Friday, April 30, 2010


It was late, and dark.  Jasper was crying, and we'd already changed him, nursed him, and our attempts at cuddling and soothing were only delaying our arrival home.  Dave and I had switched bikes, so he was on the Yuba and I was on his single speed Surly Steamroller.  The Steamroller has only a front brake, which, as Uncle Sheldon wisely tells us, is adequate and safe-- if you're used to it.  I'm not used to it.

In the dark, the chill, the hurry, the stress, and accompanied by the soundtrack of a silent neighborhood pierced by our wailing child, we were zipping down a slight incline.  Dave, ahead of me, braked suddenly to soften the Yuba's ride over a speedbump.  I, surprised by his deceleration and assuming something more treacherous than a speedbump, slammed on the brakes (er, brake) to avoid hitting or passing him.  He continued on another block: apparently, it took me some time to yelp my distress.

In adrenaline-induced slow motion, I felt the bike stop.  I felt the rear wheel lift.  I felt my arms and my core tighten in response, and I felt the bike level off.  The rear wheel returned to the ground.  I even felt a brief moment of relief at my recovery.  Then, I fell over, hard.  And then I yelled, and Dave turned, and time began to move again.

I took the fall on my left knee and my left forearm.  There was definitely blood, and pain, and I'd knocked something out of alignment on the bike, but Jasper was still crying and we still needed to get home.  So I got back on and we started moving again.

This was the worst part.  With no ability to assess what damage I had done to myself or to Dave's bike, we passed the next few miles mostly in silence.  I realized we were out of hydrogen peroxide, and I wasn't sure where we stood on large bandages, either.  So I sent Dave home with Jasper and stopped at the store to pick up first aid supplies.

There, under the fluorescent lights, I examined my wounds.  Blood dripping down from an already-swollen knee, and some broad, but not deep, road rash on my arm.  Lost skin and embedded grit in both palms.  Bad, but not so bad.

At the register: "How's your evening, ma'am?"  I look at my purchases, at the blood, at the clerk.  "I've had better."  He looks at me, all seriousness and sincerity.  "Are you ok to get home?"  I tell him I am.  I check out.  I limp the few blocks home.

And then I'm a mom: still bloodied, I nurse Jasper and rock him while Dave goes outside to check out the wounded bike.  No big deal out there, a few quick adjustments and it's better.  No big deal inside, either: exhausted Jasper goes right to sleep.  And only then do I get to really look over my own damage, get into the shower, lick my wounds.

Over the next few days, I had to endure a fair amount of clucking worry.  "Bicycling is so dangerous, you know."  But I didn't learn the story's true moral until a week later, in Tacoma.

Another beautiful day.  Out walking with friends.  A new, smooth walking path.  Jasper in a moby wrap.  And I take a header.  Slipping from the side of the path, I grab the baby's head and hit the ground in a sideways roll.  I take the fall on my left forearm, again, and on my right knee.  There is a lot of blood; I strap a disposable diaper around my elbow to staunch the flow.  Jasper is unscathed.

So, the moral of the story?  Cycling is dangerous.  Really.  About as dangerous as a walk with friends on a sunny day.


todd said...

the difference between our households (besides 7 years on the boy, but going back to his birth) is that when we have bikey mishaps with child, usually i pretend nothing happened, from a mix of personal embarrassment and an agenda not to feed fear of bikes. you, you blog it! and still, in neither case have our children come to harm. i think yours is ultimately the more effective teaching. thanks.

i've also fallen more on foot than on bike over the last 10 years.

jjfantastic said...

yipes and ouch! i'm glad you're ok. falling is never fun, be it on bike or on foot.

Kitty said...

This kid's baby pictures are gonna rock. And kudos for not knocking out the store clerk with the standard greeting.

Sox said...

You went for a walk without a helmet and other protective gear!? And you took the baby?!?! The child protection people will be after you for sure!

shetha said...

Oh yes -- I've taken a header with a 1.5 yr old in the back carrier ergo. My 5 yr old (at the time) tripped me as we were rushing to catch the crosswalk light. I went cheek first into the pavement. Still not sure if I actually broke the bone under there or not. It was bad for a while - I didn't even leave the house... Feel better soon! And watch your step ;-) That pavement comes up quick when it's coming at you...

She Rides a Bike said...

I am routinely reminded by my parents that bicycling is dangerous. I remind them in return that I once injured my neck getting out of bed. Lesson learned: if you don't want to get hurt then don't get out of bed.

Anonymous said...

When our oldest was about 7 months old, she wiggled in my husband's arms and he dropped her on our kitchen floor. She fell about 4 feet onto her side. She was fine, but we had to wake her up every hour to check her pupils all night per our pediatrician's orders. See, even standing in your kitchen can be hazardous.
Lynne in MD

Rodney said...

It has been said that most accidents happen within 25 miles of home. Perhaps you should think about relocating. LOL!

Hope you get and feel better soon.

Kori said...

You are so fantastic.
When people tell me that biking in Tokyo traffic I tell them they will die of apocaliptic disease in the crowded trains first. Or I say better than going stir crazy. Or better than dying of boredom.

You rock.

Just for the first time this weekend, I realized that when you guys visit Tokyo you could totally bring your bikes and ... yeah.

I think of you all the time. Miss you tons and send tons of love your way.

Happy mother's day my beautiful Katie.


Heather said...

Every time I walk down the stairs in our house while carrying Zephyr I am *certain* that I am going to slip and completely eat shit and hurt the baby and myself (maybe even to death!). Hasn't happened yet, but yeah. We're never safe. NEVER.

Tinker said...

I loved the story of your two wrecks/accidents, (other than the list of personal injuries). I just came from a blog written in the Boston area, which included a news article with Our Hero (Andrew?) and his two girls riding around together in the area, as they naturally would (Bakfiets, kids sitting in the box, all with helmets) And his story of the comments was not to be believed. People offered to punch him out, if they happened across him endangering children (even if THEY were the danger).

Like the firefighter that shot at the dad with his child in a safety seat on the back of his bike because he would not sit still for a lecture on safety, this is totally insane.