On being attacked by a sidewalk

Yesterday, I was attacked by a sidewalk.

I was cycling from work to a friend's house for dinner and was northbound in the shoulder on 172nd Ave NE in Redmond. As I reached the intersection with NE 138th St., I was momentarily distracted, perhaps by my water bottle, I forget. This lapse of attention resulted in my failing to notice that north of NE 138th St., what used to be the shoulder becomes completely consumed by a sidewalk which leaps into the road out of nowhere.

A sidewalk with a sharp curb.

Fortunately, the curb curves into position, so instead of running headfirst into a curb, my wheels were merely nudged to the left about sixty centimeters. Still, it was more than enough to throw me flying off the seat onto the ground at around 30kph. Luckily, my rear end took the brunt of the impact, with minor scraping on my right leg and right arm.

I'm writing this to serve as a warning to anybody who cycles along 172nd Ave NE: There a sidewalk lying in wait at NE 138th St.

(After dinner, we watched the most recent episode of Battlestar Galactica then camped in the backyard to observe the Perseid meteor shower. I spotted only three meteors. I'm not a very good meteor-spotter—I glimpsed only three—what with my smudgy glasses and poor night vision.)

Comments (23)
  1. Chip H says:

    I can sympathize. I was first one on the trail Saturday morning, and hit a particularly large cobweb just at the bottom of a hill. This distracted me enough that I lost pedal cadence, and got hung up. The clips refused to come loose as I slowly tilted to the left, eventually falling over. (that dreaded feeling of "here I go!")

    I landed in what had been a deer’s bed, so for the rest of the ride I smelled of deer. When I got home, the cat was fascinated in my newfound scent. It took a couple of washings to get it out of my shirt.

  2. Hank K. says:

    "I spotted only three meteors. I’m not a very good meteor-spotter—I glimpsed only three—what with my smudgy glasses and poor night vision.)"

    Those smudgy glasses must hide the repetition also :)

  3. JimB says:

    I was attacked by a parked car once.

    I was cycling up a very steep hill, head down and concentrating on keeping moving.

    When I ran into the back of the car it didn’t help that there were about 10 people gathered to witness the event.

  4. Brian says:

    When I was about twelve, I was cycling at full speed down the sidewalk on our old block back in Queens, which just happened to be a very steep hill.

    Some of the houses towards the bottom of the hill were attached brick or stucco, usually with the garage at street level about 5-6 feet in from the sidewalk.

    So I’m crusing along really, really fast when this guy backs out of his garage and SMACK! I hit his rear fender and am literally catapulted a good 15 feet into a rosebush.

    The guy in the car was hysterical… he thought that he killed me! I got up and was ok other than a few scrapes from the bushes.

    Scared the crap out of me though!

  5. barrkel says:

    I’ve been attacked by a sidewalk too. Approached the curb at too obtuse an angle and too slow a speed, with the front wheel turned in to the curb. The wheel failed to mount, and my momentum coming over the handlebars caused the bicycle to quickly slide out from under me, causing me to land on hands, upper lip and front two teeth.

    My teeth were left in a slightly different position, but not much and not broken. That, and a split lip, taught me to respect curbs.

    On another occasion, while cycling through driving rain wearing a mac and hood that obscured all the road except for 50cm in front, I rammed some poor woman up the backside. She was walking on the road rather than the sidewalk, for some reason. It was a county road. She did say it was her fault.

  6. DavidK says:

    My friend was attacked by a rock recently. He’s still nursing the pins in his arms. I was attacked by another cyclist only last month, today was my first day back out on the road.

    In London there has been a trend for people to stop using the tube in light of the bombings and to cycle instead. The A&E units at local hospitals are seeing an increasing trend too.

    I’m a very firm believer in helmets. And may soon be tempted into body armour. Cycling in cities is proving ever more hazardous.

  7. Smokinn says:

    I had a much more harrowing experience this weekend. I was skating around Montreal and went in a small tunnel with a well-guarded sidewalk (it had a cement division between it and the street). Anyway what I didn’t know was that this particular tunnel just went down and down and down and ended at… an intersection.

    Now this wouldn’t have been all that bad had I been on bike or on foot but I wasn’t. I was roller-blading. I came screaming out of that tunnel since I had no real way of slowing down and had the intersection staring right at me. Since I didn’t particularly feel like dying that day I had to throw myself down to stop. Luckily I only have a few scrapes on my rear end also.

  8. julian_t says:

    When I was about 12, I used to cycle to school on an old racing bike with not-terribly-effective brakes.

    One morning, fine but with a wet road from the night’s downpour, a sportscar (Triumph Spitfire) stopped suddenly in front of me. Much more suddenly than I could manage, in fact.

    The driver was pretty surprised to find a schoolboy head-first in the footwell on the passenger side, legs waving in the air. I was pretty surprised too, come to that…

  9. njkayaker says:

    Riding on a narrow road, two deer jump across the road in front of me. The third one hit me and took me off the road. It spent a bit of time disentangling itself from me and my bicycle. Left a bit of hair. No injuries to me (or the deer, as far as I could tell).

    It amused the other cyclists, riding behind me.

  10. Matt says:

    I was attacked by a chain-link fence.. twice!

    The first one was hiding in wait for me around a corner. I took it, and wham! Back seat lifted me up against the fence so that I was basically vertical, face down.

    Second time, damn thing snuck up on me while I was looking at a friend, who was shouting something at me… probably about a fence.

