Busy Streets & Accidents

Chicago rush hours are intimidating, but usually cause nothing more than irritation. As a cyclist on a road lacking any bicycle lane, you’re constantly vying for position on the shoulder and weaving around vehicles that stop in front of you.

After a year and a half of this, I finally got into an accident.

Before you start having palpitations, I’ll tell you that I am fine. I do have a richly colored, six inch diameter bruise  and some minor cuts, but I rolled away from the scene like a champion.

Here’s what happened:

I was riding with the flow of bike traffic. A silver car, presumably frustrated with waiting, decided to make a last minute maneuver into a side street. The driver made a sharp right turn and cut me off.

I had little time to react and quickly yanked the brake handles. One of the cables snapped from the stress. With half the resistance, I was unable to dodge her car completely. I hit her front bumper, fell off my bicycle and landed hard on the pavement.

I do wear a helmet and my backpack may have provided cushioning, but it was not a life-threatening collision.

I got up slowly and began to collect my strewn belongings.

The then parked driver got out of her car, slammed the door and proceeded to curse her (I assume) boyfriend. I think she was switching between English and Spanish.

A bystander rushed in to make sure I was okay. I told her I was.

Meanwhile, the driver inspected her bumper, expressing her outrage at having damaged a new car. Not that she was blaming herself. It was pretty much everybody else’s fault.

“Are we swearing at people?” asked the bystander.

“No. No.” the driver replied. Then, she paused. “Are you a cop?”

“No, I’m not a cop.”

“Oh, okay okay.”

After having confirmed my safety, the bystander went on her way. I began to follow suit and wheeled my bike toward the sidewalk.

This is where I made the mistake of showing empathy. I felt bad for scraping the car and asked for a closer look. Honestly, it was not that bad, considering what could have happened with such irresponsible driving.

There was a small dent on the edge of the fender with scrapes no longer than a foot in length. A repairman wouldn’t even recommend a replacement. It’s something that would get buffed out.

You know what happened anyway?

She took my number in case I had to pay for it.

I tried writing down her license plate number, but she drove behind a divider. I couldn’t catch it.

She never called, though. And I can’t imagine why she would. Exactly how would that conversation go?

“You owe me $200 for the repair.”
“Since you made an illegal maneuver and are at fault, I owe you nothing. However, you owe me a bike repair, a bottle of aspirin and at least one sliver of humanity. Thanks.”

I talked with some other people at the scene. They were all astounded by her lack of consideration for others.

Lucky for me, I was able to squeak my bike home. One the way, “Roar” by Katy Perry started playing on my phone.  I won’t lie, I got a little emotional during the chorus and started to laugh-cry.

“I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh”

It feels good to be a survivor, even if my accident bears no comparison to Katy’s jungle themed music video.


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