Near miss

Riding my bicycle today, I had my nearest ever brush with personal disaster. A car nearly hit me. Then it did hit another car. I thought the second car might hit me after the collision. I came away completely unharmed.

I was riding on a Bike St. Louis route just a few blocks from where I live. It was a hot Memorial Day about 4:00 to 4:30 PM. As I was passing through an intersection, I saw a black car, a Mitsubishi, I think, heading toward me. It had come from the opposite direction, and the driver was attempting a left turn. It was a case of the common failure to yield the right of way while making a left turn. The driver, a young woman, might have slowed down to avoid me. I definitely pedaled hard to avoid being hit.

I had a vivid understanding of the events that followed with no way to alter them. After the black car missed me, I had this feeling that another accident was happening. It was. The turning car then collided with a white Nissan traveling in the same direction I was. I am not sure whether I saw the impact. Immediately after the collision, I heard the white car behind me, and it sounded too close. I continued pedaling hard, worried that the white car would hit me after being knocked off course by the black car. Once I knew the white car had stopped, I pulled my bicycle to the curb and onto the sidewalk.

When I walked back to the white car, I saw a middle aged woman at the wheel with a man in the passenger seat. They both looked shaken and had their hands on their chests. They told me they were fine. I looked back to the black car. Its driver was a young woman, roughly college age. She had another woman and a man in her car, both about her age. I am not sure who was riding up front and who was in the back. They were all uninjured, too. The black car was in the middle of the intersection with its front dangling to the side by a few shreds. Some fluid, most likely from the radiator, dripped onto the pavement.

The two drivers argued briefly. The white car driver said that she had a green light. She did. She seemed to have thought wrongly that the black car had entered the intersection by crossing against a red light rather than by attempting a left turn. The black car driver said that she had a green light. While she did have a green light, she did not have the right of way. Her defensiveness bothered me.

A man in a black SUV that looked like a cube also witnessed the accident. He had pulled to the curb just ahead of where I did. He told the white car passengers that he had called the police, and a patrol car arrived within a few minutes. Another man working outside nearby walked over and gave his name and address to the male passenger from the white car. The police officer had the black car driver move her vehicle from the intersection. It died the first time she tried to start it, and it sounded bad. My guess is that her radiator fan was hitting something. Both the cube driver and I told the police officer what had happened. The cube driver left a business card with the white car male passenger. I think he initially handed it to the policeman who then passed it on. I wrote my contact information on the other side of the business card. I know about people who lie following accidents. The black car driver already had talked in a misleading way about having a green light. I wanted to make sure that the victims could call on me for a witness if necessary. The white car passenger thanked me, and I rode away.

I wish I had stayed behind to verify that the black car driver received a citation. Her bad driving caused a wreck, and she came close to hitting me. Immediately after, I wished I had spoken to her. Now my feelings are mixed. It probably is better that I did not because I would have made matters worse. She did not apologize to me or even acknowledge me after almost hitting me. It made me unhappy, and it still does. She seemed quite upset. Her female passenger had an arm around her, and I think the driver was crying. It looked selfish to me. She disputed the white car driver immediately after wronging her. She did nothing toward me. Then she cried.

I noticed after how quickly I took a side. The white car passengers had been wronged, and I wanted to make sure justice was served to help them. After it happened, I felt like I had to walk back to check on the people and then make sure that the events were recorded correctly. I knew none of the other people involved, though, and I learned nothing about them of any substance following the wreck. I wonder whether I can see the police report to learn more details.

I also felt that I had to act because I was a bicyclist. The woman in the black car who caused the accident either failed to see me or thought she could make the turn anyway. I have experienced both behaviors while riding. Some drivers are not watchful. Other drivers have definitely seen me and decided they could drive without regard for me. I wish I could know what her thoughts were.

I narrowly avoided having my Memorial Day ruined. The people in the white car were not so fortunate, and the passenger said so. I imagine that the black car driver ruined her own Memorial Day.

6 Comments »

Michael M. on May 29th 2006 in General

6 Responses to “Near miss”

  1. rebecca responded on 30 May 2006 at 1:24 am #

    That’s scary. Car accidnets are one of my most serious fears. I’m glad you’re ok.

