Thursday, 7 July 2016

A Tale of Whoah!

First things first, thanks John for giving an outsider access to Team Pannier's sacred blog site. Second things second, sorry to all the other Team Pannier members for my intrusion, especially those of you who don't know me. Neil, John and Rich have all suggested to me at various times that I might like to tag along on one of your adventures, but I haven't yet summoned up the nerve.

Anyway, be that all as it may, I wanted to record a recent incident in a blog entry somewhere, and this seemed like a good place to do it ...

Friday 24th July 2016 will be remembered by me for two things, the first being the result of the Brexit referendum (which I won't go into here) and the other being a crash I had on my bike in the evening!

It was a lovely Friday evening, and my wife was due to go out to meet some work colleagues for a meal at 7:30. At work, several of us are taking part in the 'Global Corporate Challenge' in which teams of seven of us try to accumulate as many 'steps' as we can over a period of 100 days. Cycling miles are converted into an equivalent number of steps, and it seems that cycling is a great way of accumulating decent step counts. In this regard, I am a victim of my own success and had managed to earn an average of something like 21,000 steps per day. I felt a certain amount of pressure to maintain this average, both for my team, but also for my own satisfaction and pleasure. I've really been enjoying getting out on my bike and had just started commuting (12.5 miles one way) a couple of days a week. Anyway, I decided that I'd go out for a quick hour on my bike whereas I might otherwise have not bothered, with it being a Friday evening and with Colette going out.

I had done most of the ride, and was on the downhill return home (normally very enjoyable). This particular time, the whiz down from Owler Bar had been marred by hail stones which were surprisingly painful on my forearms whilst travelling at a speed of more than 30 miles per hour. Ironic that I was thinking that this would be the talking point of my ride.

One of my favourite parts of the return journey is the ride through Totley, and especially if the traffic lights are on green towards the bottom on Baslow Road. I love speeding through the lights, and trying to keep the speed up over the slight rise that comes as the road passes over the railway. I was doing exactly that on this occasion, and then approached a junction which I have long suspected as being potentially dangerous to cyclists.

Time for a picture:

You will notice the silver car on the left emerging from the junction. This is a particularly awkward junction for cars which join from the road seen on the left parallel with the A621 along which I was travelling. When cars get to the junction from this direction, they tend to be oriented such that they can't see back along the direction I was travelling from. There is also the potential for aggravation amongst motorists queueing to join from the slip road and those already on the side-street. For all these reasons, I am always wary at this junction.

On this particular occasion, there was a car already with its nose out blocking the cycle lane. That set alarm bells ringing right away. My initial though was that the car would pull out in front of me - I was still a way off from it, but no, it seemed that it was going to stay exactly where it was. I may have weighed up two options, but the first option didn't really get any serious consideration, and that was to slow down, ride up to the car and shrug my shoulders in an annoyed way at the driver, so the second option was to give a relatively wide berth to the car and ride around the front of it, hoping that I had been seen by the driver, and thinking that even if I hadn't I'd be able to get round it before it had made any progress.

I was approaching the car and making ready to wave my left arm at the driver in a gesture of frustration, but right then, a car which was sat in the central reservation area turned right, immediately in front of me. I had time to think 'What on earth!' (or thoughts to that effect), and then I struck the side of the car. I think I also thought that I was doomed.

Next thing I knew, I was on my hands and knees on the road, having not quite made it as far as the car which was still sitting in the cycle lane. The car which I had hit wasn't around at that moment, as the impact on its side had done nothing to halt its progress. The driver of the car in the cycle lane got out and asked if I was alright, and encouraged me not to try to get up. Try to get up was exactly what I did do though because I was quite keen to see if I could get up. Thankfully, I was able to get up and walk and move my arms. I looked at the driver, still wanting to question why he had seen fit to block the cycle lane, but the irrelevance of the question to my current plight stopped me, and I just looked at him with a fair degree of silent incredulity.

Before not too long at all, the driver of the car I'd struck, and his two mates, who I assume were passengers, approached too to make sure I was alright. He apologised several times and stated that he hadn't seen me at all (which I completely believe) and admitted it was his fault entirely. One of his mates seemed very concerned about the state of my elbow which was bleeding fairly profusely and offered the following pearl of wisdom "You want to get a couple of stitches in that mate".

I got my bike out of the main road and found my thumb to be painful and therefore suspected it was broken right away. Offers were made to call an ambulance. The driver of the car I hit offered to take my bike home (I don't know how he'd have fitted it in his car).

