Saturday night I was biking with my friend Michael on East 10th Avenue when our quiet night took a turn. We’d been biking past a guy and his girlfriend on our way to East Van; the girl was pedaling slowly having difficulty with a hill. When the hill switched to a down slope the guy suddenly whizzed past us. His bike swerved, I think to avoid a manhole on the newly repaved road. Then his bike twisted, fell and he skid along the road into a parked car. He was not wearing a helmet.
As I got off my bike I watched him. His body lay still. There was a moment when I thought he was dead or knocked unconscious. I held my breath. Then he moaned in pain. His legs were tangled in his bike and his head was turned to the side. When his girlfriend reached him we saw that he was bleeding from his head and nose.
Moments earlier I was telling Michael that I am nervous on hills now because I flipped over my handle bars three years ago. I still have the sense memory of that accident and cannot ride down that road anymore. Back then I was not wearing my helmet. I was very lucky. I landed on my face, only scrapping my chin and lip. Since that day I always, always wear a helmet.
When we saw the bleeding Michael called 9-1-1. The next five minutes were full of questions and worry. Home-owners came out to see what was going on. Someone grabbed a towel to apply pressure to the still bleeding wounds. The man who owned the car that got smashed into checked for damage while the cyclist lay on the ground waiting for help.
“People go down this hill too fast!” the car owner complained and mumbled about calling the city about putting speed bumps in.
When the fire-truck arrived we stood to the side as our worst fears were realized.
They asked him simple questions.
“What’s your name?” That he knew.
“How old are you?” He couldn’t decide if he was 21 or 22.
“What month is it?” He did not know. He also didn’t know what year it was.
We stayed until he was taken away in a stretcher, wearing a neck brace. I don’t know how he is doing now and I have no way of knowing.
That night Michael and I rode slowly knowing that we had nowhere to be and that fun and speed was not worth our health or our lives.
Because of my accident three years ago I now exercise extreme caution when biking. I learned my lesson the hard way. Please learn from me and this stranger; wear your helmet. It can’t prevent all injuries but it’s better than what happens when you don’t.