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Looking Back

As another year draws to a close, it is a time to reflect.

When I posted an account of my accident on this blog, (Dec. 7, 2006.) two days after it happened, there were 20 comments from people wishing me a speedy recovery.

This was a large number when I consider that my blog only got a 100 hits a day back then, and 20 return visitors a day.

Those 20 comments probably came from the entire regular readership at that time. It was this thought that kept me going and helped me tremendously over the months that followed. The thought that people cared, and these were mostly people I had never met.

The bicycle and the love of riding was the common element that connected us. For four months my vision was so bad (From a damaged nerve.) that I couldn’t drive a car or ride my bike; I was pretty much house bound. My computer and this blog was one thing that prevented me from going stir-crazy.

I used a pair of eyeglasses with a piece of black electrician’s tape over one lens, so the computer screen did not appear double. After four months my vision was improving, I could now focus on the computer screen or a book, without the aid of tape on my glasses. It was just my distance vision that was still a problem.

My doctor told me I could drive again if I used an eye patch over my right eye. I tried this, but the eye patch would not fit over, or under my glasses; I went back to the single piece of black tape on the inside of the right lens.

Actually, this worked better than the eye patch, which blocked out all vision to the right. The narrow piece of tape cuts out the double vision, but still allows me to look to the left and right, without any blind spots.

I have a tendency to get arthritis if I am inactive. My joints were stiffening up, and there was some pain. When I ride my bike, the stiffness and pain go away; it was obvious I needed to get back on a bike. I did so in March of 2007.

After a couple of months, my fitness level improved and I discovered, quite by accident, a strange phenomenon with my vision. I had noticed if I worked on the computer for a while, afterwards my distance vision was good for a short while, before returning to double.

One day I decided to ride my bike without the tape on the glasses, and found I could see just fine. I got all excited thinking my vision had suddenly returned to normal. Later that day I drove my car and couldn’t see worth a shit.

I discovered, if I look straight ahead, for example, at the TV screen or a picture on the wall, I see a double image. If I keep my head straight and look up at the light fixture in the ceiling, I am perfectly focused.

Riding my road bike, my head is down and I am looking up all the time, so my vision is fine. All these strange variances in my vision convince my doctors and me that the normal vision will return eventually. The eye itself is fine; it is the nerve that moves the eye to focus that is damaged.

It is appropriate that my insurance claim and settlement came to a close this month; the end of a year being a symbolic time for putting the past to rest and moving forward. My next post will be the last of 2007 and I will write about my plans for the coming year.

Photo by Joshua Curry


My accident, part II: Dealing with the aftermath

If you didn’t read Part I, it is the post immediately before this one.

After my extreme misfortune of being involved in an accident, came a series of more fortunate circumstances.

I was not unconscious, but was in a somewhat dazed state and not able to think clearly for myself. It was a good thing that someone immediately called for medical help and the police.

The officer who responded was a motorcycle cop, and was maybe a little understanding of what it is like to be in the minority on two wheels, in a mindset that roads are for vehicles with a wheel in each corner.

I was taken to the hospital, and the police officer later visited me and took my statement before filing his police report. This was the second fortunate circumstance.

My attorney later told me that so often in an automobile/cyclist accident, the cyclist is seriously injured and goes to the hospital and the police officer only takes statements from the driver involved, and any witnesses. The accident report is filed and the injured cyclist never gets a chance to give their side of the story.

The police officer also wrote a citation for the female driver of the SUV I hit, for “Failure to Yield.” This turned out to be a pointless exercise, because some ten days later a judge dismissed the charge, because it was my word against hers. I did not even get a chance to describe the extent of my injuries.

The driver of the SUV stated in court; “I didn’t see him, I didn’t know what the Hell had hit the side of my vehicle.” I feel this was an admission of negligence, but the woman had some strange notion that because she didn’t see me, she was not at fault.

The day after my accident I called cycling attorney Gary Brustin; I called Gary because I had known him for many years. He is an avid cyclist, and owns a custom ‘dave moulton’ bike as well as a Fuso.

Gary Brustin handled the initial phase of the case, but because his business is in California he handed the case over to Peter Wilborn, an attorney from my home town of Charleston, SC. Peter is also an avid cyclist and specializes in cycling cases.

My next piece of good fortune was that there was a witness. Another female driver was also sitting in the center lane, behind the SUV, waiting to turn. She saw me, and saw the accident happen. My attorney contacted this witness and she came to his office and made a statement.