I insisted I was fine and would call Colette to come and get me and the bike, and take me to hospital. This led to a bizarre ten minutes where I was trying desperately to operate my phone without success. Hurdle number one, it was raining slightly, enough for the screen to be wet and for the fingerprint recognition not to work. I was keen to photograph the car I had hit, but couldn't activate the camera app because the screen was wet. I'd swipe to the top of the screen, but then go past it without having registered enough swipe and the app would ping back down to the bottom of the screen. I did then eventually manage to phone Colette on our land-line, but my Bluetooth earpiece was active and Colette couldn't actually hear a thing I said. She therefore knew I was trying to get in touch,  but didn't know why and where. I think she thought I was unconscious in a ditch somewhere. Eventually I did manage to turn the Bluetooth off and to make a proper phone call which did get through.

Once they knew that I had arranged for someone to pick me up, the various parties were happy to leave me and go on their way (as I had been asking them to do for some time). Of course, I got the registration and name and address of the driver who had cut me up. Unfortunately, I didn't get any details of the cycle-lane blocker. Oh yes, as the car which I struck set off, I noticed that the impact had broken the window of the rear passenger side door.

This might be a good place to add a link to the Strava record of my ride, for those that might be interested.

I suppose this is also a good place for a picture of the damage to my bike.

That's about it ... a twisted shifter, and a twisted handlebar, although looking at it now, I'm not sure how one twisted in one direction and the other twisted in the other.
So, on to the hospital visit.
We went pretty much straight to the hospital and arrived at about 8 (the crash occurred at 7). I walked towards the reception area at the Northern General A & E, and there was a man waiting in front of me in the queue. He looked at my elbow and stepped aside for me to go in front of him ... very decent of him. I explained the situation to the receptionist behind the thick glass screen via an intercom and was directed to the waiting area where a display informed us that due to unprecedented levels of injuries, our wait would be typically 1 hour and 40 minutes. 'Unprecedented' - not just 'unexpectedly high' but unprecedented! How unlucky!
Sure enough, we did have an epic wait and were finally assessed at something approaching 10 o'clock. I told the triage nurse about the whole thing, believing at the time that I'd struck the vehicle with my head. Because of the potential for a head injury, I think, I was placed on a trolley bed and wheeled off to a booth. After another wait, a young doctor came to see me, who was a cyclist himself. He decided that my thumb needed an X-ray, but my shoulder and ankle (which were also hurting) weren't broken. So - another wait, the I went round to X-ray - waited - was X-rayed - returned - waited. The doctor then returned with a colleague who had a look at the laceration on my elbow (I think they held the skin back and had a look through to the bone underneath) they then decided that I needed another X-ray on my elbow ... so a bit more waiting (less this time thankfully) and another X-ray. There was then a bit of wound cleaning, and we were shipped off to another area for assessment to create some space in A & E. By now, it was about midnight and the unit we were taken too was a cross between 'You're Back In The Room' or whatever the hypnotism show is called, and bedlam ...
There was a lady in there who was after a very specific form of medication which the nursing staff were unable to give her because they couldn't know for sure that she was supposed to be having it. There was also an old chap who gave out a load moan every now and then, and required a bottle to wee in every then and now. The lady seeking medication was very persistent, very intellectually challenged and very coarse. Every now and then, she'd drop the 'F' bomb, which would then trigger the bloke in the next bay to shout 'Language!'. She'd sometimes apologise, and sometimes hurl more foul and abusive language his way.
So we put up with this for probably an hour and were then told that I was to be admitted to the Huntsman ward for clinical assessment by the 'plastics consultant'. Apparently the injury to my thumb fell between two schools, the orthotics, and the plastics. I think the plastics people were also going to look at my elbow, so the whole lot fell to them in the end.
Colette finally went home about 2 am when it was made known that we may not be seen for some time, but shortly after that, I was indeed seen and told that I would be having an operation to put pins in my thumb and to clean out and stitch up the elbow wound at the same time.
I went for the operation at around midday on the Saturday. As the operation involved both local and general anaesthetics, I had no feeling or control of my right arm when I came round, and wasn't allowed to leave until I could move my fingers again, and feeling had returned. This happened around 11 pm and thankfully I was allowed to go home ... another round trip for Colette.
That's pretty much it ... sorry if it is a bit rambling - I just wanted to capture it all.
Oh yes - here's my injured hand: