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  1. #1
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    What happens when you get hit by a car?

    I know, almost a silly question; You get hurt!

    I'm looking for accounts of people who have been hit on tour. If I'm on the shoulder, and someone gets too close, and their mirror or the side of their car nicks my pannier or my pedal, am I going to just go down immediately face first? Am I more likely to ricochet off but remain upright?

    Is there realistically anything I can do in the seconds before getting hit to reduce injury or bicycle damage, and relatedly, should I take my backup bike and practice jumping off of it while riding?
    Writing, Working, Photographing, and Living from the saddle. MaxTheCyclist.wordpress.com

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    One thing not to do is dodge to miss the accident.

    While I was on tour this past summer I was with my brother and mom up in MI at an event up there takign some time off. Watching the local news we heard about a guy who saw he was about to br involved in a hit and run accident. The guy was coming right up on him. He could see him in his mirror. The cyclist decided to avoid the accident and tossed himself into ditch. He ended up in real bad shape. The guy who never hit him walked off scott free. The cops can't do a thing about him. The guy in the car never hit him so it's not a hit and run accident. Their was no hit. Cops can't do a thing about it. The cyclist is at fault because he tossed himself into the ditch to avoid the accident.

    Another to watch out for that I have happen to me all the time, about once a week on average. Watch out for the guys that are coming at you from the front. Two guys, one behind the other. The guy in back is impatient and decides not to wait. He passes the guy right while they are going by you riding on the shoulder. Now instead of the two lane highway it has become a three lane highway. I've even had semis being the vehicle doing the passing. One locally and the other one out in IN/IL while I was my trip last summer. Think its bad when a semi passes you from behind right in the lane beside you. Try having one passing you from the front right in the lane beside you, a mere inches away. Better hope there is no reason why you need to swerve...or else.

  3. #3
    Cycle Dallas MMACH 5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikenh View Post
    One thing not to do is dodge to miss the accident.
    ...
    Cops can't do a thing about it. The cyclist is at fault because he tossed himself into the ditch to avoid the accident.
    ...
    Having been hit by a car, last May and still recovering, I'd have traded it for a spill in the ditch any day. While you say his injuries are severe, I can't imagine him being in worse shape than if a car plowed into him.
    That's gonna leave a mark.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
    I know, almost a silly question; You get hurt!

    I'm looking for accounts of people who have been hit on tour. If I'm on the shoulder, and someone gets too close, and their mirror or the side of their car nicks my pannier or my pedal, am I going to just go down immediately face first? Am I more likely to ricochet off but remain upright?

    Is there realistically anything I can do in the seconds before getting hit to reduce injury or bicycle damage, and relatedly, should I take my backup bike and practice jumping off of it while riding?
    Friend of mine got nicked by a car a few months ago. He thinks the car was trying to scare him, but misjudged, and the car's mirror just clipped his outside handlebar. Car was doing about 80kph, he was doing about 20kph. Luckily it didn't knock him off - just scared the hell out of him.

    I think if you do get hit from behind, it's most likely to be your pannier, and you'll end up being swung sideways and the side of your body facing traffic will hit the ground first. Everyone's got their own technique for "falling well", but the general rule is, don't try to break the fall with your hand - land on your shoulder or elbow.

  5. #5
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Make them stick around to file a police report. so you have legal recourse..

  6. #6
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    I use a mirror on my helmet that looks dorky but is really effective in letting me know what is coming up behind me. I've gotten into the habit of simply stopping and pulling as far to the right (in non-UK countries) as I can and letting any traffic go by. If I saw a collision was imminent, I'd try to do the same thing.

    I've fallen off a bike several times but all my accidents were a result of operator error, not outside forces.
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  7. #7
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    +1 on the mirror. Avoided an SUV last year whose driver was texting or something while coming up behind me half in the bike lane. Can't see every single car that comes up behind me, but do see a good percentage of them. Every little bit helps.

    Never been hit from behind though. Closest I've come is three separate incidents of people trying to buzz me. Two of them were motorcycles, the other a kid in a jacked up Toyota 4x4. How you go down I would imagine is a function of how and where you get hit - bumper, mirror, etc. Hard to predict.

