Bicycle Bumper Cars (October 5, 2010)


Today’s post is brought to you by revered lifestyle columnist Miss Manners, or rather Becky Boop, assuming the authoritative social grace haughtiness of Mme. Manners, nee Judith Martin. My simple piece of etiquette opinion goes something like this:

“If one makes an illegal left turn and slams into an unwitting bicyclist, one should have the decency to slow to a complete stop and ask the mangled individual if they require any assistance before driving off to one’s final destination.”

Around 7:40 PM last night, I was enjoying my routine, thrice weekly neighborhood bicycle ride. Though I am avowed Looky Loo and tend to get lost in my own thoughts quite often, I pay very close attention at traffic stops, the more so as the Fall evenings tend to darken at an earlier hour.

I was sitting at a red light at a busy intersection just north of Wrigley Field in Chicago, awaiting the “green” go ahead to continue on my merry way. I briefly noticed, as I tried to stay attuned to my surroundings, a Red Car (as it shall henceforth be referred) prepared to head south on the same street once the light changed. It must be noted that this car was NOT in the turn lane, NOR was there an indicator flashing. So naturally, when I saw green, I began to pedal furiously.

I think we all know what happened next: the driver decided to turn left from the wrong lane after all. In the next ensuing hour (or so it felt, but in reality, about 30 seconds), I was very pleased with myself for the following:

1. Remembering that I have been told numerous times that if your car is on a crash course with a deer, the last thing you should do is hit the brakes, I spared myself the bodily tension of clamping onto my handles so I could devote my energies to bracing for impact. There is a scientific foundation for this advice that I have since forgotten. The point is that this advice is repeated so oft with good reason. Rather than whipping my head back and feeling the crash, in effect twice, I landed against Red Car with a dull and rather quiet thud.

2. I had a split-second to notice that the impact of my vintage blue Schwinn plus all 135 pounds of my brute bodily force, left a sizeable dent in the passenger side door. The guilt-ridden, worrying default of my personality feared insurance claims and trouble from my husband, before my person and bicycle skittered off the chassis and onto the pavement. I am pleased with this because it shows that even in a time of crisis, I retain the essence of my selfhood.

3. After #2 I completed my accident in what I thought was a petty sweet way if you must know. It involved a classic Magnum P.I. tuck and roll move.

I don’t know who was behind the wheel of Red Car: their age, sex or ethnicity. I did not have the chance to ascertain Red Car’s make and model. All I know is that he or she was driving about 15 MPH, and with my bicycle traveling about 10 MPH at the same time, the crash could and probably should have been more serious. Miraculously, except for a slightly scraped left elbow (thank you old corduroy jacket!), a bumped knee and a few scraped fingers, I am absolutely fine. Even my trusty old blue Schwinn was none the worse for wear. However Red Car did not know that and it never will, because after taking two seconds to be certain no one had witnessed the crime, Red Car sped off into the night. Bastard.

A couple of lovely passerby immediately ran to my side and apologized for not getting the plate number. They asked repeatedly if I were alright, needed medical attention or wanted them to call somebody. After discovering that my tote bag and Blackberry were in fine working order as well, I assured them I would be OK and thanked them genuinely for their concern. Miss Manners would have approved of this part of the exchange.

But oh Red Car! Karma have no mercy on you!

What? I survived being hit and run by an automobile and was studly enough to dust myself off and continue the rest of the way home with no (minimal) whining. Do I have to take the high road (so to speak) too? I think Miss Manners would have my back on this one.


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