Typing one handed is a challenge. I have multiple fractures in my left arm. Fortunately they have been brilliantly welded together using metal pins and a plate - a spectacular feat of orthopedic engineering by Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) surgeons. My sorry tale begins early in the morning of the final day of 2011. I love cycling and have ridden without major injury for decades. Like other riders I have had close calls with cars, escaping the horror that too many on bikes experience.
One of my favorite relaxing rides is along the Torrens Linear Park to Henley Beach, a ritual that involves refueling at 'Joe's Kiosk'. I often do this with a good friend of mine. He recently suffered the indignities of using bike cleats for the first time (the practice of locking your riding shoes into the pedals to give you greater stability and power). As many of you probably know all to well, this takes some getting use to and falling off a few times is common before you master it. Cycling requires more skill than you might imagine.
As hundreds of professional cyclists began their annual pilgrimage to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under, excitement grows among casual riders. Dusty two wheelers are brought out into the light and balding tyres pumped up for the first ride of the season. Sleek Lycra is peeled on over Christmas cheer, helmets are donned and off you go. You are a little nervous but you are on your way. It' been a while since you have ridden but once you learn you never forget do you?
The air rushing by is invigorating. You are the engine it is the vehicle. Muscles you had forgotten are stretching, working in harmony, moving you forward - faster than you can walk, faster than you can run. You are finding your confidence, you push a little harder, a little quicker. It is an exhilarating ride along Linear Park. You feel a sense of freedom. You approach the Henley Beach Road underpass. You misjudge, you lose control, you crash into an oncoming cyclist. Your handlebars lock together like bulls horns, one dragging the other to the ground, the helmeted head of the other rider bounces off the pavement, anchored riding shoes fly out from their moorings. Shoulder, elbow and hip collide with the unforgiving surface. It is all over in a second. Bodies and machines strewn across a narrow path, concrete wall on one side and steel fence on the other.
I am the other rider. Something is badly wrong. I stay on the ground, too scared to move, frightened of what I might discover. My whole body is hurting. Feels more like the impact of a truck than a bike. Is my neck broken? Thank God I can move it. My arm is agonising. Passers-by gather, providing welcome assistance but they can't see what I feel. My riding mate looks over the scene with horror. The careless rider knows she was wrong but looks to me hoping I will say it is my fault. Eventually she leaves, no name given, anonymous to this day.
Nothing left to do but get my bruised and battered body into the RAH and find out how much damage has been done. The news is not horrendous but it is not great either. Multiple factures in the arm required surgery and plenty of metal to pull it all back together. Lots of grazes and bruising. It could have been much worse and it often is for riders hit by cars, trucks and buses. I will probably be fully mobile in a few months but others will be incapacitated for much longer. Some will die from their injuries.
After my crash I discovered that I was not the only one who has been badly injured riding the Linear Park path going under Henley Beach Road. The mangled fence on the river side of the path tells it all. I have been told that one rider sustained a debilitating broken collarbone from a crash there. That incident was reported to the City of West Torrens a few years ago but the hazard was not adequately dealt with. While millions of dollars have been spent on upgrading the Linear Park path major hazards remain. I have asked council to urgently do something about it before someone is gravely injured or dies. They have agreed to make some minor changes and explore widening the path. Nothing short of widening the path will prevent further crashes.
We can all help to make riding much safer than it is. Hazardous biking black spots need urgent reengineering. Riders, particularly inexperienced ones, need to take signage seriously, be careful, respectful and aware. All need to report accidents involving injuries to the Police and take responsibility for any damage caused. Remember, the rules of the road apply to cycling.
With the popularity of cycling growing every year in Adelaide there is a growing need to pay greater attention to rider safety and rethink road and path design. Cars and bikes don't mix. Most cycling accidents involve cars and bikes. One solution to help reduce the number of accidents is to rapidly accelerate the development of safe bike lanes with physical barriers in place to separate bikes from vehicles. We spend billions on transportation infrastructure every year in Australia. Very little of this is directed towards the elimination of cycling hazards and creating bike friendly cities.
While my New Year's Eve was memorable for all the wrong reasons I was incredibly impressed by the wonderful standard of care at the RAH. Many thanks to the teams in accident and emergency and orthopedics at the RAH. They do an outstanding job under pressure.
A happy and healthy new year to you all.
- John Spoehr
Access to original item: http://www.adelaidereview.com.au/article/1268