It’s going to happen, so be prepared. It’s virtually impossible to be a cyclist and not fall. That’s the bad news. The good news is that falling doesn’t have to be a major crisis. Most injuries you’ll experience, as a cyclist won’t be serious.
You need to keep some items with you as you ride that will aid you in the event of an accident. Also, a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home will allow you to tend to your own wounds. If your accident was as the result of an encounter with a vehicle, you may need to speak with the police or a lawyer.
Items to Carry
Each time you go for a ride, there are a few items unrelated to the bike that you should always carry with you. In the event that you do crash, having the following items can make a significant difference in how quickly you receive assistance.
• Cell phone: They are small enough that you can carry one in a plastic bag in your jersey pocket, and if they have a GPS, they can help with directions, too.
• I.C.E.: Program an “in case of emergency” entry into your cell phone. Emergency responders around the country are being trained to look for such an entry in the event they encounter some- one unconscious.
There are a few items you should carry with you on each ride, such as your phone, ID, and insurance card.
• Driver’s license: Whether you choose to carry your actual driver’s license or a photocopy, make sure you have some identification with your address.
• Medical insurance card: In the event you must be transported to the hospital, you will receive care more quickly if you can produce your medical insurance information promptly. This could be on the back of your driver’s license photocopy.
• Information on allergies or conditions: If you have any allergies or conditions that could create a life-threatening situation if you’re treated while unconscious (such as diabetes or a pharmaceutical allergy), consider wearing an ID bracelet with this information.
Most Common Injuries
• Road rash: Any fall that includes sliding on the ground is going to result in some abrasion. These tend to weep, or drain fluid, in the days following the injury. Most cyclists have the greatest success treating road rash with hydrocolloid bandages—often called “second skin.”
• Punctures and lacerations: Even without broken parts, a bicycle’s chainring can give a cyclist a puncture wound or laceration. With the prevalence today of carbon fiber parts, the possibility of being cut by a damaged part with a jagged edge has risen dramatically.
• Broken collarbone (clavicle): One of the unfortunate truths of cycling is that the slight build of cyclists makes them vulnerable to broken collarbones in the event of a fall. With the shoulder receiving the bulk of the impact, these breaks are the most common bone breaks for cyclists.
• Wrist and arm injuries: From time to time, a cyclist will fall and extend their hand to try to lessen the impact. Unfortunately, broken hands and arms and dislocated shoulders are common outcomes.
• Concussion: Any head injury is serious, but thankfully with the quality of helmets available today both the frequency and severity of head injuries has dropped.
How to Fall
The first rule of falling, of course, is to try not to fall. Practically speaking, that means the longer you can keep the bike rolling, the better your chances are of escaping the situation unharmed. As you learned in Chapter 7, a rolling bicycle is inclined to stay upright thanks to the centrifugal force generated by its spinning wheels. In the event you are unable to avoid the ground, some general rules can help make things go better:
• Stay with the bike: Most cyclists don’t have much experience separating from a bike while in motion; staying with the bike usually results in less damage to both bike and rider.
• Keep your hands on the handlebar: Most hand, wrist, and arm in- juries occur when a rider sticks out a hand to break their fall.
• Try to roll: Rolling to avoid impact can mean the difference between some road rash and a broken collarbone. Rolling can also reduce road rash caused by sliding on one body part.
Get as Much Information as Possible
In the unfortunate event you are hit by a car, make your first priority to try to get the license plate number. If the driver stops, get as much information from them as possible, including the license plate, their driver’s license number, insurance information, home address, and phone number.
If the driver doesn’t stop, at least try to get the license plate number, but if you are only able to get a partial plate number or nothing at all, try to memorize the make, model, and color of the car. Any recourse you have with the driver will begin with the police, and the more information you can provide about the vehicle, the more likely they will be to find the driver.
Try to note other specifics of the incident. Check the time, and note both the location and the direction both you and the car were traveling. File a report with the appropriate authorities as soon as you can.
Dealing with the Police
In the event you are involved in an accident with a car, you will need to file a police report. As you describe the events to the investigating officer, keep the following in mind:
• Stick to the facts: Report only that which you are certain.
• Keep your explanation succinct: The longer your story about the event, the more likely the officer will lose the thread of events.
• Describe the events in the order they occurred: To establish causality, the officer needs to know the exact order things happened.
• Don’t explain the person’s motive: If you believe the act was intentional, describe what the person did to make you feel threatened or that led to the crash.