  11. Eric TF Bat says:

    Bah! You lot are pansies! You actually need external THINGS to help you fall off your bikes. Let me tell you how to do it PROPERLY!

    Picture if you will… I’ve bought one of those bag racks to stick on the back of my bike. It’s basically a flat rectangle with two long dangly bits that should attach it to the bike frame under the seat, except the guy in the shop was a dingbat so he sold me one that didn’t fit. So I’m taking it back. I’m holding on to it with one hand, and the long dangly bits are sort of… dangling, as you would expect. I’m coming around a corner, and the ghost of Isaac Newton decides I need a lesson in equal-and-opposite. The long dangly bit catches in the front wheel spokes. The front wheel stops moving. The rest of the bike continues. I also continue, in a beautiful parabola, over the handlebars, until acted upon by an outside force, ie the road.

    It took enough time that I can report an important fact for any linguists out there. Although language is a complex thing, there are proto-words that still live in the brainstem. In particular, there is what I call the Primal Grunt Of Embarrassment.

  12. dan says:

    sounds like the water bottle and the sidewalk were in cahoots. i generally find that sidewalks are not clever enough to come up with plans by themselves =)

  13. billyjoejimbob says:

    you should sue someone, its The American Way

  14. William Hughes says:

    I have a story similar to barrkel.

    I was about 13-14 years old, riding at a reasonably low-speed around the neighbourhood at dusk, when I was suddenly attacked by a newly built speed-hump. The ‘low profile, sharp rise’ kind, built out of the same (black) asphalt as the road.

    Needless to say: the bike stopped, I didn’t. Landed perfectly on my front two teeth. One of which came out (root and all) and flew on a few more feet, the other being chipped.

  15. Henry Boehlert says:


    I’m glad to hear you weren’t injured.

    Your search link (60 cm in ft) leads to some unexpected results (at least for me, MSN is regionally biased).

    May be adding the terms "unit" and "conversion" to your search links could ensure more suitable results.

  16. DavidK says:

    "Your search link (60 cm in ft) leads to some unexpected results (at least for me, MSN is regionally biased).

    May be adding the terms "unit" and "conversion" to your search links could ensure more suitable results."

    Or use Google. As the calculator and conversion mode on that does not display search results below the answer.

  17. ChristW says:

    Another way to get attacked by a road is testing what happens when you pull the front wheel brake only (on a bike) when you go at 15 mph. I stayed on the bike and basically rolled on my back over the top of the handlebar. I ended up lieing on my back, the bike on top of me. All in all only my pride was injured. And, ofcourse, there were onlookers, both by bike and by car.

    By the we, the bicycle riders in The Netherlands (where I live) are quite lucky… most of the time, we get to ride on these http://home.uni-one.nl/nlun1697/fb/asfalt things.

  18. gkdada says:

    Let me relate mine too!

    Once I overtook a Bus in a swoop and ran into an oncoming slow but very determined motorbike. The kindly biker gave me a lift to the nearest doctor while his co-pilot carried my (now mangled) bicycle. Needed a couple of stitches to the left wrist.

    Long term effect? After 19 years, I still wear my wrist watch on my right hand. :-)

  19. Jerry Pisk says:

    Being from a country that uses metric units I wonder why kph is considered a valid unit – it’s technically a number expressing kilos (thousands) per hour, but it does not specify thousands of what. Everywhere I’ve seen it expressed like this it was kmph (or the more common km/h). Of course google seems to be satisfied with kph and does not understand kmph. At least it knows km/h – http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=30km%2Fh+in+mph

  20. Norman Diamond says:

    I regret polluting this hilarious set of followups by adding serious comments, but this is the topic for it, so so be it.

    The need to watch where you’re going remains the same no matter what kind of vehicle you’re using (even if it’s none).

    Monday, August 15, 2005 9:19 PM by William Hughes

    > when I was suddenly attacked by a newly

    > built speed-hump. The ‘low profile, sharp

    > rise’ kind, built out of the same (black)

    > asphalt as the road.

    Doesn’t matter if it was newly built or not. If it was camouflaged to trick anyone (including new visitors, on any kind of vehicle or none), then that is a case where you really do need to sue. In countries that have traffic safety laws, there’s at least some degree of pretense that traffic safety is important for some kind of reason or other.

    By the way I was around 18 when my front wheel went into a storm sewer right next to the sidewalk. The bike stopped but I didn’t. I suppose car drivers knew not to drive at the edge of the road right next to the sidewalk, but how would bicycle riders guess unless they’d grown up in that city. Of course the sewer itself couldn’t be painted, but it would have been possible to paint warning stripes on the road *around* the sewer.

  21. Jim Clark says:

    …it is so fitting. Rodj is a good friend of mine. Back before I had kids and still had time to go mountain biking we were on a group ride when Rodj went over the handlebars and landing on the right side of his face. Fortunately his injuries were minor, but the incident reminded everyone of that time back in college when he did not properly secure the front wheel on his bike. You can actually see a <a href="http://www.pointe.com/rodjdeb/2000/LeadingWithMyFace/Leading.html">here</a&gt; (WARNING: Don’t click the thumbnail if you have a weak stomach).

  22. Rick C says:

    @Eric TF Bat:

    That’s nothing. I did the same thing once, without the carrier. The screw holding the front brake handle to the handlebar fell out, and the unit arced out and into my spokes. I came away with only minor injuries, but the front wheel didn’t–I tore up about 1/3 of the spokes on the wheel!

  23. Successfully negotiating the sidewalk.

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