    IPart of me wonders if it’s maybe a little bit harsh to judge the drive of the black car as having been “selfish” for being upset. Sure, we all want to be calm at every point… and there are times when we’re under pressure but it’s still important to be calm and in control… but, at that point there was no immediate danger – and near collisions and accidnetal collisions are both terrifying. I think it’s hard to know how you’ll react ’til you’re there.

    I almost hit a bicicylist a couple of weeks ago. I don’t think it was my fault. We were driving on a four lane road, both going the same direction, my in the left land and him in the right. I was very aware of him, but he was clearly in his own lane. Coming up to an intersection where we had a green light, he looked to me like he was going to make a right hand turn (he didn’t signal either way – I figured if he didn’t, he would go straight anyways), and then suddenly turned directly in front of me to make a left hand turn from the right lane. I guess he thought he was going fast enough to make it? He wasn’t – I slammed on my brakes (it was a major road and I was going straight through a green light – I was going probably 35 mph) and still came within a foot of hitting him.

    He glared at me and rode on; I pulled over into a parking spot past the intersection because I was so shaken up. For a moment I had been convinced I was going to hit him straight on. I still remember both how slow time seemed to be going as I saw him swerve and how calm instinctive the response was – as well as how it was a few minutes afterwards that I suddenly felt panicky and shocked at how close it had been. So, while I don’t condone dishonesty, I have trouble knowing how I would react if I’d actually caused an accident like that – and I can at least feel for someone being that upset.

    But, most of all, I’m glad you’re safe!

  2. stinabeena responded on 30 May 2006 at 7:53 pm #

    Scary! I’m glad to hear of the biking, but scared about the close call. We’ve been biking a lot here recently, and these events scare me a lot. yesterday i had my own close call (not nearly as bad as yours and largely my own stupid fault).

  3. Michael M. responded on 30 May 2006 at 8:41 pm #

    Almost hitting one person, hitting a car with two others and then crying after a while without showing any concern toward the others in the meantime fits well with selfishness. I understand that the situation was upsetting. Whether she was crying for herself or from the shock of the situation, I cannot know. She did nothing for us. I do know that much. If she had become upset immediately or had acted kindly toward us, the crying would matter far less. It does not matter so much as it is.

    It scared me. I do not know what I could have done better. I am just glad it was not worse for all involved. It certainly is frightening to think how often we put our lives in the hands of others. Remember that bicycling is a relatively safe activity. Bicyclists are much more likely to extend our lives than to shorten them. It is fun. Besides being safer, it is often faster and more convenient than driving when the trip is short, especially if parking is difficult. I still intend to enjoy this summer on my bike.

  4. Bobber responded on 02 Jun 2006 at 12:22 pm #

    Michael,
    Glad to hear you are ok. Those times can be difficult for all parties (right after the event I mean). Your adrenalin is high and your thinking is not very detatched. The lady in the black car does sound a bit self absorbed to me but that is common in our day. Still, she was clearly in the wrong. I would be surprised if she didn’t get a ticket.

    Intersections are the real danger when cycling. I think I have read that 80 percent of all accidents with cyclists happen at intersections. I have to remind myself every time I go out to be patient at the intersections. Be prepared to be abused. The cars do not see you or think that they have a right of way over you. Cars making left turns are especially dangerous. I try not to follow closely behind a car going through an intersection, a car making a left may not see you.

    One thing to get in the habit of doing is to get the license plate as soon as possible. Try to notice descriptions of people driving too. Don’t get angry because it will not help if you have to go to court.

    Again, I am thankfull that you were not harmed. Keep riding!

  5. Michael M. responded on 02 Jun 2006 at 6:21 pm #

    Thanks for the comment, Bobber. Your advice about riding and intersections looks good and helpful. I, too, need to remind myself about being especially cautious at intersections and to resign myself to some level of mistreatment by bad drivers.

    I want to follow up to see whether she did get a ticket. The accident is on the Safe City site. I have not figured out how to link to it, though. I wonder whether I can get a copy of the police report. I should have gathered information at the scene and snapped a few pictures with my phone. It would be a good habit to develop.

    I rode a little immediately after the accident, and I have ridden to work most days this week. Letting it stop me from riding as much seems wrong. I am trying to keep riding. It definitely increased my level of caution while riding over the past few days.

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