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Scott Dodd’s Blog

My Sixth Avenue bike accident and a plea

Scott Dodd

Posted July 16, 2008 in Living Sustainably

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It was bound to happen. I’m just glad that I’m still here to write about it.

I started working at NRDC about a month ago and recently began biking to work a few days each week. I’ve got a beautiful ride down the west side of Manhattan, on a path along the Hudson River that’s shared by bikers, joggers, rollerbladers, dog walkers, moms with strollers and just about anything else you can imagine that’s not on four wheels.

You’ve got to be careful, of course, but the only really bad part of the ride is getting from the west side over to NRDC’s offices near Sixth Avenue. There are bike lanes on 20th and 21st Streets, but in New York City, bike lanes are no sanctuary. And yesterday evening, while turning from the Sixth Avenue bike lane onto 21st Street, I got plowed into by another vehicle and hit the pavement – hard. 

Fortunately, it wasn’t a car that hit me … or a delivery truck or SUV or even a scooter. It was a fellow biker.

I accept part of the blame. I was riding slowly and signaled that I was making a turn, but maybe not emphatically enough. I glanced in my rearview mirror, but quickly, because I was paying attention to the pedestrians crossing in front of me. I caught a brief glimpse of the delivery guy on the bike speeding up on my left, but it was too late, and he nailed me. I went sprawling, and he kept going.

Thank goodness I didn’t go flying into traffic. A pedestrian quickly reached down and helped me up, and I pulled my bike to the curb and assessed the damage. I wound up with a scraped knee and elbow, a big bruise on my hip and leg, and a broken rearview mirror. (I always wear a helmet … perhaps I should consider adding elbow pads.) 

Overall, I felt pretty fortunate, especially considering that my colleague Apollo Gonzales wrote just last week about a woman killed while biking to work in DC, and I chimed in with a comment about two more cycling deaths in New York and linked to a recent magazine story about the increase in city biking fatalities

I’ve been biking for most of my life, so this certainly wasn’t my first accident. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a high-speed collision, though. It really shakes you up, but I got back on my bike, rode home, fixed my rearview mirror with duct tape, and rode back in to work this morning. I’ve never been in a position to commute by bike before (as a newspaper reporter, I always needed a car to chase breaking news), and the benefits to my health and sense of wellbeing are too important to me to give up.

Plus, I believe in the good things that biking can do for our environment, as discussed previously here on Switchboard by my colleague Rich Kassel, and for our communities, as outlined by the folks at Transportation Alternatives. And I’m certainly not alone. With gas prices up, more people are joining the ride. (New York recently announced plans to explore a bike-sharing program along the lines of the ones that are so popular in Europe.) But that also means more of us are squeezing into the very little space allocated on city streets for bikes, pedestrians and everything else that isn’t a car. 

In other words, I’m sure this won’t be the last scrape that I get into while commuting by bike. I can only hope that they’re all so easy to walk away from. There’s often animosity between bikers, joggers, pedestrians and drivers (witness this New York mag story on the battle for Central Park), and I’ve certainly felt the frustration that comes from navigating a narrow path with lots of people all going at different speeds.

I suppose my plea is that all of us who want to drive less be a lot more careful and look out for one another, whether we’re on two wheels, two legs or any other variation. If we don’t, who will? For the sake of my scraped elbow, please share the road – and the bike path.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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