Back in the summer of 2007, I was riding my bike every day from John Muir Health to my home in Livermore. I am a fairly cautious rider, so I would take the the Iron Horse Trail to keep my interaction with automobiles limited to cross walks as much as possible.
One day (June 18th, 2007), I was riding home, and I got hit in a crosswalk crossing with the green light. I had stopped at the signal, pressed the button and waited for the light to change. Right after the light changed, as I pushed into the crosswalk, I noticed a guy who was making a U-turn just down the street. He looked like he was in a hurry, maybe he was lost, and I was a bit worried about him, but I figured I had a red light in my favor. Well, by the time I got about halfway into the lane, I saw that he was accelerating directly toward me. I jumped hard on my pedals, hoping to get out of the way before his SUV swallowed me under his tires.
I remember looking at the front of this huge car bearing down on me, thinking “I’m going to be killed”. I pedaled as hard as I could, and succeeded in getting my body out from in front of him (and actually most of the bike), but didn’t quite get all the way out and he hit my rear rack. I spun around felt something tweak, and slapped my hands on the pavement. I was about 10 ft outside the cross walk, and my bag was another 10-15 ft out. Before he hit me I kept wondering “how many stitches is this going to be” (well at least after I stopped wondering “Am I going to die today?”). I don’t know how fast you can get going in 90-100ft, but whatever it is it seemed like he was flying when it hit.
After he hit me, he started yelling at me saying “you came out of nowhere” and “you must have been flying”, at which point I started yelling back and pointing at the not yet flashing crosswalk sign to let him know I had the green, and made sure he knew that he must have run a red light. A few seconds later an ambulance pulls up, and paramedics start looking at me (they just happened by – saw me yelling at the guy). They iced my wrist (which at this point I thought was my only injury), and urged me to go to the hospital. Then a couple of motorcycle cops pulled up (one left right away to chase a bank robber – really, somebody was robbing a bank in Danville), he took some info, and then interviewed the guy who hit me. I went to the ER, and by the time they took Xrays and I saw the doctor, everything was starting to tighten up. Overall, I was lucky, and all I ended up with was some minor scrapes, a totaled bike, and some bruised ribs.
Now the interesting part about this accident to me was that I was now out a bike, and from what the cop said, it was likely that it would be a case of my word vs. the guy who hit me. I thought that I’d at least try to prove that I had stopped at the cross-walk, and since I always have my Garmin GPS running when I’m riding, I was able to do so.
Taking the data from my GPS, I was able to detail out exactly the time I got to the intersection, and send the following note to the investigating officer:
Thanks for stopping and doing the report on my accident. I feel very fortunate to have escaped with such minor injuries.
If you have the information on the guy who hit me (contact info, insurance) that would be helpful.
I apparently cracked (or bruised) my rib cage with my elbow during the impact. I think I showed you the damage to my bike at the hospital.
I wanted to pass along information that I have from my GPS (I have a Garmin Edge 305 that I use to track my workout with), which may be of interest to you.
I imported the data into Google Earth, and as you can see it shows the location of the accident and my bike ride. It appears that the image is shifted a bit to the south, but it’s within a few feet, and give the general route I took.
4:24pm – Stopped at signal button at north side of cross walk in trail. 4:25pm – Started into street. Before starting to move I observed the car making the u-turn. Looked like he was slowing and going to stop. Signal has a countdown from 25 seconds, so I still had plenty of time to cross. Observed the car accelerating and realized he wasn’t going to stop (by this time I was out of the shade in the second lane) Tried to avoid the car, and almost got out of the way – he was going pretty fast by that time (however fast you can go in the 80 feet or so from where he turned around). Bike spun and I went forward about 10 feet. He pulled over, and started yelling at me about my “coming from nowhere” and “moving fast” (fastest speed the GPS clocked me at was 3mph). I yelled back and pointed to the crosswalk signal, which was still flashing (although I think the countdown was gone by that time).
Below is the same data in the Garmin software, showing my heart rate. The blue dot is where I was on the map, which corresponds to the line on the graph which is where my heart rate was the lowest. The next dot south of that is where I got hit (which corresponds to the huge spike in my heart rate with a small bump in speed).
The next shot is after I got hit – approximately a minute after I stopped at the light.
I did go back to the scene of the accident, and found that as a driver, that intersection is less than obvious (it’s a cross walk in the middle of a very busy street). At the time of day that he hit me, the sun would have been directly behind the stop light, and he wouldn’t have been able to see me in the shade waiting for the light to change, so I understand much better why he ran the light (of course the beer he admitted to having probably didn’t help either). It really seems like they need a bridge or a tunnel at streets like that: it’s just way too easy to miss a stop light that is not placed at an intersection with another street (although I supposed it might be possible to architect this sort of crossing to look more like a normal intersection in order to trigger that recognition).
Eventually with this evidence (along with the fact that the guy that hit me had lied about having insurance), the cop ruled that the accident was not my fault, and I was able to get my bike replaced using the uninsured motorist portion of my policy (which I now know covers me for accidents where I’m not actually driving a car). Now, this never went to court, but I think had it done so, the GPS evidence would be pretty compelling (especially since it shows I stopped long enough for my heart rate to drop off, and there are data points for every second of the ride).