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    I got hit by a car 38 yrs. ago and I still remember it as if it was yesterday. I was hit while commuting to work. I had stopped to pick up a newspaper to get the results of the Italian Grande Prix. I had my left foot on the pedal and my right foot on the curb turning my head to check on traffic before restarting. I heard a crunch and it sounded close. I remember thinking that was a very bad sign. The bike popped out between my legs and the hood of the car hit me in the hamstrings. I was flattened on my back against the hood. I slid up the hood and windshield and I remember sliding across the windshield wipers. I closed my eyes as I was flying through the air. I landed on my back on grass. I pulled my head up to look to see if my arms or legs were bent in a way suggesting breakage. They were ok. I was numb all over, so I laid back down. I knew in about 20 min I would be sore and I would know where I was hurt. I got picked up by an ambulance and taken to the hospital where I was x-rayed from head to toe. Nothing was broken, but I was bruised from head to toe. This was before the hard helmets were available. The accident was about 6:40 am. By 10:00 I was on my way home. I laid around the house for a few days before going back to work.

    Later I went back to the scene of the accident to see what happened. I had a pretty good idea where I was when I got hit and where I ended up. I was carried/thrown by the car about 75 feet, went between a steel street sign and a telephone pole to land on grass. I lucked out. Others havenít been as lucky.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bikenh View Post
    One thing not to do is dodge to miss the accident.

    While I was on tour this past summer I was with my brother and mom up in MI at an event up there takign some time off. Watching the local news we heard about a guy who saw he was about to br involved in a hit and run accident. The guy was coming right up on him. He could see him in his mirror. The cyclist decided to avoid the accident and tossed himself into ditch. He ended up in real bad shape. The guy who never hit him walked off scott free. The cops can't do a thing about him. The guy in the car never hit him so it's not a hit and run accident. Their was no hit. Cops can't do a thing about it. The cyclist is at fault because he tossed himself into the ditch to avoid the accident.

    Another to watch out for that I have happen to me all the time, about once a week on average. Watch out for the guys that are coming at you from the front. Two guys, one behind the other. The guy in back is impatient and decides not to wait. He passes the guy right while they are going by you riding on the shoulder. Now instead of the two lane highway it has become a three lane highway. I've even had semis being the vehicle doing the passing. One locally and the other one out in IN/IL while I was my trip last summer. Think its bad when a semi passes you from behind right in the lane beside you. Try having one passing you from the front right in the lane beside you, a mere inches away. Better hope there is no reason why you need to swerve...or else.
    I've got to disagree regarding the ditch. Many decades ago, when one could ride on Hwy 49 in CA with relative safety, my wife, her sister and I were overtaken by a poorly driven log truck. I was in the back and could see that this wasn't going to end well for my sister-in-law, so I yelled something at her. She thought I called for her to hit the ditch, which she did just before the truck's rear set of wheels rolled over the spot she had been occupying. The one little bruise she got was pretty insignificant compared to what would have happened if she had not gone into the ditch.

    Any reasonable athlete should be able to go into a ditch on a loaded touring bike without suffering much harm.

    You're right about watching for oncoming cars. Where I live, they don't even have to be passing someone to be far enough over the center line to hit a cyclist. We have head-on crashes between cars more than once per week here.

    Last summer I had a student of mine nearly hit my wife and I; she was oncoming, chatting away on her phone and completely over the center line around a blind curve. Fortunately, we were on the shoulder, so she missed.

  10. #10
    Senior Member zeppinger's Avatar
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    Ive been hit directly twice while on tour.

    One time was in India. The driver pulled out into the road without looking and hit me directly in the left rear pannier. My back tire came up off the ground and was pushed to the side but when it touched down again I got lucky or something and the bike straightened out and I didnt fall down. Guy just drove off laughing. The pannier had my clothes in it and so there was no damage.

    The second time was in Cambodia when I was enter Phnom Pen. A friend I had met on the road was cycling ahead of me and had to hit his brakes really hard in front of me. Because of the rough surface I went to his right instead of braking and was clipped by a motorcyclist which had a large chicken coop on the back of it who was passing on the right of the dirt shoulder. The motorcycle itself passed me but the chicken coop hit me in the back and I went down. Luckily I was going pretty slow because of traffic and was able to bail off the bicycle (no clips of any kind) and not go down. The bike had some cratches and so did one of my feet because I was wearing sandals but otherwise I was fine. The motorcycle pulled over and made sure I was OK before leaving and some tuktuk drivers also came over to help dust me off.
    Last edited by zeppinger; 01-31-13 at 08:39 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member fettsvenska's Avatar
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    When I was 11 years old I was hit by a car while riding my bike to school. I don't remember much about the actual collision. I believe that I was spun around and landed on the road. My lower left leg was completely snapped in two. I'll never forget that day. I didn't ride a bike again for about 7 years.

