Friday, August 21, 2009

10 Safety Moment : Colliding With A Taxi At An Intersection

Jody Leonard after a car-bicycle collision

Good afternoon. Recently, a reader of my blog sent me this moving account of how he came to see the realities of a bicycle collision with an automobile.

Less than a month back, Jody Leonard who works for Deloitte & Touche LLP in Washington DC got into an accident with a taxi at an intersection. I really hope he recovers soon.

Here's a little of what he wrote to me :
"I was finishing up a training ride on a fine evening last July when I was hit by a taxi cab. I was traveling north bound on 15 ST NW toward Constitution Ave and the taxi was going south bound on 15th. This road runs in front of the Washington Monument. At the intersection of 15th and Madison, the driver made a left hand turn onto Madision, the wrong way down a one way street! I was struck by the car as I crossed the intersection at speed with the light. I don't believe he saw me at all.

So long story made short : 9 hours in the Emergency Room, cracked ribs, fractured nose, lacerations, abrasions, etc. but no head trauma as I was wearing a helmet. The driver, meanwhile, was issued a ticket by the US Park Police for an illegal left hand turn.

The Doctor estimates about 4 weeks for everything to start feeling normal again. The cab driver remained on the scene, but it was the many bystanders who came to my aid. This happened in front of the Washington Monument at the tail end of the DC rush hour and park police and EMTs were on the scene in less than 5 minutes. I was very lucky in that respect.

As for liability, in my mind the driver was clearly at fault, but accidents involving taxi cabs in the District are historically hard to deal with. So I took the advice of Bob Mionskie - former Velo News legal columnist - and hired an attorney. By the way, taxi's in DC are only required to carry the minimum amounts of insurance coverage, I really don't understand this since commercial trucks must carry at least a million dollars of insurance, and they don't ferry people around!

The worst part of all of this is my bike is toast! The pictures are deceiving since the entire frame is torqued. Both tires were blown out from the impact and my local shop tells me that the rims (Mavic Ksyrium Elites) are not bent, yet they tell me the wheels are so far out of true and tension that they cannot be salvaged. I'm wondering how this happened? So it looks like I'm out a frame and wheels, a drag since I love that wheel set!

The road back to 100% fitness has been very difficult, but I think I'm getting there. I believe it is important that people take away two messages from what happened to me. They are :

1. No matter how defensively you ride, there is always the possibility of another person's inattention and carelessness, both of which have the potential to cause great harm.

2. Always wear a helmet. I know the last causes consternation among a few who are vehemently against it, but I am certain that I would have had serious brain trauma. If it wasn't for the helmet, the crack would have been on my skull instead of the foam."

Helmet Front

Helmet Left Side Exterior

Helmet Left Side Interior

Interior Crack In Fresh Light

A torqued 7005 series Aluminum bike, much useless now

Other safety moments can be accessed here. If you have an interesting experience of your own to share, please write to me.


Deceleration And Force Of A Helmeted Head Impact

John S. Allen : Riding Through Intersections (Chapter 3 From The Online Book 'Bicycling Street Smarts')

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  1. Ouch. Get well soon and another great reason to wear a helmet.

  2. Ouch indeed. That must hurt a lot. Here's wishing a speedy recovery to Mr. Leonard. Love your safety moments.

  3. I may have left this before, but it's still worth reading.

    It's an account of my riding partner's endo on a smooth bike path with nothing around her for miles.

    I learned a lot from that accident.

    I just talked with her yesterday, over two years since her helmetless crash. She still can't work nor ride a bike.

  4. Here's another example of how you can be doing everything right and still find yourself on the way to the hospital to have your jaws wired shut.

    Listen to the eyewitness at the end of the video say the woman driver turned right in front of him even though he had a green light and the right of way.

  5. ksteinhoff said : I just talked with her yesterday, over two years since her helmetless crash. She still can't work nor ride a bike.

    That is profound yet sad. Why is it she can't ride? Has the head injury debilitated her?

  6. Hey Ron,

    May I ask what Cad software you use?

  7. Alloy : I have used Solidworks and PRO/E Wildfire 2 in the past when I was studying for the degree. But now I'm fooling around in Autodesk Inventor. You can always email me for questions like this (cozy dot beehive at The CAD question was sort of unrelated to an accident story. :)

  8. Jenny4:57 PM

    Great take home message for all of us. I'd also like to remind people to ensure their helmets are fastened correctly. A helmet sitting on your end by the sheer power of whim is as good as not wearing one.

  9. Jenny4:58 PM

    Oops, I meant head, not 'end'.

  10. That is powerful yet sad. Why is it she can't ride? Has the go trauma debilitated her?


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