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Friday, March 11, 2005

Horror Stories, a Conversation with ST

Fri, 11 Mar 2005 14:52:26 -0500
From:B [+] [ ]
To:ST [+]
Story by Joe Friel [ ]

Hey ST -

Someone posted a story by Joe Friel, a triathlon coach in NYC, on the Asphalt Green website. It concerns a story about a rider that was severly injured while riding his bike on 9W.

The story bothered me very much. Not because of what happened to the person, but because of the subliminal message I felt it sent. Since you can't get on the AG website (you are not a Member and membership hath its priveledges), I am copying it here for you.

In my next email, you will see the response I posted about it.


by Joe Friel -

Last month one of the cyclists I coach had an accident on a ride resulting in a closed-head injury, a collapsed lung, and several other lesser but still serious injuries. He was in a coma for 11 days. Now he is in rehabilitation learning to swallow, walk, and make gross motor movements again. As you can imagine, his family is devastated. So am I.

The strange part about all of this is that Steve was a safety-conscious guy. In his 50s, he owned a growing business and was starting a second. He just wasn’t the type to take undue risks on the bike. All we know about the crash is that he was riding alone and was wearing his helmet. He doesn’t recall anything else. A passing motorist saw him lying along the roadside and called 911.

This has never happened to someone I coach. Sure, I’ve had a few athletes break collarbones and lose skin, but nothing ever approaching the severity of this accident. A co-worker of mine once ran into the back of a parked pick-up truck with his head down while doing intervals. He has been in a wheelchair ever since. Steve’s crash brings that one back pretty vividly for me. Needless to say, I am a bit sensitive to safety right now. So bear with me as I vent a bit about the way we ride on the open roads.

This is the part where I say “don’t” a lot. I’ll start by saying don’t take safety for granted. I’m afraid we almost all do—including you. All of us want to have fun and become healthier and fitter from riding a bike. A crash can stop that in a heartbeat. It can happen to a friend, teammate, co-worker, spouse—or you. Never lose sight of how much you risk every time you go onto the road on a bike.

Riding a bike on the open road with traffic can be scary—or at least it should be. It’s a bit like being a mouse in an elephant stampede. Almost every month I hear of some cyclist I don’t know from somewhere far away who has had an accident of some sort. It doesn’t grab me like Steve’s has. I suspect his accident is just someone far away for you now also.

The worst of these accidents I hear about involve a car. The most common reason for these, I suspect, is inattentiveness of either the bike rider or the driver—or both. I know of a rider at a camp last summer who apparently lost his focus for just a moment and was hit by a bus, killing him. It’s not always the rider, I know. But you have no control over drivers, so when in or near traffic you must always be attentive. Don’t assume the drivers are. In fact, assume they aren’t and don’t even see you. Chances are you will be right a lot of the time.

Never take needless risks on the road. It is better to fully stop (with a foot on the ground) while watching to see what drivers are going to do at a stop sign than to bolt through the intersection to keep your workout going. Always ride with your eyes looking ahead and scanning the area around you, not down at your front wheel because of fatigue or a determination to ride faster. You need to know what’s just up the road and what drivers and other riders are doing. Don’t become a statistic for the sake of fitness. All it takes is a second of inattentiveness.

We don’t take riding on the road seriously enough until something goes wrong. How many times have you darted out in front of a car, run a red light, gone the wrong way on a one-way, or done something else just as stupid? Don’t do it. Swear to yourself right now that you will ride more safely and encourage others to do so, also. You owe this to many people, the most important of which is your family. Please ride safely.

The Beast Responds -

I certainly understand the need rider safety, and saw myself being talked about in Joe Friel’s story. Bike safety is a credo that everyone should adhere to.

This lesson that was driven home to me during an early morning ride one April. I was riding slowly and trying to avoid a puddle by hoping over a concrete curb that separated the bike path from the grass. I wasn’t going fast enough to hop it and fell into the puddle slamming my head against the ground. If it wasn’t for my helmet, I probably would have been knocked unconscious and drowned in about two inches of water.

However, recanting my story about being saved by wearing my helmet and hence rider safety is not the reason for my response to this post. While I am mortified by the tragic events that happened to this particular rider, I find this story disconcerting for other reasons.

We are all subject to the vagaries of fate, whether it is riding a bike, driving a car or sunning yourself on a beach in Indonesia. We can take all the precautions; utilize all the safety equipment available and exhibit the utmost care in our actions. Sometimes however, Fate, God or just plain bad luck will have you in the crosshairs.

After reading Joe’s story, I started to feel anxious about my early morning solo rides up 9W to Bear Mountain. What if something like this were to happen to me? Would I be lying on the side of the road while my two small children were waiting for their Daddy to come home? It got me thinking that perhaps it is not a good idea to do this type of ride; a thing I cherished very much during my training. I started to feel dismayed that I was considering not doing this anymore, because of something that odds say won’t happen.

Yes, we should all be careful when we ride. We should not jump red lights, dart traffic and act foolishly while on our bikes. We should all wear helmets and reflective clothes when riding in low light conditions. But we also must remember that we have to live. And sometimes things just happen despite our best efforts to remain safe.

If Joe’s story causes you to exhibit more care when you are out on your bike, then I am profoundly glad you read the story. However, for those who had a reaction like me, let’s try to keep it perspective and not worry about things we can’t control.

That’s my two cents for the day.


ST's Response and The Beasts final word.

Hey Beast:

I don't think Joe F was trying to scare people with this piece, I think it was more of a cautionary tale that we should all remind ourselves now and again that things can go wrong, sometimes terribly wrong and that we need to not only stay focused, but never ride far from home alone.

I too get wigged out when I read horror stories of bikers getting maimed or killed. It's almost too much to bear at times. But then, a lot of pedestrians get killed everyday and fat fucks who smoke and sit around die of heart attacks , etc etc.

Someone once wrote "we're all gonna die, but some of us get to ride." I understand what you're response was saying and I agree whole-heartedly, but i don't think Joe F was trying to scare people into not riding, hell, his livelihood depends upon people riding.

Fri, 11 Mar 2005 16:12:55 -0500
From: Beast [ ]
Re: My Response... [ ]

I don't think he was intending to scare people with his piece, but that is what I think was the unintended consequence. I almost don't understand the point of such writings, but I concede that some people need to be told horror stories like we were told as children to keep us out of trouble.

However, at some point you need to reach a level of maturity on your own that will keep you out of trouble. Without maturity, no story is going to keep you from acting recklessly. With maturity, such stories are unnecessary. And that is also one of the points to my response.



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