The day I crashed with my friend’s kid on the bike

Today I crashed my cargo bike. I was moving very slowly. There were no cars around. One kid was on the bike with me…but not my kid. Things certainly could have been worse, but as you can imagine, I feel awful. For the record, I’d be just as hysterical (actually, probably more so) if this had happened in my car. I’m cautious, but I’ve had two bike crashes since living in Seattle–the first was almost two years ago when I slipped on the ice with both kids on board the old mamabike. Now I move at a snail’s pace in icy conditions. The second was in May on the Big Dummy with no kids on board. No kids involved equals no big deal. Kids were fine, bike was fine, I have a nice reminder scar on my foot.

Today my sweet little passenger and I successfully navigated from Lower Queen Anne to Wallingford to drop my five-year old off at school, but instead of riding four mellow blocks home, we embarked on a teensy little errand for my three-year old’s preschool. Unfortunatley, that teensy errand was the to office supply store on the other side of I-5. I really hate the transition from Wallingford to U-District. In fact, I’d love fixing it to be my campaign for the Cascade Bicycle Club Advocacy Leadership Institute. I have a long list of people to get in touch with about the project, but I haven’t done anything yet. It’s a huge job and I’m scared. But in the meantime, bad things happen here. My nearest miss with a car happened here. Today was nothing so sinister–just a slippery plastic water bottle concealed by a pile of fallen leaves. This area is too unfriendly (fast cars, no room for bikes) for slow family bikes to ride in the street so I stick to the sidewalk. And sidewalk riding means curb cuts filled with debris. Not that streets–especially bike lanes on streets–aren’t filled with debris, but at least that’s usually just at the edge and easy to avoid.

I don’t mean to imply that the crash wasn’t entirely my fault. It was. But in addition to being mad at myself, I’m mad about the lack of bicycle infrastructure. It’s good I was inching along when the crash happened–we were barely moving when we went down, but the bike slipped out from under me and while the bike and I were unscathed, my passenger ended up with quite the scrape next to his eye. A scrape that wouldn’t have worried me if it was on my own toddler, but this wasn’t my toddler! So some cuddling, a safe return ride six blocks home, and a hysterical (on my part) call to a very understanding mom of the toddler later things were pretty much back to normal.

The first crash I mentioned has made me extremely wary of ice. Do I now, out of fear, steer clear of putting other kids on my FlightDeck? It’s such a tough question. Statistically, it’s not going to happen again, but it did happen. It’s impossible to predict how isolated incidents will affect one. I know people who don’t ride bikes anymore…or would never ride without a helmet…or won’t ride with their kids…for a variety of reasons. My friend’s brother had a very bad bike accident probably caused by a bike accessory. I think it was a fluke occurrance and I can’t find any mention of this happening to other users, but I would never ever ever ever (ever ever ever) use this piece of equipment.

In search of some good news, I attended tonight’s Cascade Bicycle Club Annual Membership Meeting. I didn’t hear anything new during SDOT’s Seattle Bike Master Plan presentation. But there are four public meetings coming up next months so hopefully those will yield some promising news:

  • November 7 Downtown at City Hall – 5:30-7:30 p.m.
  • November 8 South Seattle at New Holly – 5:30-7:30 p.m.
  • November 13 North Seattle at the University of Washington – 5:30-7:30 p.m.
  • November 15 Citywide online lunch and learn – 12:00-1:00 p.m.

But I did hear a couple exciting things during the Cascade update:

  • In the Events category: Cascade is looking into a ciclovía-type event, but it “takes a village” and they’d need to work with a lot of different organizations to pull it off…not to mention spend $100,000.
  • Education 2013 objectives: Cascade will establish a family biking program!! And the summer camps will expand to avoid the usual 20-kid-long waiting lists.
  • Daily rides are utilizing which will reach more women bicyclists.

27 thoughts on “The day I crashed with my friend’s kid on the bike

  1. Hopefully a parent that is okay with you transporting their child by bike would also be understanding if there was a crash. Sometimes things happen that are out of your control. Now, if you had crashed with the kids while racing and Alley Cat I think there would be grounds for a public flogging.

  2. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear this happened. I felt like total crap when I dumped your bike, but it would have been much worse if it weren’t my kids on board (although that was bad enough). Do the parents ride bikes? Because I think I would feel most wary about riding with other people’s kids if they didn’t already feel comfortable with the idea. However I would actually lay the blame for this on the infrastructure entirely. Who could predict that a water bottle would be hiding under leaves? Even black ice is more predictable than that.

  3. So sorry. I have had several accidents happen with other children in my care and I am still feeling guilty around their parents (not bike related). It’s a lot of pressure to be responsible for others, your own, or not. I hope he is doing well. We are very weary of leaves overall, and this time of the year, with rain, and cold mornings, it is especially slippery. I doubly appreciate your honesty and retelling of the experience, that’s a brave thing to do.

  4. What a nightmare! I just dumped my kids too, and as it looks, I think it might have been on the same date. I just figured I could take my cello along, and third kid, and then I turned too sharp in front of 10 people, and dumped it right over onto the cello side. Ouch. Cello was fine, I braced everything with my elbow (which still hurts weeks later), and the kids thought it was funny, but the onlookers I’m sure had Child Protective Services on speed dial and it sure wasn’t a good selling moment for family biking. I’m glad you are ok.

  5. After passing two bicyles with very small children on the back today on Terry street in South Lake Union , I wish to offer my POV: This is NOT your ideal world where cars and bikes peacefully co-exist. I find it unconscionable you would make this decision to ride out in the streets with your children. They are the innocents. But I guess like most things – a baby or toddler or two will have to be maimed or killed by the force of a car in this town or another before you WAKE UP! And I don’t want to hear your magical nonsense about relative risk and so on. There is a darn good reason you feel guilty, now put that guilt to good use and get your precious babies OFF THE STREETS!

    • Yo Janet, I’m obviously not the most eloquent family biking blogger (painfully clear since you didn’t even pick up on the fact that I crashed on the *sidewalk*–no cars there) and you’ll probably get the responses you crave if you troll on a bigger blog, but here goes:

      The majority of my biking is on the multi-use Burke-Gilman Trail. Other than that I mostly use existing or proposed Neighborhood Greenways–low speed, low volume non-arterials. If I’m riding somewhere busy–like downtown–I resort to the sidewalk. You’ve got one thing right: cars and bikes sometimes don’t peacefully coexist and while Seattle’s biking infrastructure is slowly being improved, I’m grateful it’s legal to utilize the sidewalk in the meantime. Many cities don’t allow for this and bicyclists are faced with the decision to break the law, walk their bikes, travel under other means, or put themselves in traffic in which I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable.

      Thanks for assuming I use magical nonsense to rationalize things. Assumptions are fun! I’m assuming you’re sedentary, obese, on the brink of heart disease, and use your car even for trips under two miles. Please let me know if you’d like to read articles that will share facts rather than magical nonsense. Maybe I’m wrong to assume you’re not interested. Or better yet, come out for a bike ride and see the light.

    • Considering cars are the #1 killer of children, I think it is unconscionable for you to drive around in a death trap with your small precious babies.

      Life is full of risk, biking is a relatively minimal risk, in reality. Considering a child could have gotten just as hurt sledding, bathing, or even walking, your threatening and inflammatory response is unnecessary.

      Next time you pass a biker, whether or not they have children onboard, treat them with care and give them plenty of room while you pass slowly. That’s all it takes for “cars and bikes” to coexist peacefully.

    • Wow, as a biking mama, I find Janet’s response just plain mean and cynical. So just because kids *could* get hurt by a vehicle, we moms should ADD to the multitude of problems associated with driving a car around town for most trips that are less than a few miles…thinking unhappy soccer mom complaining of being a taxi, unhappy kid being shuffled in and out of a metal box all day. No thanks, my kid gets to feel and see the world and to me that us the most REASONABLE and precious thing I can give my child. I refuse to do what you ask; I refuse to take my kid off of the street. Only getting more moms, dads, sebiors and skeptics like you Janet on bikes and on the streets will help us build a future where it us more accepted by the masses. Believe me, there is a place for bikes and kids on the roads. A safe place.

    • Janet says

      “a baby or toddler or two will have to be maimed or killed by the force of a car in this town or another before you WAKE UP!”

      See the problem is riding a bike isn’t dangerous…it’s being run over by a car. Perhaps an all out ban on these killing machines is necessary or do we just accept the destruction left in their wake as a cost of living? Family Ride is making the streets safer one bike trip at a time! Keep on riding!

    • Oh, Janet. Tsk, tsk. You had to go searching out a blog and couldn’t find a recent post of a child getting an injury to leave your comment on? Had to go back 3 months, almost 4? I’m wondering why. Did you make a foolish error behind the wheel and have a close call? The whole business of telling her to get out of the street when she clearly wrote she was on the sidewalk is telling.

      As other parents have already mentioned, you’re less likely to have injured children if you DON’T put them in a car. And that doesn’t take into account the atrocious air quality inside of cars from exhaust and off-gassing. Children get hurt in cars, but how many children on family bikes (not tots riding alone, short and hard to see) get hurt? How many of them are hurt by cars? People driving cars are the danger so they should get the blame. Do you blame the victem for being raped or do you think the rapist should be punished?

      You blithely accept how many children die in cars daily, insisting that it’s safe because it’s what you have been told is safe. Driving around from event to event to errand to home is what everyone is doing so it must be safe. This sounds like something my Grandpa said once: “The government wouldn’t let them do it if it could hurt us.” Yeah, that must’ve been a nice world to live in, Grandpa, but it’s gone. I keep my kids OUT of a car because they are precious and I want them to be safe. The day is coming when this country wakes up and realizes that cars and their drivers are killing our children and we won’t take it anymore. That is how we will get the kind of infrastructure that would have prevented this accident (Hum of the City is right!), just the way the Dutch did it:

  6. That very well could have been me that you saw on Terry today. I ride that street frequently with my children, commuting from work – I’ll be sure to ring my bell and wave next time!. I started biking with my children about three months ago, due to the great inspiration of @familyride and the many others like her. What a wonderful way to enjoy the world with your children – you should try it sometime. I choose to bike with my children for very much the same reason that I choose to take them on subway trains through Beijing, camping along Peuget Sound, to Disneyland, to the park down the street, to midnight mass. Why we participate in community meetings, bike activism, and the political process. I want them to LIVE LIFE. Even moreso, I want them to have a global perspective and to see how they can make an impact right here in their community. Life is precious and you just never know what tomorrow will bring. I will not live in fear and impose fears onto my children, particularly those fears of (well intended, I am sure) complete strangers. My hope for them is to follow their passions and to live each day purposefully and with conviction. Modeling that behavior seems like a pretty good place to start to me.

  7. Here’s why Janet is a troll: She says, “And I don’t want to hear your magical nonsense about relative risk and so on.” Everything else she said is her point of view which she is entitled to have, even though it’s super lame to post it the way she did.

    But since she’s unwilling to actually bring real data on the relative risks, let’s let the CDC.

    For non-fatal injuries to children <1-12 (everyone can agree that once they are 13 the innocence is gone, right?), pedal cyclist injuries actually do rank just above cars, but way below unintentional falls (unconscionable to go to playgrounds), getting hit by things (get your precious babies OFF THE FOOTBALL FIELD!), and bites/stings (when will dog owners WAKE UP!).

    So, then you can go look at the fatal injuries and that gets you 35% for motor vehicle vs. 0.4% for pedal cyclist.

    So yeah, this is probably not a 100% correct way to look at the stats, but for the sake of argument with Janet; it seems I subject my kids to a transportation mode with a <1% higher risk of non-fatal injury in order to offset the risk of death by almost 35%.

    That and riding a bike is fun!



    • Ooops, my links don’t work, but anyone can get there by entering their desired age ranges, etc at the CDC –

      Also, those are about the highest level statistics you can look at. When you look at accidents per mile or hour of use, everything I’ve found shows driving is more safe than biking which is more safe than walking. And since we all can comprehend how dangerous walking is, if statistics say biking is more safe, I’m OK with that level of risk. Also, it’s worth noting that all those statistics are confounded by bad behavior, ex. drunk driving, riding dangerously, etc. I personally think behaviour is the biggest risk factor in ending up as a part of any of the above statistical categories.

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