On being hit by a car

The other day I left work a bit later than usual. I remember noticing my shadow as I cycled down the hill, and seeing the drivers going the other way struggling with the sun in their eyes, and struggling a bit myself when I looked over my shoulder. At the end of that road is quite a big roundabout, with several exits, but I’m taking the first left. I go that way every time I take the Brompton, so 4 or 5 times a week. I’d drifted towards the kerb so that there was space for two lanes of traffic to my right. I rolled up to the line and stopped as there was a car on the roundabout, and was then hit from behind. I remember shouting out, and then I was standing looking at the bike on the ground. The driver of the car got out and a pedestrian who was passing stopped. (The Brompton must have looked in rather a state to the untrained eye because of course it had folded at the hinge – in fact I think the fold acted a bit like a “crumple zone”.) I just stood, and stood, getting my head together while the driver apologised repeatedly and both she and the pedestrian checked I was OK.

I was OK. I’m fairly sure I wasn’t actually sitting on the bike when it was hit – I think I had a foot on the ground and was poised to move off. I had a sore spot on my, err, behind for a while, which fits perfectly with having been hit by the nose of the saddle, but I didn’t hit the ground with anything other than my feet. The Brompton is slightly less OK – the end of one side of the rack is broken off. I think the front left bumper of the car hit the right hand end of the rear rack (because it is a Brompton, the rack is low to the ground). There was a good scratch on the car there. That means one of the little wheels that make moving the Brompton is its folded state so much easier is gone.

After a minute or two it was pointed out that the stopped car was blocking the entrance to the roundabout a bit, so I assured the nice pedestrian that I was OK, and the driver and I shifted (by car and bike) over to a little residential area where we could swap details. The driver was very nice and terribly apologetic, and I didn’t (and don’t) feel anything much against her at all. I’m pretty sure I know exactly where she was looking – to her right to look for traffic on the roundabout. I wonder if I had been slightly obscured from her by the car in front of her (which had overtaken me). She literally just clipped me at very low speed. The fact that most of my weight was on my foot rather than on the bike probably helped as well.

Anyway, we went our separate ways. I’m going to take the Brompton to BikeTrax in a bit, but the rack will have to be replaced . I did warn the driver that Bromptons don’t come cheap! And then, on Friday, as I was wheeling the Brompton away from Haymarket, I heard my name being called – and it was the driver! I assume she was heading to Haymarket to get a train back to Livingston. It was good of her to speak to me – I hadn’t noticed her. So I was able to explain about the break to the rack which I don’t think either of us properly understood when we were both shaken. And I could reassure her that that was the only damage.

One other thing I did do was report the incident to the police, by dialling 101. That was an easy process, as all I wanted was for the incident to be recorded. They’re not going to take any further action, which is what I expected (indeed, wanted).

I’ve been remarkably unaffected by it all. I guess it was a very minor accident! I half expected to be nervous on the bike, or anxious about traffic coming up behind me, but none of that, which is good. (The only driver I’ve been annoyed with was the individual in a white box van who overtook me as I was turning right and forced me to brake and swerve because I didn’t want to share a pinch point with him. But I’d have been cross about that in any circumstances.) The thing is, it was so obviously a moment of inattention, where her being 30cm further out or me being 30cm further in would probably have meant no impact, and the driver is being so good about everything (so far… I’m still worrying about what she’ll say about the cost of a Brompton rack…) that I can’t seem to be cross.


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