One of the things that my wife has been very worried about since I started biking is my safety. (I had an accident 2 1/2 years ago that fractured my spine and came darn close to paralyzing my legs). Over the past 2 years, I've gotten myself into better shape than before the accident, and have come to love cycling. I do between 75-100 miles a week between a 43M RT commute and a weekend ride. With the weather this week, I've done 120 miles, so I'm really loving it.
Today, I was on the return leg of a 30 miler on the W&OD trail in Northern Virginia. I felt pretty good, and was able to catch a cyclist that I'd been pursuing for about 8 miles (that was tough!) I was pushing on the way home, and saw a couple cyclists in front of me. Because we were approaching a busy intersection, I stayed back, and let them know I was behind, giving a bike length's distance as we were slowing down. The rider on the RH side (they were riding 2 abreast) turned his head to say something back to me, and his wheel dipped off the right side of the MUP. I saw him try to correct, and I quickly braked and turned left, but he essentially stopped in place as he went down. A million things went through my head in about 1/2 a second, but the two things I remember were BRAKES! and GET OUT OF THE PEDALS! (in my head of course). I got out of the right pedal, but couldn't get out of the left, and I went down as soon as I ran into him (actually ran over the top and fell).
This could have been much worse. We had already slowed down to about 12 MPH or so, and I braked hard enough to scrub off a lot of speed. Turning left had me miss a direct hit, and I was able to slow my fall before contact.
Nobody was seriously hurt, thankfully. He had a cut on his leg (probably from his pedal), but not a big one. Somehow, he hit hard on his butt, and I think his shoulder banged into something. I got an abrasion on my elbow and a slight scuff on my hip. Fortunately, everyone was OK.
For the bikes and gear, it could have been worse, too. I had a small tear on my glove, and a small rip at the back of my saddle. Not a scratch elsewhere on the bike. (with a new CF bike, I was worried that something might have cracked). His bike was a bit worse, but still rideable. Broken dork disk which we discarded, and his rear wheel was a bit out of true. His handlebars took the worst of it. While his brifter got a good scuff, it wasn't bent or otherwise damaged. His bars were definitely bent, though, so I think he'll be getting a new set.
Neither of the riders in front of me were wearing helmets, so they were lucky. I won't get on a bike without one.
....and I'll be putting more distance between myself and the riders in front of me. This could have been MUCH worse.