You might only connect with me and our company online but I have a short story to share and I hope we can all take away something from my experience. Normally, I'd share a picture from a ride, showing some beautiful scenery that we came across but this picture represents my summer riding best, unfortunately. It has been a summer like none other for me.
As you might know from your own experience or from other cyclists you know, accidents happen. No matter how careful you are, we also rely on other trail and road users to do their part, to follow the law, to be responsible and to pay attention and exercise good judgment. But accidents can still happen. Most often, I've gotten some road rash and a few scratches to my bike but I've always been able to get back up and ride it home. A few times, I've had blood running down my arm or my leg from some of the deeper wounds but I've rarely really been taken out. On June 28th, though, I had a bad one. I'll try to be brief. (I often fail.)
I was riding home from work and took the slightly longer route which took me on a multiuse trail. These trails are paved paths that are closed to vehicle traffic and they are wide enough to easily accommodate two-way traffic. In fact, they do have a dividing centre line. Cyclists share these paths with walkers, runners, people walking their dogs, e-scooters and e-bikes. It was around 7PM and a windy, cool night so the trail was quiet. I had the southbound lane to myself and there was a young man walking his dog, a boxer, coming towards me about 300m, on the north bound lane. The guy was not paying attention; he had his phone in his right hand and he was looking at it and only at it. As I got within 100m, the dog is looking at me and starts to look excited. Since the guy walking the boxer still hadn't looked up from his phone, I approached very cautiously, slowed down substantially and had both hands on my brakes. When I got to about 15m away, the boxer started pulling at the leash, as if trying to run to me. I put my brakes full on, as hard as I could and yelled out something (either "oh" or "no" but I don't remember). I tried to stop on time to avoid hitting the dog but, I didn't quite manage it. I hit the dog and then went right over the bars. I landed on my chin, splitting it open, caught my left hand under the shifters, hit my ribs on the handlebars, got an abrasion on my left cheekbone and my upper lip, and a cut on the inside of my upper lip. I lay coughing on the ground and end up spitting out two little pieces of what used to be part of my teeth. Yup, I was a bit of a mess.
Long story short, I suffered a broken finger and am still in therapy in order to get full range of motion back but the prognosis for the hand is very positive. I also broke my jaw in three places and had it wired shut for 6 weeks. The healing continues and my bite is now compromised and the long terms treatment plan is still in the works. Right now, I have a lisp I've never had before and it might go away or I might have to learn to form certain letters or sounds differently. Possible fixes are to reshape some of my teeth, get one crown on the tooth that lost the biggest chunk and orthodontic work to fix the bite. It could be a long and expensive journey still.
One thing I am so grateful for is that my dentist is also one of my closest friends and I was very lucky to get expert care so quickly. It saved me a trip to an emergency department that evening which was very much appreciated as the health care system here is extremely poorly organized. But that's not the point of my story for you today. (Although if you have a dentist friend, definitely make some time to show them some love!).
What Is This About? Why Share?
I've now spent the better part of the summer trying to figure out what I could have done differently to prevent the accident (aside from 'not riding' which isn't a real solution). I could have made more noise earlier and made sure to get the guy's attention. What I've come around to is that I can only change my actions and how I proceed going forward. Here's what I'm thinking:
1 Make an effort to be seen and heard.
Our focus at JustAddBike ('JAB') going forward will be a continued focus on gear and clothing for visibility of the rider on the road and the trail. Of course there will still be other awesome stuff but so many cyclists get injured every year because others out there have failed to pay attention and be responsible. To stay safe and alive and be able to continue to ride, we will always be the ones who have to put in the extra effort. I think it's clear we can't just hope and pray that every one else does their part. Some will but some won't and when they fail, we get injured.
2. Ride defensively.
Many of our friends and customers have told us since my accident that they stop now when they see a dog. I have ridden since then and I don't come to a dead stop but I do approach people walking pets the way a treat drivers when I'm riding on the road. I make sure I look into their eyes to confirm they've seen me. How can we all learn to ride safer? I invite you all to share your best practices and let's see what we can do to help us all stay safe.
3. Understand the law and understand your rights.
It is pretty obvious that many trail users are either ignorant of the laws of the road and the trail or they choose to ignore them. I would love to see a discussion around what we can do as cyclists to help educate ourselves and other trail and road users. Municipal and provincial governments have a lot of different interest groups to represent and maybe they're just not doing enough to educate people about road and trail use. Heck, we all know there are a ton of people on bikes who ride as if they are unaware of the relevant rules.
I ride multi-use trails and road all the time and I thought I was pretty well-versed in the relevant laws and bylaws but there have been some updates and changes over the past few years. Undoubtedly, there will be more changes coming as trails become busier and the variety of users increases. Then, we'll be faced with the ongoing issue of keeping up do date.
Share Your Story
There is a lot of work that can be done if it's not being done well enough now, maybe it's time some of us started to do something.
- We can look at what we can do to promote and educate within our communities.
- Maybe, it's time we made some noise as a group.
- Is it time to create our own education and lobby groups.
I don't quite know where to start helping but maybe it's time we just started something, anything. I am open to suggestions, offers of help, referrals to resources that are already out there - like I said, anything.
Every action and every movement started with just one step and now seems as good a time as any. I'm not sure where I'm going with this and I have no plan. Any thoughts, suggestions and offers of guidance are welcome. I look forward to hearing from you.
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