This Bicycle Accident Could Have Been Much Worse

Byron Kidd
While out on a walk yesterday with her friend my wife witnessed a nasty bicycle accident.

Enjoying the warm sun and conversation while walking along a river-side path my wife looked into the distance and noticed a man shuffling slowly down the centre of the walkway. From behind him, at great speed, came another man on a mountain bike.

Without warning and without slowing the cyclist tried to squeeze his way between a tree and the pedestrian. As the cyclist's handlebar struck the tree and he was launched into the air my wife thought to herself "Oh no. I can't believe it, I saw this coming, how could he do such a stupid thing?"

A riverside path similar to where the accident occurred.
Photo by Karl Baron
The helmet-less cyclist landed with a loud crack after which he made no attempt to, or was unable to move. In shock my wife and her friend approached to find a man in his 70's lying on his back on the ground with the bicycle still between his legs. Being totally bald it was easy to see that he was bleeding from a nasty cut on his head. My wife's friend called an ambulance immediately while my wife applied some tissues to his head wound and began to question him about other possible injuries.

What happened next freaked my wife out. He did not seem able to move, or speak. Lying stationary where he fell, sweat beading on his forehead he seemed only able to move his eyes. They feared his injury was major and remained by his side offering what help and sympathetic words they could. They felt rather helpless.

Luckily before the ambulance arrived the cyclist regained his composure and was able to speak. Of the accident he remembered nothing he said. After some time he attempted to move but my wife and her friend encouraged him to stay where he was until the ambulance arrived, which it did after a few more minutes.

Upon their arrival the medics didn't bother to question my wife and her friend about the nature of the incident, instead, they pushed them away from the scene insisting that they could handle it from here. They went so far as to tell them to continue on their walk.

Obviously the police would attend the scene and want to question witnesses, so while the medics applied a neck brace, moved the man to a stretcher and bandaged his head my wife went to wash the blood from her hands.

When she returned police were at the scene and both my wife and her friend provided them with all the information they had about the accident. The police promptly, and correctly, concluded that the cyclist was 100% to blame for his own injuries.

While my wife was away washing her hands, her friend struck up conversation with the man who had been ambling along the centre of the pathway, the fellow the impatient cyclist tried to barge past. It turned out the reason he was walking so awkwardly was because he'd had spinal surgery late last year. He was told he would never walk again but through perseverance and willpower was back on his feet and steadily improving. Daily walks along the riverside path were part of his rehabilitation. Once the drama was over he decided to go directly home rather than risk another injury on what should have been a peaceful walk.

So, the cyclists through his impatience went to hospital with a head injury, but the outcome could have been much much worse. The pedestrian he almost hit could have easily been disabled, unable to walk, for life due to the inconsiderate actions of one old man which would have destroyed both of their lives.

Stay safe out there, and remember you're not only responsible for your own safety, but for the safety of those around you too especially when you're cycling around pedestrians as is so common here in Japan.

The human body is such a fragile thing.

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  1. Nothing like a preachy, fear-selling opinion piece to start my day.

    1. That is an unsympathetic and idiotic comment. Does it represent you well? The post never mentions helmets, but does mention a head injury; given the stridency of your blog against helmets, I suspect this set you off to say something so poorly thought.

    2. Thats the second time you've called me a "preacher". I feel like I should start wearing my collar backwards and calling you "my son" :p

      Its not preaching, its poor writing skills!

      I was simply reporting on a nasty incident that left my wife quite shaken that happened to involve a cyclist and reminding everyone out there to ride safely around pedestrians as we have a duty of care.

      If you want take a message from this article then it is this:

      Despite having tens of millions of cyclists the cycling infrastructure in Japan is severely lacking. This leads to the situation where cyclists choose to mingle with pedestrians rather than take their chances on roads not designed for them. Just as mixing bicycles with cars is a bad idea so is mixing cyclists with pedestrians. Japan needs to step up and face the fact that bicycles are an essential part of the country's transportation network and that cycling infrastructure should receive proper planning and funding so incidents like the one above are reduced, if not eradicated completely.

      That is the message I preach here.

      If you're objecting to the word "helmet-less" then I'm sorry I offended your sensibilities.

  2. "A man shuffling slowly down the centre of the walkway": legally in Japan, and also ethically, a collision with the pedestrian would remain the responsibility of the cyclist; however, though I don't ride the pavements like the locals, when walking I despise how often people walk down the centre, or if they take a side, do so randomly instead of walking left. How can it be in a nation more crowded than my own (Canada) people don't know how to walk in a crowd?!

    1. The subway station near my office has makeshift signs asking people to keep to the left on the stairs, and other signs asking people to walk on the right in the passageways. THAT is why nobody in Japan can walk in a crowd! :)

    2. YES! I have seen much the same. Of all people not to give consistent instructions to...

  3. As others have stated, this isn't preachy; it's just telling a story. Based on your description of how the cyclist tried to muscle his way around the pedestrian, I thought he was a high school student. I've often seen them pull this maneuver on a crowded street. I was quite surprised to learn an elderly cyclist was riding that aggressively.

    Yes, with this many people using bicycles to get around, Tokyo badly needs more infrastructure; which doesn't seem to be on anyones radar. But it also needs a very healthy dose of cycling education and rule enforcement.

    1. We've actually had some success raising the issue of cycling infrastructure with Tokyo's newly elected Governor, Yoichi Masuzoe, using the 2020 Olympics as leverage. In addition to this there has been discussion of creating a new Ministry of Bicycle Promotion at the national level.

      The issue is gaining attention at high levels of government, but we need to keep applying pressure to ensure it doesn't get lost among all the other pressing concerns they have to deal with.

    2. Excellent. Now I hope this goes beyond rhetoric and something actually happens. My personal guess is that if within the next year, we don't see something (not alot... just something) actually built, then nothing will happen and it goes into the political promises bit-bucket. Fingers crossed.

  4. ...I just found your blog, looking interesting. I was in Japan for few months and yes, bicycles are one of the best ways to really see all the details; anyway, I think rules, and more rules are not the way, we as a societies do not need more rules man; lots are in need of education, in this case transport education, due to you see plenty of moms with their children going cross way in several avenues in Tokyo...that s a nonsense; but in my opinion all that happened due to the bicycles found their way into general public, people who never ever used one, due to the last big earthquake; so many found their ways to home with a cheapo 100 Dollars chari. I ride motorcycles and bicycles and with bicycles I want to be free not tracked in a given path that only bikes can circulate, etc. Uneducated people, retarded people, selfish ego people, dumb people, uniformed people are everywhere, but track all us is not the way, we need vial education in the schools, etc and nothing more; even more in places like Japan that the people obey the rules.
    Hope someday I can live there too, but seems the only path is be married with a local gal...

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