I am not sure this is the right place, or the time or the notion. But I'd rather tell these stories, in the hope that they would help some-body, some-time. Read them, learn from them. I'm not saying that I'm doing everything perfectly, but these are the horror stories that we all walk away from and they leave a mark on everybody involved; including yours truly. They make me a better rider and hopefully they would pop in your mind in a similar situation and will help you out in some way.
So here goes.
This Friday (Nov 16, 2012) ~6:30PM. It's rush hour traffic. My usual route: ride up to 63rd street, take FDR South and get back on Manhattan bridge further South. No traffic lights so it's a faster route than taking local roads - unless it's raining heavy or snowing then FDR is the way to suicide.
The joining from 63rd to FDR South is funny, you take a 90 degree tight right turn with a bit of a ramp and if you miss the turn then you end up somewhere else. So there's a bit of a confusion on non-NYC drivers ( especially if they have NJ plates
) and during rush hour things are always hectic on that ramp. So my radars are wide open. Pay attention to traffic on FDR before merge. The worst thing you can do is speed up only to find the parking lot on the highway and then lodge yourself on the first non-moving object on the road because either you cannot stop, or the idiot behind you cannot.
It's dark. As I come up, I notice the traffic on FDR; mental note: I won't be able to merge fast, slow down, force the guy behind me to slow down as well. The car behind me is very close.
Off the ramp, there is a van approaching on the right lane to where I'll merge, the scenery behind the van's front bumper is not changing (sailing 101) we're moving at the same speed and our vectors are crossing - at this speed we will collide. I speed up a bit to give myself room. Can't. The car behind is keeping distance, I slow (haven't merged yet) I try to look behind the van on my left mirror. I see three headlights behind the van. One car, one bike in front. I take a mental note, the single head light is traversing the lane and it is too fast.
Van slows down a bit, I get room, speed up, merge... and I hear a loud, loud BANG. Mind you, second gear, I'm speeding up, have full face helmet, music blaring on my ears and I hear the bang. That little process in my brain that marked the headlight says "that headlight just crashed". On the left mirror I see sparks under the van across the road. I make the traditional "f@#$#K" sound and slam on the brakes.
I pull to the right side. This is one of the worst spots on FDR: it's a short tunnel type of strip that goes under a building/park and it's a turn. Worst spot. In my mind I'm replaying all those YouTube videos that has people getting run over because they stop dead smack middle of turns on highways. I almost want to continue and not help but I can't. So I stop, praying, flashers on. The van has stopped behind me, all traffic has stopped. I cut the engine, put the peg down and curse at Harley because it leans too much to the left - which I normally love but in this case, I am leaning into the right lane on a left turn at the darkest corner of FDR. I dismount (maybe 5 seconds passed so far) look behind see the van slowly moving and use the opportunity to launch myself on the middle lane since the van is blocking the lanes for me.
I start running against the traffic towards the accident. Bike is on the middle lane, rider on the left by Hudson side. I'm maybe 50 yards away. I see the rider getting up and I think "thank goodness, he's alive" stumbles towards the bike, picks the bike up and mounts it. My first reaction is to yell "don't mount the bike, don't start the bike, just push it to the side" and I reach him. Put my hand on his shoulder I yell "I'll push the bike, let's move to the side" and the rider turns to me and flips open the visor. It's one of the cutest faces I have ever seen. Trembling, she yells "it won't start, I can't start it" and I repeat "I'll push, move" and I notice the pool of oil on the road plus the smell of gas. I push her to the right shoulder (which is about two feet wide) and the traffic picks up.
I look at my bike, cars are barely missing it. I say the traditional "f@#$#K!" and keep pushing but her bike won't move. At this moment a vehicle stops behind me and somebody yells "do you need help?" I turn around and I see an ambulance!
- Are you an ambulance?
- What the?!?
- Lady do you want to go to the hospital?
- No! (she yells)
I tell her to dismount the bike, move her limbs. I notice the huge missing piece of clothing on her left upper leg, blood and the worst road-rash I have ever seen. She seems OK. I ask her to move all her fingers, arms, and she keeps saying she's OK. the ambulance guy asks two more times, and she answers two more times NO! then the ambulance leaves. She goes "I can't start, it won't start if it's not on neutral" I check her bike, left side almost flattened, handles look OK, shifter completely flat out turned inside. I try to pry it loose succeed a bit, get it on neutral but it's unshiftable. Get the bike running, put it on first with my hand and I tell her:
- Now, we're going to ride together, you'll ride in front of me, stay in first gear, won't go above 10 and we'll take the first exit. Pull over on the first opportunity on the right hand side and dismount and cut the engine. I'll cover you.
She nods and we get going.
After we get off of FDR and stop, I tell her to take off her helmet, gloves and sit on the pavement and just breathe. No more injuries, a bit of a bruise here and there. And she realizes the extent of the damage only then. And I realize that she's wearing tights. Tights! Thank goodness she has a very good helmet and high quality gloves. Regular street boots (all messed up) and tights for crying out loud. Had she had good armor, she'd have walked away unstratched!
I check her bike, left side, scratches, broken pieces, I am reciting aloud as I investigate:
- Scratched here, broke here, shifter all messed up
- Can you fix it?
- Not without tools... Left mirror gone, left turn signal on the front gone. It figures, you took a very bad fall on your left
- Oh, no, those are from my first crash
- What? You've been riding without a signal and a mirror?
- Yes, I didn't have a chance to get them fixed. Just happened like a couple of weeks ago
- You crashed a couple of weeks ago and you did this tonight?
- But it's not my fault. There were leaves on the road.
- What? OK. I wasn't going to say anytying, but I am now. This was your fault
- How, I wasn't too fast. The guy in front stopped hard and I skid.
- Of course he's going to stop hard. He has ABS, he has an airbag, he's stupid. He'll do whatever he wants. It's your job to protect yourself and leave enough room for these. I saw you. You were going stupidly fast.
- No I wasn't. I wasn't going too fast
- Could you stop?
- Why did you fall?
- I locked my brakes (did I say she was too cute? she says this in such a cute way that I want to be serious and be intimidating but I cannot help but smile. dammit!)
- And that's because?
- I was going fast and I couldn't stop
- Well done. You were too fast for your circumstances. That's what I call "stupidly fast". I do 110 if I want to but on an open road on the highway. In traffic, you should be going slower than the guy in front of you. Otherwise you crash. Please, please learn your lesson. Plus, if this wasn't rush hour traffic you'd be dead now. Very few people survive a fall like that on FDR with this little injury.
- Yes. I thought I was going to die. All I was thinking of was how to throw myself so that the car behind me does not run me over.
The rest of the night is very long and even more interesting. But this definitely is not the forum for that story. I ended up in WPIX11's news room, meeting the crew and having a blast. Helped her clean up her wound, taught her how to dress it and keep it clean (waaay too much experience in that department)
Told her to watch the Flick of the Wrist videos. And said "just because we say 'third time's the charm' does not mean that the third one's going to have a happy ending. please be careful. and don't forget. you already cost half a dozen teenagers their motorcycle experiences. Parents in those cars who witnessed that accident will not let their kids get on a bike before they 21"
Hopefully I will never see her in an accident again.
There is a lesson, every day, every minute on the road for me. Hopefully for somebody else here too.