I’m back! Thoughts on my first spring bike commute and why I take the lane

I did it.

It was above freezing this weekend and a high of 7 today. And I did it.  I got my cyclocross/commuting bike (complete with bell, panniers, and fenders) out of the basement and rode to work. I smiled the entire way there and back. It felt so great to be riding outside again.

The bike path along the river in our city is nowhere near clear. It’s got big patches of snow and ice but the roads are in good shape. Cars aren’t quite used to seeing bikes again so I smiled and waved a lot but since bikes are associated with the return of above freezing weather, I think most people were happy to see me.

Finding a bike rack once I got the campus was a bit trickier. I had to climb a snowbank and attach my bike to what was the top of the rack, now the only accessible bit of metal on which to attach a lock. Some of the spots are still taken by bikes that over-wintered on campus, abandoned by their owners on the first day of snow and now still frozen, deep in the snowbank. Tracy points out that one even has a note, from campus police, warning the owner that their lock is inadequate.

Anyway, it was a great ride. I’m happy. I’m back.

But I’ve got to say that the first ride will probably make me nervous each year because of something that happened 4 years ago.

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What happened four years ago?

On a nice March day in 2011 in conditions much like today, I landed in hospital. I was taken there by an ambulance. And since then my first ride of spring always freaks me out a bit. As cyclists might say, “I came off my bike.” That’s as opposed to crashing.

It happened not far from my house on a stretch of Wortley Road full of potholes. Cars were passing closely and rather than stay out in the lane–AS I SHOULD HAVE DONE–I moved right, got out of their way, and hit a pothole. I don’t remember the next bit. I do remember being put on a stretcher. I do remember emergency service workers asking me to sit up and help get my jacket off or they’d have to cut if off. It was a really nice cycling jacket. I sat up.

I spent the day in hospital being scanned every which way. The nice ambulance guys kept coming in to joke that they’d left my bike behind the counter at the ER and it was doing fine. Thanks guys.

They also came in later to look at my head scans and joked that I should do a poster for helmet use. Because even though I looked awful and my helmet was completely destroyed my head was actually just fine. In the end, though I was battered and bruised, I had only the mildest of concussions. I was symptom free within a couple of days. I was very lucky.

It’s why I was very happy to take part in the Bikes and Brains event last year.

I also had a teary experience in our local grocery store a few days later. A woman came up to me and touched my arm. She asked if I’d had a bike accident on Wortley Road recently. I said yes and then she hugged me. “I’m so happy you’re okay.” It turns out that she was behind the car who passed too close and watched me come off my bike. She had called 911 and stayed with me until they arrived. But she didn’t know how the story ended, if I was okay in the end. We were both happy to have met each other.

Lessons learned? Well, I now assertively take the lane when the edge of the road is snow, ice, and potholes. Yes, I might slow the cars down. Yes, drivers might have to wait. But my safety on the road comes before your convenience. Welcome to spring in Canada!

Here’s my helmet after the crash.

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Here’s the obligatory post crash selfie.

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About Sam B

Philosopher, feminist, parent, and cyclist!

9 thoughts on “I’m back! Thoughts on my first spring bike commute and why I take the lane

  1. natalieh says:

    Wow. Juxtaposing the two stories is very powerful. Thank you for this. Also, I’m really glad your trip this year was awesome.

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  2. KateNorlock says:

    Dear heavens, your injuries. It doesn’t bear thinking what might have happened. I’m glad we still have you and your photo from today’s ride is smile-inducing.

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  3. catherine womack says:

    Thanks for the post– wow, what a vivid reminder that it’s dangerous out there and it’s up to us to take the lane and our space in order to be as safe as possible. So glad you are on the other side and enjoying the challenge of early spring riding. I almost took my commuter bike out yesterday, but the potholes are seriously huge and also the roads are covered with water, so there’s no telling how bad they are. Temps just dropped again and we have sleet and some snow coming (yuck yuck yuck), but soon, very soon, it will be time to get back out on the road!

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  4. Jean says:

    As some cyclists here know, there is a whole world of cyclists who vigorously do NOT wear bike helmets in some of the major North American cities….in North America where our cycling infrastructure is not ubiquitously as safe as ie. Netherlands.

    Anyway, while a bike helmet may not protect in a serious impact accident, since the brain still wobbles and shakes inside the skull from impacts, every measure can help reduce.

    I’m recovering from a head injury when another cyclist collided into me on New Year’s Day ..this yr. Like Sam, I am very lucky. My face was not as affected but I have no memory of the actual collsion, what the other cyclist and his bike looked like. Nor do I have memory of parademics transporting me by ambulance and later at hospital, rolled into CAT machine for scanning.

    I woke up in hospital on the spinal traction board and a head halo collar to stabilize my neck –in case I had such injuries. I was tested 4 rounds of neurological tests over a 24 hr. period. I have no memory of first 2 round of tests.

    No, but I did get whiplash pain on whole of my left side on body on falling onto pavement. Apparently the other cyclist fell on top on me including his bike. There are tire marks on my jacket.

    If you ever get a concussion from any sport, or falling with head hitting pavement, take it seriously and see emergency services/doctor.

    Yes, the back of my helmet did hit the pavement (I think) or was it a bike part?, enough that the adjustment plastic sizing disc for helmet straps at back centre of helmet, dug into my skull and I bled. My helmet did protect me abit from more serious impact.

    Concussion= head injury. That’s what it is or for Sam and I, it is mild brain injury. This terminology keeps it real.Information courtesy of my sister-emergency services doctor at hospital north of Toronto. She sees enough head injuries. Concussion is too vague and does not express…..the serious injuries in contact ice hockey, soccer, football.

    Sorry, maybe I should blog about this..later.

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  5. […] loving the thaw for my outdoor runs, but unlike Sam (see her post about getting back to outdoor biking), I haven’t taken to the road yet on either of my […]

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  6. […] I’m also back bike commuting on my cyclocrosss bike. […]

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  7. […] Sam posted about her positive experience getting out on the bike for the first ride of the season last month. But as a counterpoint she compared it to a horrible first ride in 2011, when she ended up in the hospital after a pot-hole related bike crash.  She included trigger-warning worthy photos of her bashed up face in the post. That’s Exhibit One. […]

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