Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My last bike riding update (for a while)

For the last few months, I’ve had a great time commuting to the office on my bike a few times each week.

While I did not save a significant amount of money on gas, I definitely felt a great improvement in my overall health.  I’ve been less tired during the day and have been able to sleep better at night.  My clothes fit better, and I’ve felt my energy and stamina levels increase significantly.

I want to share some bike riding updates with you all.

My wife got into a bike accident
Several months ago, a car hit my wife while she was riding to work.  A driver did not see my wife crossing the street and drove his car right into her.  She ended up on the hood of the car before rolling off after the driver stopped.  She was wearing a helmet and luckily did not suffer any head trauma. There were many witnesses and the driver did not try to flee.

A good samaritan called me on behalf of my wife.  This was one of the most frightening moments in my life.  That same morning, I was also riding my bike to my office and was about half way there.  My wife was crying on the phone and her voice sounded frantic.  I only heard her blurt out that she was “hit by a car” and that she was going to be “taken by an ambulance to the hospital.”  She was immediately rushed to the emergency room.

The helpful by bystander took the phone away from my wife and calmly explained what had happened.  She told me that my wife couldn’t move and that the ambulance was taking my wife to the nearby hospital emergency room for X-rays.  I immediately turned my bike around and started riding home as fast as possible.

I arrived at the emergency room in time to see my wife strapped head down to a long board, on the way to get complete X-rays of her body.  The doctors couldn’t allow her to move until X-rays were done.  The doctors were looking for broken bones or spinal damage. 

We were both very relieved to find out that my wife did not have any broken bones or fractures.  Instead, my wife’s body suffered from significant deep tissue and bone bruising, as well as cuts all over her legs and back.  Coincidentally, another unlucky biker was also hit by a car the same day.  She was brought into the emergency room and placed in the area next to us.

My wife’s slow recovery
For the first 3 weeks after the accident, my wife could barely walk due to stiffness in her back and neck.  She had to undergo physical therapy two times a week for 3 months.  Since my wife does not respond well to pain medication (causes vomiting), she had to endure a great deal of pain.  It was a very slow process but my wife finally bounced back after her injuries healed.

During this time, we were responsible for a lot of medical expenses from the ambulance ride to the emergency room stay, X-rays, doctor’s copays, medication prescriptions, physical therapy copays.  My wife also could not work for several weeks due to her pain.  We were glad that the at-fault driver’s car insurance reimbursed us for our medical expenses.

While my wife has fully healed from her physical injuries, the whole ordeal has been very traumatizing for her.  She will likely never ride a bike again.  We have already donated her bicycle to our local bike shop.

I continued to bike
As stubborn as I am, I continued to bike to work several times a week.  My wife was always concerned about me biking to the office and made sure I checked in with her whenever I arrived safely.  I explained to my wife that I have been biking since elementary school and had biked all throughout Jr. High and High School without issue.  I wasn’t about to let fear get in my way. 

I have had a few mishaps on the road.  Once, when I was biking home, I hit a nail and popped my front tire.  I was about halfway home and so I just walked for 3 miles pushing my bike home with me.  Several weeks ago, I was cut off by a vehicle making a turn in front of me, causing me to fall off my bike.  I’m pretty sure the driver noticed, but the driver just sped off.  I wasn’t injured but my bike tire had been dislodged from the chain.  I was lucky there were 2 bikers who rode by and helped me put my bike back together.   

Concerns for my safety
Earlier this month, my boss took me aside and had a frank discussion with me.  He shared a story about a bike fatality of a teenage boy that occurred recently in our neighborhood.  My boss was very direct with me when he told me that my job was too important to be putting myself at risk (by bike commuting to the office).  While my office is only 5.8 miles away from my home, my ride to work is not an easy one; there are lots of hills, plenty of vehicle traffic, and few bike lanes.  My boss said to me “I’m not asking you to stop biking completely, there are plenty of bike trails around us.  I’m asking you to re-think bike commuting to the office.”    

No more biking to the office
When I told my wife the details of the discussion I had with my boss, the first thing she told me was “this is what I’ve been trying to tell you!”  I understand that people have concerns about me biking to the office.  These concerns for my safety are very real.  I may be a great bicyclist, but there may be some terrible drivers on the road.  About 1/3 of my bike ride is in safe residential areas, while the other 2/3 of the ride involve biking on the major streets.

Biking is one of the safest forms of transportation.  It’s great exercise, and it’s fun - but accidents do happen.  Getting into an accident while riding a bicycle is very different from getting into an automobile accident.  When you ride a bike, you don’t have a seat belt, air bags, or a metal cage to protect you. 

Part of me is calling myself a “wuss” and an “excuse maker” and another part of me wants to be respectful of the concerns people important to my life have over my well being.  I’m still biking around my neighborhood where there are plenty of bike lanes and bike trails.  I’m just going to refrain from biking to my office. 

As for cardiovascular exercise, I have been walking our puppy Abby 2-3 times a day, for 20-40 minutes at a time.  A brisk walk is a great way to start my day.  I still wake up at 6am every morning, but I’m reaching for the dog leash now and not for my bike helmet.

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