Sunday, May 2, 2010

Returning to the scene

 Not long after I started this blog, I was in a year-changing bicycle accident.  I made it out with a broken collarbone, which only hurts occasionally at this point.  The gripping tale of this accident begins here.

In the months since, I've wondered about the cause of the accident.  Immediately after, I was sure of the reason -- I was looking out toward the horizon and failed to notice a three-foot pole, or bollard, in the middle of the path where it crossed an access road.  The more I thought of it, though, the less satisfactory that explanation seemed to me.

I "re-enacted" the accident probably 100 times on the bike trail during my daily commutes.  I'd look out into the distance and try to imagine missing a three-foot pole in my path.  It seemed impossible.  I finally concluded I must have been looking not at the horizon, but down at my chain or cogs in the critical seconds before the crash.

So, it was with some anticipation that I finally returned to the quiet intersection of path and road where the accident occurred, some 15 miles from my home.  Here's the intersection, looking in the direction opposite of my travel on the fateful day:

It still looks like it'd be hard to miss, doesn't it?  Well consider a couple of things that were more apparent to the eye than the camera.  First, the color of that bollard is very close to that of the center line on the path.  When you're at the right angle, the pole disappears into the line it bisects -- this is not the case with the angle of the photo, but trust me, it happens.

Second, I'd forgotten how much the path curves immediately before the intersection and bollards.  The result of this is the pole only becomes visible a short time before you're upon it. Here's a view from the direction I was traveling on the day of the crash.

All in all, I feel less ridiculous about the wreck.  In fact, one of my main reactions was gratitude for having somehow missed the big yellow beams that border the path and between which I must have fallen.  It could have been a lot worse.


  1. As soon as I saw your pictures, my thought was "I bet that blends right in with the center line when approached at certain angles". So I don't think it's embarrassing at all that this happened to you. We have some similar poles on the Minuteman Trail outside Boston, and people do crash into them. I think these things are dangerous and need to be re-thought. Glad your accident wasn't worse.

  2. @Velouria,

    Thank you! That validation means a great deal to me. I think red poles would be far better against the yellow lines.