Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 16th, 2008 at 10:50 am
People who use a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation may not be familiar with the emotional impact that bike/car collisions have on folks on the other side of the windshield.
An example of this emotional toll comes from a comment left on this site a few minutes ago. The comment was left by someone who lists themselves as “Wife of truck driver” and it was left as a response to my coverage of the recent serious injury collision in Southeast Portland.
Given the tone of the comment I don’t doubt her identity.
Here are a few excerpts:
“I am the wife of the truck driver and emotionally he is NOT ok. His concerns are only for Karl.
The truck will NEVER be a part of our lives again!! After that who could imagine getting back in.
My husband is in need of counsel as he is the type of person who could not hurt a flea. We have a Son who Mountain Bikes, We road bike and more often than not its the Car, however this time my Husband was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
We Pray for Karl and hope he will mend, His injuries can be stitched or taped.
My husbands will forever be their. I picked him up at the scene, He still is in shock and can not hardly function with his daily tasks.”
I can relate to these feelings based on two personal experiences.
Many years ago in California, while driving to a mountain bike ride (ironically) after a long day at work, I nodded off at the wheel. When I shook it off a brief instant later I realized I had veered into the bike lane. A chill ran through my body as I realized what could have happened.
More recently, in Portland, my wife Juli was driving our mini-van in inner Northeast Portland when she collided with a man on a bicycle. After she glanced to her right, Juli looked left at oncoming traffic and inched up past a stop sign. The guy on the bike was riding on the sidewalk to her right and he slammed into the mini-van. She never saw him.
Thankfully he wasn’t injured at all, but Juli was really shaken up. She couldn’t stop feeling bad about what happened (even though the guy on the bike admitted that he was likely at fault). She was a wreck when she got home and her mind wandered. What if it was worse? What if he would have been seriously hurt? Or worse?
This is not about “blaming the victim” (a term that has come up in comments when this topic has been raised in the past), or wanting to spur a conversation about who shoulders more blame or responsibility in bike/car collisions. I just think it’s important to realize that, even though there is never (or very rarely) physical injury to the person in the car or truck, there are emotional injuries that can also have a lasting impact on someone’s life.