I used to ride down Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts in my daily commute to/from downtown Boston, where I worked. There is a long, steep hill where I would pedal in my biggest gear, sailing along with the traffic. Cars often parked in the lane closest to the sidewalk, and there were two other lanes each way. I usually rode on the edge of the second travel lane, because the parked cars were a safety hazard. It is better to ride predictably than to weave in and out of a parking lane (although I was screamed at by numerous drivers, many of whom weren’t going any faster than I was, for doing this).
I wore a Bell helmet, thank goodness.
On this particular day, a young girl started across the road from the other side of the street on her bicycle, looking for cars but not seeing me. As I was traveling well over 20 miles per hour, my ability to stop was pretty limited. She didn’t hear me yell to her, and was right in my path. In those seconds, or maybe even milliseconds, that you have available to think right before an accident, I weighed my alternatives. Stopping in time was not an option. Moving into the parking lane was not an option, as there was a parked car there. That left: 1) hit the girl, which probably would have
spun us both out into traffic; 2) veer left into traffic, praying that any driver cresting the hill and coming up behind would react in time to miss me; 3) head for the sidewalk, where there happened to be a mailbox in the way.
I choose the sidewalk, moving way to the right to avoid the parked car ahead, reaching the sidewalk…just where the mailbox was. I hit it at high speed, head-first, smashing my glasses in the process because the helmet touched the top of them. I lay on the sidewalk, dazed, bleeding from the cut above my eye where my eyeglasses broke, until someone called an ambulance and hauled me away.
If it weren’t for that helmet, the concussion from the crash might well have been fatal and certainly would have been serious. I ended up badly bruised all over my body from the impact, took several sticthes over my eye, but that was it.
I don’t ride that fast downhill anymore. I switched to a helmet that didn’t touch the top of my eyeglasses. But I always wear a helmet.