Monday, 20 February 2012

Thought Picnic: Chronicling the sudden end of bicycle journeys

Bicycle accidents
In my first year in the Netherlands, I had 5 bicycle accidents. Some were avoidable but only two involved other parties. A tourist had just walked into a cycle path without looking, it was impossible to stop without hitting him.
As I got up, I was both apologetic and angry, though on realising his folly, he was more apologetic and thankfully, not too much damage was done to either of us. Last year, I had a similar accident, the lady coming out a shop just walked onto the cycle path without looking – there was just no way I could avoid her as I knocked her over, all her shopping splayed on the ground, I was not going at a high enough speed to be dismounted.
The worse accident I had wrote off my bicycle, the front forks holding the wheel were so bent backwards there wasn’t much that could be done to repair the bicycle. I was about to turn into a side-street and I did not see the cyclist coming towards me so we collided and that was the end of that journey.
In another case, this man on a scooter was definitely drunk coming round a curve and just came straight for me, that bicycle was completely written off too.
Not nice on ice
A few years ago, as I rode in winter, there was still some snow on the ground and one had to be careful to avoid the slippery icy parts. About 15 metres before my fall, I could already see myself having that accident, I do not know if it was prescience but I got to that bit of ice and probably did 5 metres of traction or lack of it after my bicycle and I were separated. Thankfully, the only thing that was bruised was my dignity and though there were onlookers none came to help.
Since then, I have avoided riding my bicycle in the snow just for the fear of falling and coming a cropper.
Yesterday looked fine enough, it was sunny, and though cold it did not appear to be freezing, so I got on my bicycle for a ride without much of a care about it.
I was just about 250 metres from home when I took a turn I usually take to on the long stretch of road that leads to my block, something I have done hundreds of times before but this time as I took the turn the tyres lost all traction and there I was on the ground, literally in the middle of the road.
They walked on by
I could not think of why I had an accident there as it took the best part of 10 minutes for me to get my bearings back, pick myself up and then get my bicycle. The two people who passed me must have thought I was drunk, but I don’t drink and none even cared to be concerned.
It bothers me because it is very unlikely I would see such a situation and never get involved, it is just not my nature to “Walk on by” but that is the community I live in and I have noticed that striking difference between Amsterdam and even Cologne to the South in Germany.
Having another look at the area, I saw the glistening reflection of what could only have been ice; innocuous and dangerous – it is what is known as black-ice, usually hardly visible on macadamised roads but treacherous at best, if I had fallen in front of a moving vehicle, their brakes would not have helped. That was close.
Fixing the damage
In any case, when I picked up my bicycle, I noticed the rear light had stopped working; probably the filament in the electric bulb had broken, then the handle bars were no more at 90 degrees to the front wheel – there wasn’t much I could do about that then and the carriage at the back of the bicycle had come off just below the back of the seat as if two bolts had been broken off.
As for the damage to my person, I was quite bruised in a couple of places around my legs but my left knee seemed to have bled through my trousers showing two big red patches.
I hobbled slowly to my home, chained up my bicycle and then inspected the bodily harm done. I did have methylated spirit but the big-baby in me could not contemplate the pain so I cleaned the wound with hydrogen peroxide instead.
Then I found myself riffling through my box of dressings, I learnt a lot about dressings a few years ago and now I was spoilt for choice. In the end I applied a silicone film to the wound, then an absorbent dressing and bandaged the knee. It is still a bit painful and I have a bit of a limp but I think I will be fine.
I should be back on my bicycle in a few days, I hope.


My bandaged knee.

2 comments: