Sunday, February 21, 2010

Road Accident

I saw, or half-saw, a very unpleasant road accident yesterday. I was walking back from the shops when, in front of me, on the other side of the road, a motorbike crashed into the side of a van. Although this was only about 60 yards ahead of me, I didn't see it that clearly, because it was dark, and I was walking along looking mostly at the pavement at the time.

I got a brief glimpse of the van turning into a driveway and the motorbike crashing quite fast into it. I had the sort of impression that the van crossed the road and turned into the driveway when maybe it shouldn't have, and also the bike might have been going too fast. But it was only a brief impression and I could be wrong. Anyway, there was a startlingly loud bang when it happened, much louder that you'd normally hear in a city traffic accident.

Although I was close, there were other people on the pavement in front of me, and by the time I got there, people were already phoning for an ambulance. Other cars had stopped too, and a crowd gathered immediately. The motorcyclist was lying beside his bike. I'm sure he was very badly injured; it had been such a violent smash and he went right into the side of the van. I did see his leg move so at least he wasn't dead.

I stood there uselessly for a little while. You think you should do something but there was nothing to do, really, but hope the ambulance arrived quickly. When I heard the siren in the distance I walked on, thinking that I wasn't helping anyone by standing there staring at it all. It was such an unpleasant incident. I arrived home feeling very sorry for the bike rider, and hoping he would be all right.

Motorbikes seem so dangerous, especially in cities, with cars turning all the time. As I said, I sort of had the impression the accident wasn't the motorbike's fault. But whoever's fault it was, the biker was severely injured, and the van driver wasn't hurt at all.

I had a motorbike accident when I was 18. It wasn't so bad, though I ended up in hospital. I still have scars on my knee, and a crooked finger, which didn't quite set right after it was broken. When I was 18, I thought it was a good idea to ride a motorbike. Nowadays, nothing would get me on one. It wouldn't surprise me if everyone knows someone who's had a motorbike accident, quite possibly a bad one.


  1. Yes, the feeling of helplessness when an accident happens is quite haunting but it's better to avoid making things worse by getting involved without proper training. Riding a motorbike is dangerous because normal drivers aren't very careful when it comes to bikes (of any kind) and because some bikers think it's just the drivers duty to be careful.

    In other notes, glad to see I'm not the only one awake at this god forsaken hour.

  2. Anonymous8:41 am

    Back in the 1990s my friend Silas came to see me at rhe coffeeshop where I worked. He told me about his new motorcycle and promised to take me for a ride once he'd gotten a second helmut. A few days later he was on his way home from work. The brakes On his bike failed and he slammed into the back of a van. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Motorcycles equal tragedy in my mind.

  3. I had a similar experience just this past Friday, only it was at a racetrack.

    I'm a photographer, and I was the only person within a half mile besides the jockeys on horseback at the far turn. As I was shooting the horses coming around the turn, the favorite took a bad step and broke her leg. She did a somersault and rolled on top of her jockey before throwing him into the middle of the track. It was the worst breakdown I'd ever seen in person. The jockey lay motionless in the track after the rest of the horses passed by, and the horse rested on her knees with at least one irreparable leg.

    I didn't know what to do. I wanted to run over to the jockey and see if he was alright, but the thought came to me I might run over to him and find him dead. That thought paralyzed me. I certainly wouldn't be able to help him if he was alive, and I might spook the already traumatized horse if I approached them. So I had to wait until the ambulance arrived, as well as the outriders on horseback.

    It was just awful standing there with that scene no less than 60 feet away from me, completely inept and unable to help anyone. I couldn't get that image out of my head the rest of the day, or the following.

    I later found out the jockey had, in fact, broke his neck, but he would be returning to the track in about 9 weeks. He was only 19, but he'd come back to the races after a near-death experience before. Once you start to live that dream, it's like a sickness that can't be shed.

  4. Very unsettling. I always feel motorcylists seem so vulnerable - in almost any collision they are going to come off worse.

    I saw a biker come off when it was icy last month. Luckily, he had already slowed down before he got to the black ice so although he was very shaken and bruised he wasn't badly hurt, and it turned out that one of his friends was about 6 cars back and was able to drive him home, but just seeing it scared me.
    I hope the guy you saw is OK.

  5. I see people drive/ride so badly. Yet nearly everyone has professional tuition to get through their driving test. Instructors vary in standard, but they've all passed an advanced driving test, so they pass on the best ways of doing things. So why are there so many bad drivers?

    I think everyone should have to resit their driving test every 5 years. Mind you, as an instructor, I must admit I have a vested interest.

    In theory, accidents should never happen. If you make sure you know what you're going into before you go into it, and you make sure you can stop within the distance you can see, then apart from mechanical failure and things like black ice, there should be no accidents. In practice, nobody is perfect.