March 17, 2016
Wells Road in Ventura County runs northwest-southeast from Foothill to Santa Clara Avenue. Sort of. Only 1/2 mile into that run the name changes to State Route 118. Foothill, like so many roads in Ventura County, has almost no bicycle room in many places, and that initial stretch of Wells has some precarious potholes mixed in with a lack of shoulder. But once you cross over the 126 Bridge, and it turns into 118, you have plenty of room on pretty well-maintained tarmac. There are some tricky intersections with multiple right turn lanes, but for the most part I feel better on this road than most.
On Friday February 26th at 10:30, the lights on SR118 were behaving beautifully and I was cruising at a good clip, 25 MPH, as I passed the last of them before the hard left onto 118 / Santa Clara Ave. Feeling good. Great weather. No water left, but whatever, I’ll be home soon. My GPS had just rolled over to 79 miles. “What a day! What a lovely…”
BAM! What a fantastic jolt! No warning, just sudden chaos. I was struck by a car from behind. I knew immediately what had happened. “Mother f…” Everything was happening too fast. So much cursing, a glimpse of a detached side mirror, and a white — van? — pulling over down the road away as I slid to a stop. Wicked, wicked pain in my right quad. I was positive when I looked down I was going to see a weird angle or a piece of femur poking out. But no! It’s good! Just the mother of all charlie horses. Holy hell, the seering pain from road rash on my left side. I rolled over on my stomach thinking about getting up, before I decided to take stock for a few moments. Adreneline can do weird things.
I clenched my fists. I moved my arms. I looked around. 3 cars had stopped on the other side of the road. Slowly I raised myself up and managed to stand, hunched over. Oh boy, here comes the trauma-nausea. A woman is asking me if I’m okay. “I’m calling 911.” “Are you okay?” “You should sit down.” A man was saying he saw the whole thing.
I was in a lot of pain, but that was good in my mind. If things hurt, they can’t be that bad. I stood fully, lifting my legs one at a time. Good. Rotated my arms around. Good. Looked at my left leg. Oy, that’s a lot of rash. But still, pretty good considering. My helmet was free of any impact evidence.
I made the call to the wife and assured her I was okay. She was on her way, maybe 20 minutes out.
One of the three cars that stopped was a white SUV, and I thought maybe it was the “van” I saw ahead of me as I was going down. Was that the car that hit me? I had no idea…
It was at this point that I remembered the Fly6. I had started my ride early this morning, just before dawn. And like most days, I clipped my Cycliq Fly6 to my seatpost before rolling out. Capturing HD video of my rides up to this point had yielded lots of boring scenery shrinking behind me, and only very little, mildy interesting footage. Nothing worth keeping. But this time, wow. It could prove invaluable.
No hyperbole or exaggeration here: I was suddenly so much more relaxed. A good deal of the stress of an accident is wondering if you’re going to get screwed in a my-word-vs-his-word battle. Not this time. I had video, baby! That part of the incident stress was gone. Gone! The witnesses that stopped were awesome, don’t get me wrong. I was truly greatful. Thank you, John P and mystery woman! But having it on video was the ringer. HD video at that. Yes!
Not too much later the California Highway Patrol showed up. Officer Carver was great. I told him what happened, and that I had it on video. “Oh, that’s good news! Send it to me as soon as you can, and we’ll attach it to the police report.” He spent the next 10-15 minutes gathering all the docs from me and the driver, while continuing to advise an ambulance, but I was confident I had no serious injuries. I kept moving limbs and fingers and hands to make sure. The wife showed up and didn’t kill me. Another win! I’m on a roll now.
We got home and cleaned my road rash with hydrogen peroxide and the roughest face rag in the world. Was it steel wool? I’m not sure. Maybe 90-grit sandpaper. Alas my elbow and my knee wouldn’t stop bleeding, so off to the ER. It turned out I had a couple of deep gouges that needed cleaning, XRaying (scoping for foreign bodies as well as bone breakage), and stitching.
Finally, I got back home and plugged in the Fly6. I found the 10 minute clip immediately and played the vid. Sure enough, there’s that white SUV — driving in the shoulder like it was a lane. And then out, then back in, and blammo! Like I had a bullseye on my rump. My wife was watching too and gasped. “Holy crap, you are SO lucky. And you ARE selling that bike.” I don’t know about the second part, but I was very lucky. The video doesn’t lie. I quickly edited it down to the key 30 seconds and sent it to Officer Carver.
I contacted my insurance agent at Farmers, and it was a familiar response. “Oh, you have it on video?! That’s great news! This will be so much easier. Send it to us immediately.”
A few days later I had to pick up the report from the California Highway Patrol office. The Video(tm) was well known there as well. “Why would you mount your camera back there?” And of course, “you got very lucky!” Yes, I did.
I’ve only just started the claims process with the driver’s insurance, so I don’t know how it will go. I do know I’m not stressing about it. Cycliq has my 6.
My Fly6 will be a passenger on every ride. Even on stretches of road that seem safer than most.
About the author:
Jon Rust is 45 years old, a software engineer, and a cyclist since 2010. Initially cycling was a supplement to marathon training, but he quickly grew to love it. His “happy place” is 150-200 miles per week. Family, including twin 14 year old boys, and stray cars are conspiring to keep him from that goal.