Our ride home Saturday night started out like any other. Unlock, put on helmet, turn on lights, ride out. We were on a rare date night and took advantage of the opportunity to try out a new restaurant without the kids. It was lovely, the night was warm, and as we rode over the Jackson Street bridge, the crowd taking selfies brought a smile to our faces.
The good times came to a grinding halt where the bike lane ends in front of Camden Apartments. It all happened so fast. A sporty silver car with dark windows turned -- right into my front wheel. As I simultaneously slammed on the brakes and tried to execute the emergency quick turn (thanks for teaching me that, Jamie) I cried out involuntarily, one thought on my mind: I'm going to fall.
As it happened, I did not fall. I miraculously rebalanced and stayed upright, just in time to spot the license plate and call out the numbers AS IT DROVE AWAY. The driver left the scene!
I'm super lucky I wasn't injured, but no matter how often I hear about it I can never fathom how someone would hit a person, another human being, and simply drive away into the night.
As I dialed 911, I fumed. My husband wanted to go after the driver, but I didn't want to risk it. If someone were willing to leave the scene after hitting me, what else would they be capable of?
We settled in to wait, expecting it to take an hour or two. After all, I wasn't hurt (other than the sore shoulder I'd feel the next day). Then we spotted the flashing blue lights. It was APD - they responded in less ten minutes. I couldn't believe it. The officer took my report, even tried a few variations on plates I thought I remembered, and told me where I could find my crash report. It was all over in under 30 minutes.
Why am I sharing this? I wasn't hurt, don't need sympathy, and definitely don't want to contribute to the perception too many people have of biking as unsafe. It's no less safe than driving a car (driving is much more risky than most people realize) and I'm a big believer that being aware and prepared can prevent most, if not all, crashes.
I wanted to share my story because of what happened after the car hit me.
By reporting the crash, even though I would rather have continued our night, and especially because I wasn't hurt, I created a paper trail. Now my crash will show up in the annual crash reports planners use to determine where safety improvements are most needed. By reporting my crash, I took a step to hold the driver who hit me accountable (even if they never track them down). Most importantly, by reporting my crash, I forced a system that doesn't always take people biking into account to take notice.
I hope you are never hit by a car, or fall on a parallel grate, or slide on gravel in the bike lane and fall. But if you do, I hope you report it.
At the risk of sounding like one of those ads (hit by a car? one call does it all!), if you are in a crash, here's what Georgia Bikes! (our statewide advocacy org) says to do: georgiabikes.org.