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    The only time a car has made contact with me has been on the Pacific Coast route in Del Mar, CA. It was a hot summer weekend, and cars were backed up for half a mile from the two stop signs on the highway (the part west of the racetrack). There is a marked bike lane, and I was blithely passing the stopped cars in the lane when a jerk in a convertible decided he would pass everyone in the bike lane too. The trouble was that he swerved into the bike lane when I was alongside him. The good news is that I did not go down. The ends of my bar-ends made contact with the side of his car and left a nice, satisfying scratch in his paint, but I managed to regain control. He was furious, and tried to make out that it was somehow my fault---yeah, right.

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    I was hit by a truck mirror, and it did not hurt, but it was scary.

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    I have chosen the ditch instead of the hit.

    The time I was hit, there was no avoiding it. I was waiting for traffic so I could complete my left turn, then I was in an ambulance.

    Best things you can do
    - be visible, but assume no one can see you
    - be predictable
    - use a mirror, get off the road where needed, pull over and wait if it makes it safer for you/the other driver
    - ride defensively (take the lane where needed, give the lane where taking it doesn't make sense, be patient)
    - be a polite user of the road
    - select appropriate roads, and when you find yourself on one that sucks, get off it ASAP (for me this includes things like not riding in countries / areas where it's not safe to ride)
    ...

  15. #15
    Senior Member WMcCready's Avatar
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    This is a great fear for me, because ride alone and, expect that the one whom hit's me will just keep going.
    Mcpedlpwr

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    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I was hit by a truck mirror, and it did not hurt, but it was scary.
    I had the same thing happen 4 years ago, only it was a full size van. I was hit in the left shoulder, folding the mirror into the passenger side window. I tried to catch the xxxxxxxx, but the traffic lights were on his side. I was not hurt but was really pissed off. It is amazing how fast I can pedal when the adrenaline is flowing. However, I did not go down.

    I also was hit by a car when I was about 11. A women took out my front wheel. I was just scraped up and really pissed off about my bike. It was a 45 lb. Columbia coaster brake bike of that era that my dad had painted and rebuilt for me as a Christmas present the year before. I went down on this one.

    I think I see a trend-- every time someone hits me with a vehicle, I get pissed off.
    Last edited by Doug64; 02-01-13 at 10:21 AM.

  17. #17
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    Inasmuch as your foot covers your entire pedal, if a car hits your pedal it's going to hit your body.

    In any event, every situation is different. You may never see a hit coming. Some idiot texting could drift onto the shoulder and take you out before you have any chance to react.

    If you are that worried, take a safe cycling course, wear a mirror if you think it will help you, stay altert, using your eyes and ears and brain. But remember that you can do everything right and take every precaution and still get nailed. It comes with the territory. The only way to eliminate the risk of getting hit on tour is to stay home.

  18. #18
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    My personal experience is that enough folks move over at the last possible second that there is no way to know if the are going to move over until it is too late to hit the ditch anyway. I have to wonder if the majority of the people who have made a dive into the ditch were really going to be hit. I suspect that two negative results come from these dives into the ditch. First the offending parties are probably entertained and find it hilarious and second they start to assume other cyclists will do likewise, making them a bigger danger to cyclists they will pass in the future.

    My personal approach is to stay as far right as possible in any situation where taking the lane is not called for. When doing this I try to ride a steady and predictable path. There are times that I leave the road in a pinch situation, but it is never a last second hitting of the ditch.

    In my 55 years of bicycling I have had contact with a few cars and trucks. I have been lightly brushed many times, had a car make fairly hard contact while brushing against me, been right hooked and had to throw a shoulder into the car to make an unplanned turn, and once I hit a car that pulled out in front of me. The last was the only one that resulted in injury and bike damage (I got an ambulance ride from that one). The one that brushed me pretty hard had damage to their car in the form of a good bit of trim ripped off of the car and probably a good scrape from the end of the bar and the pedal spindle, but they still sped away weaving and obviously drunk. That time the end of my left pedal was scraped as was the end of the bar and bar tape. By body was completely unscathed.

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    The Rabbi seely's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMACH 5 View Post
    Having been hit by a car, last May and still recovering, I'd have traded it for a spill in the ditch any day. While you say his injuries are severe, I can't imagine him being in worse shape than if a car plowed into him.
    I'm pretty sure he was in critical condition at one point
    commuter turned bike mechanic turned commuter (also a Velocity USA employee, but this is my personal account)

  20. #20
    Senior Member Hendricks97's Avatar
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    I was riding to work in October and I dont have a mirror, a car that didnt see me (even though I wear 3 lights in the back) plowed into me full speed. If I had tried to dodge, I wouldnt have hit the middle of the car where the crumple zone is and Id be dead. As it was, I broke 4 ribs, fractured one vertebrae and shattered another vertebrae. I had to have emergency surgery for 5 1/2 hours to remove bone fragments that almost severed my spinal cord and to have 2 titanium rods screwed into my spine. My body totaled his car and there were plenty of witnesses, so he couldnt help but stay for the police. I remember the initial impact without warning, then I remember being face down on the ground, then nothing till the next day. Im just now trying to get back on a bike, but the weather hasnt cooperated with my 25mm tires (the only bike I have left right now)

