations, but this driver actually hit my bike. This driver hit me. The driver turned into the strip mall at the NE corner of Santa Monica and Brockton. I could see the driver, a woman, and she was smiling. Maybe it was her defense mechanism to react with laughter, but it set me off and I began yelling like a crazy woman. "You f*ing b*tch! You could have killed me!! You think this is funny?!!"
There were several witnesses walking down the street that saw the accident, and my angry, fear-fueled rant kept their attention. The driver eventually exited her car and began walking toward me. By that time, I had picked up my bike and wheeled it to the sidewalk. My anger had subsided into shock. I was shaking.
A nice bystander lady asked if I was OK. I replied that I thought so. All I could tell was that my ankle had gash, but other than that, the bike looked to be ok, and I didn't appear to be suffering any major injuries (thanks to whatever higher power may be). The bystander lady asked if I wanted to call the police or to write down the driver's license, but I just said no. All I wanted to do was be home. Be safe.
The driver came over and began to apologize. I could tell she was very sorry, and I felt terrible for yelling at her. I tried to talk, but couldn't stop shaking. All I could manage was to mumble that I was fine and asked her to please be careful when driving. But that was all I could manage. I had to just walk away. I just wanted to go home.
By the time I walked my bike down the block, I began sobbing uncontrollably. Getting into a bike crash isn't like a fender bender in a car. Your entire well-being is at stake. It's not just a dent on your bumper, it's harm to your body. It must have looked odd: a grown woman in workout gear crying hysterically as she walks her bike down the street. Even the homeless guys that sleep at the corner of Bundy and Broadway stared sympathetically as I walked by.
When I finally got home, I cleaned the blood from my right leg and bandaged up the gash. Finally, I was calm enough to understand the situation that had just unfolded.
As a former intern of the LA County Bicycle Coalition, I should have known what to do. I should have called the police and filed an accident report. I should have taken down the driver's car make and license plate number. I should have taken pictures and recorded witness statements. But when you have been thrown from your bike and your body lands on the hard asphalt below, doing these things are the last thing on your mind. This incident should have been reported. It would have added to statistics that aid in the creation of better bike infrastructure and policy. But I didn't do it.
As I write this I am still shaking. I doubt I can report this accident after the fact. The least I can say that came out of this is that the eight or so bystanders and driver may now have a greater awareness of bikers and potential consequences. I was lucky. Had there been a car behind the one that clipped me, I may not be writing this right now. All I know is that I am glad I am still here, and this accident, while terrifying, will not hinder me from a life of active transportation.