In a split second, everything can change.
Last April, I was on a 45-mile bike tour and got hit by a car. This year I rode a 50-mile version of the same ride surrounded (quite literally) by friends and positive vibes after overcoming a whirlwind of emotions in the last year.
The crash was an experience that shook me to my core and reminded me of my own mortality. In the end, I think dealing with what I went through has brought me to a place where I ultimately feel stronger, more aware, and better prepared to deal with a future incident, but getting there was riddled with anxiety and a need for building up my self-esteem again.
It all started with a bike tour on Staten Island. It was a bit difficult for me, since I was out of practice after not biking through the Winter, and the area was hillier than I’d expected. I was biking into one of the rest stops along a flat, narrow road at about 30 miles in, and was thankful for the impending break.
And that’s where it happened.
A car hit me when the driver didn’t leave enough room as she tried to go around me, and she hit me on the passenger side of her car, knocking into me twice. I shouted out as I realized what was happening, and went over the handlebars, flipping my bike behind me. I jumped out, dragged my bike and myself over to the shoulder in case cars behind her didn’t stop in time, and yanked my phone out of my pocket to call my friend, who was waiting for me at the rest stop.
In the end, I neglected to get the woman’s license plate number because I assumed she was staying (she had pulled over and gotten out of her car, but she ended up driving away when no one was looking, as we were waiting for the police to show up).
I took my first ambulance ride that day, and ended the day with two sprained wrists and a totaled bike. Everything could have been much worse than it actually was, and I’m thankful for how minor my injuries ended up being.
For a while after my crash — which I refuse to call an accident, because although the driver may not have meant to hit me, leaving the scene was very intentional — I was in a dark spot. Biking led me to a new group of friends after I moved to Brooklyn, it helped me work through anxiety, and it had started to become part of my identity. It felt like more than just a hobby. Getting hit by a car felt like this was all being taken away from me.
Limping into work two days later and having no one in my office ask if I was okay or offer me any type of kind words was another harsh reality to deal with. When I asked my employer if I could use my sick days for the time I took off, they deflected and pretended to not know about the law that required businesses to give employees five paid sick days if they work 40 hours or more a week.
It only led me to close off more, and I fell into a familiar pattern of being the victim to negative occurrences in my life. When a bike shop told me that my pink vintage road bike was totaled beyond repair, I broke down further and wilted in on myself.
For months following my crash, I worked on the necessary paperwork with insurance companies. I was paid for my time off at work, despite my employer’s refusal, and I eventually bought a new bike. I bought it hastily since I had filled my Spring and Summer with planned bike tours before my crash, and it never quite fit me properly. It also served as a constant reminder of a forced attempt to gather myself, push through the negativity, and move on with my life.
When I biked to work and a large truck whizzed by me, I pulled over and broke down into hysterics. I saw red SUVs turning corners and was reminded of the woman who left me after hitting me with her own.
But I didn’t stop riding.
I pushed myself to commute regularly; I forced myself to ride in traffic near untrustworthy drivers; and I even biked through the Winter for the first time in my four years of city cycling and commuting.
Eventually, I even got my pink vintage bike back when I brought it to another shop and they reassured me it wasn’t totaled and that, in fact, the repairs wouldn’t cost much at all.
I was almost shocked at my resilience. Normally when I fell into a depressive tailspin, I was best at convincing myself that my passions weren’t worth indulging in. In the past year, however, I pushed through my anxiety and depression in a way that I hadn’t before, which only showed me that clearly cycling was an important part of my life; one that was worth pursuing, despite hardships or challenges.
It may seem obvious that the things we enjoy will sometimes be hard, but it took getting hit by a car for me to realize that giving up simply wasn’t an option in some areas of life.
This year I rode the Tour de Staten Island again with friends, and everything about it felt significant. I swelled with pride that I didn’t let my crash deter me from something I loved and that I quickly took on a cyclist identity again. I wore the hundreds of miles my new bike had taken on as a badge of honor.
When we got to the area where I was struck last year, my friends surrounded me and protected me from cars that felt too close for comfort. They put their hands up to slow them down and directed them widely around our small group. And I finally got to relax at the rest stop I was denied making it to last year.
Comment: Have you ever been involved in a major accident? How did it affect you?