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    The Rabbi seely's Avatar
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    I've been hit a few times commuting, and been in a few bike-on-bike crashes. The two worst hits commuting were both similar scenarios. One was a car pulling out from a stop sign right in front of me, and the other was an oncoming car making a left across my path. In both, I went over the roof and landed on my back in the street. I was able to get up and "walk away" from both but suffered a concussion in the first (four staples) and 22 stitches in my chin in the second. All in all though, I came out pretty decently.
    commuter turned bike mechanic turned commuter (also a Velocity USA employee, but this is my personal account)

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    Quote Originally Posted by bikenh View Post
    One thing not to do is dodge to miss the accident.

    While I was on tour this past summer I was with my brother and mom up in MI at an event up there takign some time off. Watching the local news we heard about a guy who saw he was about to br involved in a hit and run accident. The guy was coming right up on him. He could see him in his mirror. The cyclist decided to avoid the accident and tossed himself into ditch. He ended up in real bad shape. The guy who never hit him walked off scott free. The cops can't do a thing about him. The guy in the car never hit him so it's not a hit and run accident. Their was no hit. Cops can't do a thing about it. The cyclist is at fault because he tossed himself into the ditch to avoid the accident.
    While there were no legal consequences to the driver, it's not clear to me that the cyclist made the wrong move. Hitting the ditch at maybe 25 km/h versus being hit by a car...both might hurt, but I think option two has a substantially higher likelihood of causing permanent damage. And even if there was a hit and run, there's by no means a guarantee of getting the license plate and tracking the guy down, so there'd still be no consequences to the driver.

  23. #23
    The Rabbi seely's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by neil View Post
    While there were no legal consequences to the driver, it's not clear to me that the cyclist made the wrong move. Hitting the ditch at maybe 25 km/h versus being hit by a car...both might hurt, but I think option two has a substantially higher likelihood of causing permanent damage. And even if there was a hit and run, there's by no means a guarantee of getting the license plate and tracking the guy down, so there'd still be no consequences to the driver.
    Hindsight is 20/20... it sounds like the offending vehicle was a semi or large box truck, so given the two options and not knowing exactly what transpired I can't say I wouldn't have done the same.
    commuter turned bike mechanic turned commuter (also a Velocity USA employee, but this is my personal account)

  24. #24
    Cycle Dallas MMACH 5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seely View Post
    I'm pretty sure he was in critical condition at one point
    We have no way of knowing how he would have fared, if the car had hit him. But it takes an extremely unique set of circumstances to make crashing into a ditch more severe than getting hit by a car.
    That's gonna leave a mark.

  25. #25
    djb
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    Best things you can do
    - be visible, but assume no one can see you
    - be predictable
    - use a mirror, get off the road where needed, pull over and wait if it makes it safer for you/the other driver
    - ride defensively (take the lane where needed, give the lane where taking it doesn't make sense, be patient)
    - be a polite user of the road
    - select appropriate roads, and when you find yourself on one that sucks, get off it ASAP (for me this includes things like not riding in countries / areas where it's not safe to ride)
    pretty much sums it up doesnt it?

    I would add re trucks coming up behind us. As riders of loaded bikes that are slow to accerlate, slow to brake, slower to steer, I can relate to a big heavy truck on a downhill, or a narrow road with on coming traffic--they just cant stop easily or create room when the room isnt there (in the case of another truck or car oncoming meeting all three of us at the same point) so for me, being aware of what is behind you (mirror) as well as front, is our responsibility--self preservation really.

    I have no problem taking to the side of the road if a truck behind comes upon me right when an oncoming is not leaving any room for rear truck to move over, however truck drivers who have the room and dont move over are psychopathic sobs that make me very irate, but what are you going to do, argue with X tons?

    mdilth--as per your specific question, just be as aware of what is going on around you as much as possible, to not be surprised by things. As someone else said, while you cant watch every vehicle coming up behind you, you can be aware of as many as you can. You just have to be as attentive as possible. Super busy roads are tiring as you have to be "on it" all the time (goes back to "select appropriate roads")

    *as an ex motorcycle rider as well, develop the fast ability to quickly assessing what escape route to take if needed, keep your mind sharp as you will prob only have a few seconds to assess stuff depending on the situation.

    **I am touching wood for all of us.

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