If this witness saw me, then the driver of the SUV should have also seen me, except that maybe she was focused on the “gap” in traffic, and where she was headed. However, my final piece of fortune was in the fact that the driver of the SUV had sufficient insurance coverage to meet the settlement.

My attorney Peter Wilborn has become a good friend and cycling companion; we have ridden many miles together, and sometimes we ride with a group of his other friends. He has shown me some quiet local country roads to ride on.

He advised me, and I pass this advice on, to increase my “uninsured and underinsured coverage” on my own auto insurance to $250,000 per person, $500,000 per accident.

I am not planning a repeat performance, but should I be in an accident with an underinsured motorist I can claim on my own auto insurance. If I were not to blame there would be no penalty imposed on me.

The other advice, if you are involved in an accident, call the police. Or get someone else to call and make sure the officer knows you wish to make a statement. If you are taken to the hospital before he arrives, have someone relay that message to him.

Get an attorney that specializes in cycling cases. The League of American Bicyclists has a list. A cycling attorney knows cyclist’s rights, and will know from experience how much to expect from a settlement, and get the best outcome.

An attorney will take a third of the settlement, but they take no money up front, and it is in their own interest to get the best settlement possible. Insurance companies are in the business if collecting money in the form of premiums, and paying out as little as possible in claims.

In my case, the insurance company stuck with their client’s claim that she was not to blame, and it was left up to me to prove otherwise. I could have collected the witness’s statement and negotiated this settlement on my own.

However, that would have been a tremendous amount of work and stress on my part, and I am convinced that the outcome would not have been as satisfactory as it was by leaving the case in the hands of a legal professional.


My accident, part I: Lessons learned

A settlement has been reached regarding a claim resulting from my accident last year.

The accident happened on December 5th 2006 when a female driver in an SUV traveling in the opposite direction, made a left turn in front of me and I ran head first into the side of the vehicle.

I was wearing a helmet at the time, but still sustained a hairline skull fracture. I had multiple bruises and the worst injury was damage to a nerve in my right eye, resulting in double vision.

The double vision was severe at first but has gradually improved to slight. Every morning when I wake, my eyes are in perfect focus, but after I have been up for 15 minutes of so, my vision goes back to double. Doctors tell me the fact that my vision varies tells them that it will return to normal in time.

I am not going to talk about the settlement itself, but now the case is resolved I can write about the accident and what I learned from this whole episode.

Lessons I learned here might be of value to others, either in avoiding a similar accident, or learning what to do should you be unfortunate enough to be in one.

The accident happened on Savannah Hwy., Charleston, South Carolina. This is a busy main road, two lanes of traffic either side, with a center turn lane. The businesses on both sides of this particular section are mostly car dealerships.

I was traveling south, it was a clear sunny day. A strong wind was blowing behind me so I was probably doing at least 25 mph. There was a steady flow of traffic in both lanes beside me, traveling in my direction. Because of this, I was not expecting anyone to turn in front of me, from the center lane.

I had just come through a traffic light, which was green, but I believe it changed to red right after I passed through. The result was, this person was sitting in the center lane waiting to turn, and did so when all the residual traffic had passed.

The problem is cars are faster than bicycles, so when the last motorized vehicle went through I was lagging behind. The driver did not see me, partly because I was hidden by the flow of traffic, but mainly because the driver was concentrating on the “gap” in traffic.

When that gap came the driver “floored it” to get quickly across the two opposing lanes. The driver then slowed to almost a complete stop to negotiate the ramp over the curb.

This gave me no chance; I was about 20 feet away when the vehicle appeared in front of me. I had about one second to react, and swerved to the left to go behind it and I might have made it had the vehicle kept moving, but the driver stopped giving me no chance.

What annoys me is, these SUVs are depicted in TV ads driving up the side of a mountain, over boulders almost as big as the vehicle. In real life a driver slows to almost a complete stop to negotiate a four inch ramp up a curb.

Lessons I learned here. Be aware of vehicles in the center lane, waiting to turn across my path. Be aware of traffic behind me, mainly by turning my head slightly and listening.

If there is a vehicle behind me that is my protection, but if there is no one behind me, look out. There maybe a gap in traffic and the person turning may not have seen me.

It may be to my advantage, if safe to do so, to move to the left to the center of the lane. This means the driver turning is more likely to see me, and if they do turn in front of me, gives me more room to maneuver and swerve behind them.

On Monday I will post a second part and talk about what you can do to protect your rights, if you are as unfortunate as I was, to be involved in an accident.



Is it just me, or has the whole “Political Correctness” issue regarding Christmas, now become a non-issue or in many ways a huge joke?

