Capn's Blog

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Perils of Biking

Lately I've been riding my bike to work. It's cheaper than a train ticket, is great exercise (2 x 20km each day), it's better for the environment, and it only takes about 15 minutes more than the train.

One of the dangers of bike riding though, is having some sort of accident. Unlike in a car, you have no shell of steel around you to protect you. It's just you hitting the road, and if you're unlucky, another car.

Because having a collision with a car is so bad, I try as much as possible to avoid busy roads, favouring parks, bike tracks, and quiet back streets. But there are some places on my route where I have no choice but to share the road with cars.

Since bikes have two wheels, and are very light, it's easy to have an accident. The question is not if, but when. And for me, the when was this morning.

I was on the road with cars ahead and behind me, traveling at about 30 km/h, into a busy intersection. I needed to turn into a side street, so I raised my hand to indicate. Unfortunately, the road is very bumpy at that place, and with only one hand to steer, I lost control of the bike. I hit the road on my side, and my bike helmet hit the road very hard. For a moment, everything looked blue and green.

I guess I was pretty lucky to not get run over by the car behind me. I pulled myself and my bike onto the footpath and let the cars have their road to themselves again :-)

The next ten minutes were the worst. I tried sitting a little and standing a little, but I blacked out three times. A shopkeeper came out and was trying to help me. I knew he was there but I couldn't hear a word he was saying.

I have badly scraped my elbow, my shoulder and my hip, and I also think I'll get some bruising on my hip. My bike isn't damaged, but my helmet is broken in two places. They are designed to break and crush on impact, so I'm not surprised. I remember the force of my head hitting the road, and I think that if I wasn't wearing a helmet, I would have been in deep trouble. This morning, the helmet did the job it was supposed to do.

As you can imagine, I didn't feel like riding any more this morning, so I wheeled my bike to the nearest train station, and finished my journey to the office by train. I tried to sit so that others could not see my bleeding arm - my day may be spoilt, but why spoil it for others?

By this time, I was starting to feel quite a bit of pain. I was hoping and wishing for the train to go a little faster so I could get to work. Once I got to work, first thing I did was take some strong painkillers. Fortunately they have now taken effect! I have washed the bloody areas with a disinfectant, and soon I will go and buy some bandages.

I haven't yet decided whether I'll ride home tonight. It's likely I'll take the train, but I think I'll see how my hip feels.

How do I feel about riding now? I still want to do it. Falls are part of riding bikes, and my other reasons for riding are still the same. I have to work harder on minimising the time I ride near cars though. I'm quite fearful of an accident with a car. The car will win for sure.


  • A study in England found that the health benefits of Cycling outweighed the risks by a factor of twenty to one
    (British Medical Association. Cycling: towards health and safety. Oxford University Press, 1992, cited on

    Of course that doesn't stop it hurting when flesh hits the ashphalt..

    My tip for road rash is to get the big clear waterproof dressings that they sell in Chemists. Contrary to what you might think, abrasions heal faster if they're kept wet. And Betadine to keep the bugs away.

    By Anonymous stib, at 6:03 pm  

  • Interesting that you are so worried about cars but this prang did not involve a car at all!

    Keep cycling, but learn how to use the roads. As you continue to use your route you'll learn every bump in the road, and just where to place your bike so you avoid the risky surface irregularities. Do't be afraid to claim your lane space where you need it for safety. Turns and entering/leaving carriageways are the most dangerous places for accidents, so minimise these - keeping to main roads is actually safer for just this reason. Bike paths, parks and back street short cuts are more pleasant and lower traffic in total, but give you a higher risk due to more intersections and possible vehicle clashes.

    Hope you make a quick recovery. keep those grazes clean but open to dry out quickly, and good luck with your commute.

    By Anonymous petesig, at 7:20 pm  

  • Thanks for your comments guys.

    Stib said:
    > health benefits of Cycling
    > outweighed the risks by a
    > factor of twenty to one

    On a statistical basis, yes. I would imagine for example, that many more lives would be saved through lowered heart disease than are lost through accident, but statistics are meaningless when you are your own sample of one and you get hit by a car. A statistical 5% benefit can become a 100% liability if you have a head injury.

    Petesig said:
    > this prang did not involve a
    > car at all!

    Yes, isn't it great? Would I be writing this if a car had been involved? In a dice-roll sense, I consider myself extremely lucky.

    I guess my point is not how likely or not an incident with a car is (in my case, coming off on the corner of busy Toorak and Camberwell roads is not a smart idea), but that if and when it happens, the penalty for failure is pretty high for a cyclist. Meanwhile the car escapes with a broken headlight and a bent bumper.

    Google Maps

    Stib said:
    > big clear waterproof dressings

    I only read your helpful message tonight, but today I sprayed Betadine on all the wounds. On the largest injury, I put a clear plastic film. On the rest of it I used that skin-in-a-spraycan. Stings like hell but it's really amazing stuff. Wounds are nice and damp now.

