“There is no reason why a man on a smooth road should lose his balance on a bicycle; but he could.
C.S. Lewis, Perelandra
There was no reason that I should have lost my balance; but I did. At least that’s what they tell me. I “wasn’t there.” My body was there, anyway. I don’t remember anything about what happened. Retrograde amnesia, I guess. The only thing I do remember about the time before my crash is being down at the southern end of the island and starting to head north. The only thing I remember after is thinking, “Wow, I’m in a helicopter.”
I don’t remember the medevac helicopter ride (what a shame, that would’ve been cool). I don’t remember much from the next couple of days. That’s probably because of the drugs they gave me to keep me from being in pain: my face was kinda scraped off. I broke multiple ribs in multiple places. Tore a bicep, and a rotator cuff. Broke a thumb. Road rash on both arms. Chest bleed. Brain bleed (not subdural, subarachnoid: a potentially serious one).
Why am I telling you this at all? Two reasons.
The first is to talk about “crashes” and “accidents.”
All accidents are crashes. But very few crashes are accidents. What difference does it make? A lot. An accident is “an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.” But a crash almost always has a cause. The drunk driver, who hits another motorist or a person riding a bike or someone walking down the street, chose to drive after drinking. The bicyclist who runs a red light and gets hit chose to ignore the law. The pedestrian who ran into the sign or fell into a fountain (yes, you’ve seen videos like that!) chose to stare at the phone instead of where he or she was going. And sometimes, more than one party in a crash could have made different choices that would have changed the outcome. Like the motorist who decides to rush past a bicyclist and then make a right turn in the bicyclist’s path. The motorist could have waited the few seconds to let the bicyclist go through the intersection. The bicyclist could have scanned the traffic more frequently, or used a mirror, to see the approaching motorist sooner, and slowed or used an evasive maneuver to prevent the crash.
Doctors ran tests on me in the hospital. They weren’t able to find a cause for my crash, so maybe it really was an accident. Or not. Maybe I did (or didn’t) do something that may have changed what happened. Or not. Maybe mine is one of those outliers. Or not. If not, I don’t know what I might have done differently that day.
But usually we choose to do things, though sometimes the choice is not well-thought-out.
And now the second reason why I told you all this: because I think He isn’t done with me yet.
I was already committed to teaching others about safe road use. But if I had ANY doubts whether this was what I was supposed to do, they were certainly put to rest then. Since then, I started working towards educating potential educators. First, I became a coach for the League of American Bicyclists – training new instructors nationwide so they can educate others. And then, I found a real groove: working with some of our most influential educators: law enforcement officers.
Some people think of police as “enforcers,” as the “strong arm.” Yes, they are that, sometimes. But more often, they are educators. The stop you because a taillight is out. They direct traffic to help you avoid a dangerous situation. They respond when a crash happens, and, often, someone gets a ticket. Are these “punishments?” Perhaps, but these are also powerful educational moments…More often than not, just a discussion with an officer is sufficient to cause a change in behavior. The authority given these men and women puts them in a unique position to educate. That’s what I hope to tap into. If I can change the perspective of police officers, so that they see the world as it appears from the saddle instead of from behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, then they can better understand (and change) behavior of the citizens they encounter, both in cars and on bikes.
So maybe there was a reason I lost my balance. Maybe there’s a reason I had time to think about the next step. And maybe I’ve figured it out. But maybe there’s more…He hasn’t told me yet.