Saturday, July 22, 2023

crash and burn

it was tuesday. i rode my motorbike to work, because i had cycled to work on monday, and felt two days in a row would be too much to handle. and monday was a lot of cycling, as not only did I have an eye checkup after work (all clear, yay!), but also did grocery shopping, and at a store that wasn't exactly on the most efficient route home.

so yes, it was tuesday. i was a little low on energy. a friend who volunteers with citizen sea reminded me of today's meetup after work, at bangor, which I had completely forgotten about. If I had remembered it in advance, I'd have definitely planned my day better. but anyway, since I had ridden the motorbike to work, I could make it - so I told her I would be there.

as I got through the day I felt like I wasn't as high on energy as I'd have liked to be and decided it's better I head home after work instead. I wasnted to sleep early that night, so I made myself a decaf at my desk instead of my usual 3:30pm capuccino from the cafeteria. for some reason, I simply didn't enjoy the decaf - I literally was nursing it till 6pm when I chucked it into the sink and decided to go home. as I packed my stuff into my motorbike, I decided to take my office laptop home, as I was planning to finish converting my rig to work with the office laptop (I had just ordered a USB C to HDMI adaptor so I could use both screens with the laptop). I also thought to myself, I'm better off putting everything into the topbox as I planned to park the bike in the shed, from where it's hard to access the panniers.

It had been raining all day, but it had stopped by the time I left office. I called shruti and asked if there's anything we needed. she said nope (when I got home, it turns out she forgot we needed milk), so I took the direct route home, the shortest way. at one of the junctions, I usually decide whether to go straight or take a left, depending on which traffic light is green. today, the one for the left was green, so I took that one. a couple of minutes later, I was at a junction. The traffic lights were all unlit. It seems they were not working.

There were two cars ahead of me. The furthest car literally waited a few minutes before finally getting a chance to get through the junction. I remember waiting behind, engine running, for what seemed like an eternity.

I remember thinking to myself: if I had gone traight I'd have been home by now!

My next thought was: if it's so hard to get through this junction, I could just turn around and take the other one.

I don't know what stopped me from doing that. I was in no hurry to get home, that was just an idle thought, and maybe that first car got through the junction before I could change my mind? I don't know.

Anyway, next thing, I was at the junction, ready to take that right turn.

After waiting for what again seemed like forever, maybe even letting a gap in the traffic go because I was overly cautious and other vehicles seemed to be speeding, I finally saw a gap in traffic in both directions and started taking the turn real slow.

The rest is a blur.

It's crazy, what being rear-ended by a heavy car when you're taking a turn on a motorbike feels like. Nothing ever prepared me for that feeling. I felt the bike being pushed forward from under me, and none of it made sense. I don't know what I did - did I brake? Did I pull in the clutch? I'm sure I didn't have the chance to straighten the handlebars. I don't really know what happened before I found myself on the road, bike on its side, thankfully the tip-over bars ensured I didn't get pinned down, and the absolutely low speed involved meant I wasn't dragged or anything. It was so slow that I didn't even check myself for injuries before I got to my feet. But the force of the impact was enough to move the bike a fair distance - it probably slid on the left pannier and the tip over bar.

The bike looked bad, but the ignition was still on, and the engine was possibly still running (the pan european has a bank angle sensor that is supposed to cut off the engine when tipped over, and I know it worked because I have dropped it once when parking!), but either way I got to it and turned off the key to ensure there was no chance of a fire or anything in case fuel had spilled.

The driver of the car asked if I was OK, and I said I felt OK. I took off my helmet and set it on the sidewalk as I gathered my wits. A couple of passers-by tried to get the bike up but were unable to - I helped them get it up and on the stand. A cheeky boy of maybe 10 asked if the bike would be rideable again. I replied, probably not. The men who helped me get the bike on the stand said we should try to get it off the road as it was obstructing traffic. I turned the key in the ignition, and cranked the start switch. It didn't start on the first or second try, and there was a very faint smell of fuel. I turned it off, gave it a few seconds, and turned it back on again. This time, it did start and we got the bike on the footpath. One of the guys told me he was happy to be a witness for the insurance and police if required. He had taken a photo of the number plate of the car. He couldn't figure how to save my number on his phone, but finally figured it out with some help. He texted me and I got it. He offered me a lift home but I said that's fine. He picked up a few bits from the road, and asked me if any of this would be of any use. The only useful part I found was the left mirror cover (which contains the turn signal).

I sat on the footpath for a minute and tried to gather my thoughts.

I really don't know if I did. I definitely don't remember anything.

It was probably around that point that I realized my jeans had ripped and it felt like my right butt was open to the world. I checked it with my hand, and thankfully my undies hadn't ripped.

One thing I did realize that putting the laptop and my backpack in the topbox instead of the panniers saved them from most of the impact - the topbox didn't have a scratch on it.

And at that time all the decisions I made today started to replay in my head. What if I had headed to Bangor instead? Or taken that other junction? Or turned around instead of waiting? Or worst of all, what if I cycled to work?

I visualized being rear-ended by the same land rover on my bicycle instead (I take that same route home on my bicycle on days when I don't do groceries - it has the second gentlest incline compared to the other routes, and is shorter than the gentlest incline). I definitely would have been much worse off on the cycle. I wondered if I'd have died if it happened when I was on the cycle. But I reasoned to myself, that if it was such a long wait, I'd have taken to riding on the footpath instead.

I also remembered the near-miss I had the previous week when an elderly car driver almost crashed into me becasue he did not give way when I was already on the roundabout. It didn't strike me then, but thinking back now, that was my previous journey on the motorbike!

By then the police arrived, they radioed the station in, filled a report, took some photos and my details, I passed on the details of the other driver and car, and asked if I needed A&E. I said I feel OK, and I think I can make an attempt to ride home. They were OK with that. They also noticed the traffic chaos and turned their attention to directing traffic because it looked like another accident might happen any moment.

After a few minutes, I got back on the bike, and the police directed me to rejoin traffic. I rode home really slowly, and I was conscious of a car following me at a greater than usual distance, probably because they could see the amount of mangled plastic and bits dangling off the bike.

The bike seemed to ride prettty OK, and when I was at the last traffic light from home, I called Shruti from my helmet intercom and told her I met an accident, but I'm fine, and am almost home now.

I arrived home without further event. My neighbour (not the next door one I talk to often, but the one few houses up) even saw the bike and didn't react. Maybe because he saw the right side of the bike that didn't have as much damage as the left.

As I took the key out of the ignition and hopped off, Shruti opened the door and came out to see me, the bike and help me take my stuff in.

I don't remember much of the rest of the evening, other than I was still in so much shock that I actually forgot the key in the topbox! I saw it when I was leaving for the doctor the next morning! I guess nobody would steal a crashed bike anyway, so it wasn't that bad.

I don't know if I've blogged my previous accidents, but one thing's for sure - they're as fresh in my mind as if they happened yesterday. Every crash I've walked away from has left me grateful that I've got off without any permanent physical damage, and lived to ride another day.

I don't know if I should ride again. The wrist fracture (it's a chipped bone and not a fracture-fracture, as per the xray) should heal uneventfully, but still.

The feeling of being rear-ended on a motorbike without any inkling of anything about to happen is very hard to get over.

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