You see a mangled bike lying alone in the middle of the road. It is the only indication you have about the condition of its owner as the crowd tends to his injuries.
Another rider emerges bloodied. He is able to walk, but is dealing with the rush of adrenaline after coming so close to losing his livelihood with his son.
The driver stands on the street, in perhaps more shock than anyone else. While the riders feel sympathy, they are also conflicted with anger over the carelessness of her actions.
Everything is volatile. Emotions fluctuate. Details emerge, yet we are all still searching for answers.
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There is inherent danger to cycling, but the focus is to minimize risk. While drivers fixate on the occasional scofflaw, the majority of riders prioritize safety.
We had a large presence on the road with our group being longer than a Semi Truck. Riding side by side, we took up one of the two lanes, which is not only safer, but permitted by law.
As we were coming up on the next intersection, the two lanes were slightly narrowed by construction cones. While there was still room for traffic to proceed, the cars in front of us slowed to navigate them safely. We started reducing our speed not just for the hazards, but also for the approaching red light.
Being at the front of the group I couldn’t see what transpired, but the sound was unmistakable. You could hear the metal scraping over the screams. The sounds were unnerving, but they didn’t give any indication to the physical damage that was done.
I got off my bike to see a pile of riders strewn across the street. I couldn’t make out what just happened, but was surprised to see so many involved. You expect a collision to happen at the front or back of the group, but not in the middle.
Our consensus was that an SUV had veered into our lane and leaned a cyclist into the ground. This action pushed him into another rider who went down hard as well. The remaining group behind did everything they could to avoid running over the other two, but had little time to react.
Adding to the confusion, the woman driving the SUV stopped in the middle of the street stopping all traffic. In Los Angeles, any type of collision is usually met with some type of argument, but the lady was visibly shaken.
The next five minutes were hectic: attending to the injuries, calling 911, cars honking for blocking traffic, people coming out from shops asking questions. It was very confusing for all because no one had a clear idea about all that was in front of us.
The second rider was able to walk around. Bloodied, he was doing his best to dissipate all the emotions from this life-threatening situation. Physically, he looked fine, but we knew the shock was impairing his ability to assess himself properly. Later that afternoon, he would find himself in an emergency room starting the process of diagnosing all of his injuries.
Our primary focus was on the first rider who was lying flat on the asphalt. None of us had medical training, so the best we could do was wait until the paramedics arrived. Clearly, the trauma was severe enough that he didn’t even have the option of movement.
While most of us could only help by staying clear, there was an elephant in the room: the woman who caused this. She was emotionally distraught to the point that you had to question whether medication was involved. You wanted to comfort her as she was in tears, but had to temper your response as it was impossible to ignore the anger over her negligence.
A few of us approached trying to calm her nerves. She told us her husband and son are cyclists. That it was hard to believe this was happening. It was hard finding the words for sympathy while looking directly at the effect as he writhed in pain.
The paramedics came with stretcher in hand and delicately took our friend to the hospital. Virtually every part of his bike had been damaged from the wreck. The hope was the bike took the brunt of the force, but that was being optimistic.
The police came and calmly made their report. They definitely acted like they had experience at this. Everything cleared and it looked like nothing had ever happened, but your mind couldn’t erase it that easily.
No matter how remorseful the woman was, it doesn’t erase the fact that a life can be held in the balance so flippantly. The most bothersome part was that we were approaching a red light. What did this woman have to gain by hurrying up just to stop? With only a couple more seconds of care, the situation would have never happened.
What angers you most as a cyclist is the lack of respect drivers have for your life. Would they react differently if instead it was a pack of children riding? Are our lives worth any less because we’re adults? Do people even consider that we’re parents of children?
Let people know that you’re a cyclist. A driver. A parent. Let them know that you’re a person whose life could depend on the safety of others. Just like theirs.
Zachary Rynew has touched Los Angeles in many ways. For years he helped visualize many of the city’s major projects (LA Live, Hollywood Blvd., Metro Rail, UCLA) and had his work featured at the Getty. He was a winner at the LA Improv Comedy Festival and ran in five LA Marathons. Now, he travels the city by bike and couples his local knowledge with his sports writing experience to bring you a different look at the blurs we normally pass by.