Saturday, November 05, 2005

Halloween With a Bang!

The scariest thing I encountered on October 31, 2005

Short story: Pablo (moi) was stupid.

Long story: It was Halloween. I was bicycling downhill on Fulton at the intersection of Webster in San Francisco. The green light was counting down, but I had plenty of time to get through the intersection, and didn't want to lose my momentum. I wasn't going an excessive speed, maybe 20 mph or so. It was just after 5 pm, kind of dusky light, and I had my headlight on. I was on my way to French class at the Alliance Française.

An oncoming SUV making a left turn basically didn't stop, and I didn't have enough time to decide whether to swerve left behind her (and risk colliding if she didn't continue her turn) or make a too fast hard right and perhaps spill or slide out. So basically she continued with her turn, I veered slightly right and collided with my upper left side (forearm and shoulder) against her right front fender.

I was a bit dazed, but very lucky. No clothes torn, just a scrape on my left forearm and some soreness. The handlebars twisted around, and I may need a new wheel; it's wobbly but rideable, and I'll see if I can true it up this weekend.

I remember saying to myself "it's gonna happen!" There was just no avoiding it. And then tumbling and spilling. I got up and a bunch of neighborhood residents on a nearby porch were shouting "I saw it! I saw it! I saw everything!" I think they were drinking, and perhaps enjoyed the spectacle. It was Halloween, remember. The SUV driver stopped, said she hadn't seen me and that the kids in her vehicle were distracting her. A couple other drivers stopped, offering to call if I needed it. I was kind of hazy, quietly angry, waved them off. "I have a cell phone," I remember saying, thinking that they were the type of motorists that assume anyone on a bike is too poor to drive.

I got up, started gathering my stuff that had scattered around. I had a messenger bag on, and an open shopping basket-type pannier with some stuff in it. I mostly ignored the driver. In my haze, I remember saying "I had the right-of-way, I had the right-of-way." Said it at least twice, firmly, but didn't use any profanity or really angry language, surprisingly. Later I wished I'd gone off, but...

I picked up everything and went to the sidewalk and out of traffic. Again, I didn't pay too much attention to the driver. I have just a few images: brief glimpse at driver, brief glimpse of the male and female drivers who stopped, and a big--hopefully expensive--dent in her fender. I repacked my stuff, twisted my handlebars back, spun my wheel, took a breath, tried to compose myself. When I looked up finally, all the motorists were gone! The one who hit me, the ones (at least two) who stopped. Just the party people on the second floor porch shouting stuff like "Man, she was wrong..."

Anyway, I was late to my French class--which turns out to have been canceled anyway!--so I just rode off. Slowly, to be sure. I was lucky. The past few nights, before getting to sleep, I've kind of replayed it in my mind. That horrible instant when you realize that you can't avoid a collision. "It's gonna happen!" It could have been much worse. I could have bought it, and I ain't ready to buy it.

I hope a body shop somewhere has tagged this motorist with a huge estimate for the fender. A ticket would have been another nice penalty. My wife scolded me for not getting her info; and clearly the driver was very wrong to drive off. But my initial thoughts were, "Was I wrong? Am I liable for that fender repair?" (My previous collision with a vehicle, when I was clearly at fault, cost me $1,000. The lesson I took from that: don't exchange info, ride away as quickly as you can.) I also don't like cops, who usually have a bias favoring motorists. And I was late for French class!

So, I'm fine. A little sore, a lot wiser. I assumed she saw me. Bad thing to do. "When you assume, you..."


Blogger barefoot_mistress said...

Wow, deja vu! This happened to me too!
I was living in Venice Beach at the time....rode my bike everywhere...was speeding through an intersection on my bike as the light turned yellow...this stupid woman in a red sports car quickly snuck in her left turn and I splattered on the hood of her car. My bike was about half the length of itsself after that! :P....I was pretty much ok, but, the woman gets out and starts yelling at me....that it was my fault etc. Everyone else who saw the accident was yelling, "the biker had the right of way!" This is Venice Beach mind no cops, nothing....the woman tells me that I have to pay for the scratches on her car! I'm telling her "No I dont, you could've killed me, look at my bike, its ruined!"
She was unrelenting! Finally, my husband, who was behind me on his bike, got so pissed off he picked up my bike and threw it on her car hood...making lots more scratches, left the bike there, and we walked away. She just stood there stunned. All the people standing by laughing and shouting "Hurray!!!"
Well, I had to get a new bike, of course....
Anyway, just stumbled into your blog! I live in Sonoma County...small world! Have a nice day!

12:54 PM  

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