    > you'll learn every bump in
    > the road, and just where to
    > place your bike so you avoid
    > the risky surface irregularities.

    That was the first time I'd cycled that bit of Toorak Road. I was shocked at the state of the bitumen. In particular, every five metres or so there were severe cracks and ridges from one side of the road to the other. At the point I came off, the bitumen had weakened and crumbled starting from a drain grate and extending about a metre into the roadway.

    > Do't be afraid to claim your lane space

    I was in my lane, matching the traffic, doing what a car would do.

    I want to say again, today's accident wasn't the fault of any car driver. But since I stopped so suddenly in a high-demand intersection, I'm surprised I didn't get hit afterwards. I suspect it was because I was clearly indicating I was about to turn, so the drivers behind me were paying attention and had started to slow.


    By Blogger mjd, at 12:10 am  

  • Stiff upper lip old boy. Choose nice comfortable places to ride and get confidence back, like parks and river trails. research suggests that the more people ride the less likely they are to have an accident. Veteran cyclists will concur with this premise. good luck and my training in first aid states keep the wound covered and moist - this aids in recovery and reduces infection and pain.

    By Blogger david, at 8:26 am  

  • Once had a stack on the way to the train station on the way to uni (was taking a gravely corner too fast in a hurry to catch a train); lost a good deal of skin off my arm, but had to keep going as I had a test that day. Always fun being in public covered in blood :) especially when you run into an old school buddy on the way/

    By Blogger squidinkcalligraphy, at 9:32 am  

  • Me said:
    > Lately I've been riding my bike
    > to work.

    David said:
    > Stiff upper lip old boy.
    > ride and get confidence back,

    Thanks guys!

    I may have given the impression I'm a beginning cyclist. I'm not. I've done about 3000km a year for the last ten years.

    The "lately" thing means that it's only recently that I've been doing those k's to get to and from work.

    By Blogger mjd, at 9:42 am  

  • squidinkcalligraphy said:
    > Once had a stack
    > taking a gravely corner too fast

    Gravel's no fun because the wound ends up full of it. Had a lot of that as a youngster, on country roads. Fun!

    By Blogger mjd, at 9:45 am  

  • Cibycle Road Rash! The tattoo of REAL men!

    Around here they stencil little bicycle silhouettes on the side of their pick-em-up trucks for each "kill", and an outline for each "runned off duh road".


    Seriously, I am glad that you were not seriously injured.

    Doctor Robbin recommends MedDerma to reduce scarring and liquid plasters for protection and healing. The local plastic surgeon suggests that you mix Betadine with brown sugar and apply to your wounds to help healing and reduce scarring. But, he mostly does breast and butt implants, so your arm and other parts might become salty and bulbous.


    I rode my bike on Okinawa -- once. Between the construction, benjo ditches, coral dust and water frictionless asphalt, and kamikaze drivers, it was absolutely, positively suicidal.

    I used to ride about 14 to 20 miles a day in Memphis. (I was FIT!) (Well, I as fit once I got a good bicycle seat. Before that I had a bad case of "Vicious Cycle": "Mister Happy was 'positively' numb.") Then, one day, four cars were racing, line-abreast, and headed my way at well over 70mph. (The "wall o' cars".) (Visualize the end of "Easy Rider" with me on a green, Fuji mountain bike instead of Peter Fonda on his chopper: "Aaahhh!!!") My life passed before my eyes. (I nearly fell asleep.) My helmet saved my life. I was bloody, bruised, limping, one-armed, and peeing blood for a fortnight. My Mempho-Cycle Days were over.

    Las Vega$ was great because they had bike paths. I rode nine miles UPHILL (towards Red Rock State Park) in 45 minutes. Coming down, I only had to peddle two sections and it only took 15 minutes.

    I quit riding my bicycle, here, because the irresponsible drivers (simultaneously eating, applying make-up, and smoking) resulted in my constant departures from the road and into some vegetation, fence, or other pain-inducing, unyielding object to avoid becoming an unfashionable hood ornament. And this was BEFORE the era of invasive talking on cell phones.

    If you really want a scare, get helmet-mounted rearview mirrors. "Bumpers may be closer than they appear -- they appear enormous and they appear to be about to touch your spine!"

    Personally, I think that bike-mounted, fire-and-forget, booger-eating-moron homing, semi-automatic Harpoons® should be standard issue on bicycles. I DO think that drivers should be arrested or severely penalized for driving while talking on cell phones, adding make-up, eating, or running bicyclists off the road.

    Here, we call motorbikes "donor cycles" because almost all of the organs -- except the un-helmeted brain -- are undamaged and usable. Motorcyclists suffer from the same morons as bicyclists except Motorcycles go faster, weigh about ten times more, and also burn and crush.

    Was Darwin an optimist?


    This reply was made using 100% recycled photons.

    By Blogger James, at 9:55 am  

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