All my life this time of year has been Christmas, then a few years ago I found I couldn’t refer to the season as Christmas, I had to say “Happy Holidays.”

I am not a practicing Christian, neither do I subscribe to any other religion or set of rules, so at first it didn’t bother me one way or another.

Then some seven or eight years ago, I was living in Eugene, Oregon. The city council decided they couldn’t put up a Christmas Tree outside City Hall because it went against the Church and State issue.

That pissed me off. Maybe I’m just a big kid but I liked seeing the decorated tree and all the lights and other stuff that went with it. To me, I didn’t have to be a practicing Christian to enjoy the spirit of the season.

A time of giving, goodwill to all men and all that goes with it; a time to celebrate life. Taking away the tree, and the lights, and decorations somehow took away from that.

What annoyed me even further was when I read in the local paper that firefighters in Eugene, who had to work Christmas Day, couldn’t have a tree at the fire station.

Traditionally, their families and children would come to the station to be with them, because they could not be at home. One of the men put a Christmas Tree in the back of his truck, to get around the ban, and everyone went down to the parking lot to exchange gifts.

Out of pure cussedness, I went back to wishing everyone a "Merry Christmas." As I see it, December 25th is Christmas Day, (It says so on my calendar.) and therefore the weeks leading up to that day is the Christmas Season.

My attitude is, they can take away my tree, but they can’t take away my right to say whatever I please. If others are offended, it is their choice to take offence, and not my intention to offend by uttering the words.

Now most people I speak to are of a similar opinion and are saying and doing whatever suits them.

What happens in America has a way of spreading to the rest of the world, and it usually takes a year or two. I recently had a WTF moment when I read that a certain town in England had decided to go with a “Harry Potter” theme for the holiday season, instead of the usual Christmas one.

If there is any political correctness left out there, just think about wishing someone a “Happy Harry Potter-mas,” and laugh about it, otherwise we will all go insane.


Raymond Poulidor: A working class hero

Three won the Tour de France multiple times; however, Raymond Poulidor never won, or for that matter never wore the race leader's Yellow Jersey during any of the Tours.

He did place second in 1964, 1965, and 1974; and placed third in 1962, 1966, 1969, 1972, and 1976. He entered the Tour de France 14 times and finished 12 times; he was consistently in the top ten.

He had a longer career than is usual for a professional cyclist. His first major victory was in the classic Milan-San Remo in 1961. His third place in the Tour in 1976, came at age 40.

His inability to win the Tour de France won him the nick-name in the press as the "Eternal Second." However in spite of this he was immensely popular with the French public, and was more often than not known affectionately as "Pou Pou."

During the first part of his career, Poulidor had to race against Jacques Anquetil, and although the former could get the better of Anquetil on the bigger climbs, he lacked Anquetil's tactical ability, especially in the discipline of the time-trial. Poulidor’s riding style was aggressive and attacking, whereas Anquetil would control the race in the climbing stages, then win in the time trial.

There was always intense rivalry between these two riders. (Pictured together, left.) Anquetil was the top French rider of his day, and it always irked him that Poulidor was in many ways more popular with the French public, and was often given more favorable coverage in the French press.

For example in 1965, when Poulidor was perceived to have received more credit for dropping Anquetil the previous year on the Puy-de-Dôme than Anquetil had received for winning the whole Tour.

Long after their retirement, Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor would finally become friends. Anquetil died of stomach cancer in 1987, and the day before he died, he told Poulidor, “Once again my friend you will be second to me.”

In the latter half of his career after Anquetil had retired, Poulidor could still not win the Tour de France. He was then up against Eddy Merckx, considered by most to be the greatest cyclist ever. He does hold one record, in that he finished in the top three in the Tour de France no fewer than eight times. No one has done that before or since.

Today Raymond Poulidor is still immensely popular with the French people; see above as he signed autographs in October 2006. (Picture by Thierry Malaval.)

When asked in a national survey in 1991, which man they would like to invite for a Christmas dinner, a French audience overwhelmingly answered Raymond Poulidor, beating out famous movie stars.

What could be the reason for such popularity? He came from peasant stock, from the farming midlands of France. He speaks with a regional accent; in other words, he is a "Working Class Hero."

There is something about a person who attains success in life, but they retain their "down-to-earth" qualities that the ordinary man on the street can relate to. Think of the continuing popularity of rock stars like Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young; they have that same working class persona.

Or maybe Raymond Poulidor’s popularity was in the fact that he never did win the big one, but at the same time never gave up trying. The world will always admire such spirit, that of the underdog.