When things go sideways, make sure you at least get the paperwork right.
I was heading downtown on Friday afternoon, with one errand to run, loaded for a weekend jaunt. I was in the right-hand lane of a four-lane road, heading toward an intersection when the car in the left-hand lane made a sudden right-hand turn right in front of me. My first thought was a distinct, Merde! I don’t want to have an accident.
I braked. At the same time I realized that contact was unavoidable. Damn. I leaned into the car as we collided. Bam! My bike made a great big crunch in the passenger door. Then I found myself standing, with my bike down at my feet. The cab stopped. And another car swung around from behind to block the cab, just in case. That driver rushed to help me pick up my bike.
I had the handlebars on the wrong side. He held the rack. I walked around to grab the bars on the left. I said I’ve got her, and tried to lean her into me. He held her upright. I said let go. He didn’t. Then I said more forcefully, let go! That’s when I guessed he must be a rider himself. I pushed my bike Casper to the side of the road and asked my assistant if he does in fact ride. “For 35 years,” was his answer. That explained why he wasn’t prepared to let go of the bike—not after watching me get hit.
The taxi driver was most apologetic, wanted to know if I was alright, said he was very sorry, that it was entirely his fault, that he didn’t look. Was my bike alright? I wanted to know that too. Clearly his car was not. But in Toronto, if the damage is less than $5,000, we are not required to go to a collision centre. And if there’s no personal injury, we don’t need to call police. The driver asked if we could go somewhere else to talk—other than in front of the police station—and do this without involving insurance. I said I liked the location just fine, thinking there must be video cameras all round.
My witness tried to give me his contact info. His first name was barely legible. His passenger wrote the rest. Then I wrote mine, twice, because mine was such a mess. He told me he watched the whole thing happen, and that I had fallen gracefully. I was really grateful for his support.
I took my bike for a short spin, up and down the block. I wanted to see if my forks were twisted. I sure didn’t want them to be. I didn’t want to be detained, not by paperwork, police, bike damage or personal injury. I felt a bit unnerved riding but it seemed my bike was fine. An initial inspection showed the crash bar was bent and wore white paint. I thought that was it. And I was really glad the accident wasn’t my fault.
I thought of the driver, and if that had been me. To go through insurance would not only be a hassle for both of us, it would increase his rates considerably, well beyond the cost of the damage. And it could cost points on his licence. Who was I to judge that it wasn’t (as I hoped) a fluke thing? We all make mistakes. I did what I thought was right. But I could have got the paperwork right!
The driver showed me his licence. I copied his name and his address and wrote down his phone number. He showed me the ownership and I copied out the numbered company info. I was clearly shaken. I didn’t even get his insurance in case I needed it. (And he never offered it up.) Not only that, when I got home I realized I hadn’t even copied out his driver’s licence number. I told him I thought the damage to my bike might be $200, and he assured me that he’d much rather pay me cash. And he wasn’t looking forward to talking to the owner of the taxicab.
I had about three hours to think before I reached my friend’s house. I went over and over what happened, happy to be riding away, enjoying the compliment that I fell gracefully. But I was still a bit shocked that I’d been in an accident. I stopped for wine once at my friend’s place, drank half a bottle within an hour—which is not my norm—enjoying the garden smoking lounge before moving to the hot tub. After that, I was clinging to the door frames to stand up, laughing, relieved that I seemed to suffer no more than emotional upset and perhaps a sore muscle or two from picking my bike up. I did not take ibuprofen that night. But I was a bit concerned that I might have been injured and not yet know it.
The next day I went on a very long hike, climbed a forested hill and walked for hours along a river, climbing rocks and swimming. The morning after that I was sore!
On Monday I learned that $627 would replace my crash bars, one side bent and the other scraped. I also learned the taxi driver has four kids with a maxed out credit card—but that he would pay me, perhaps a hundred dollars a week. I was not pleased. Friends told me I’d never get the money but I have half so far, and the rest should come next week. He could have just bolted.
The most interesting thing I learned was that I actually fell. My witness told me that he was impressed by my ability to tuck and roll. Tuck and roll? I have a vague memory of that, perhaps, but it was so fast that I thought I just ended up standing. I didn’t even know I hit pavement.
So Casper got another scratch. Crash bars are on back-order from Germany. And the driver is paying up. I learned I need to double check paperwork after an accident. And I’m intrigued to meet up with my witnesses who turned out to be neighbours. It’s not the usual way bikers meet, but it happens. Having a biker there at my side made a huge difference in my experience, even if he popped out of a car. We are everywhere.