22 March 2011

I'm tired of not talking about it, so I'm going to talk about it

On the evening of February 19, I was wanged by a car while my boyfriend and I were walking in a crosswalk at a 4-way stop. An ambulance was called and I was looked over, but I refused treatment, as they say, since there were no obvious serious injuries (and hence nothing to treat), and as my application for individual health coverage was still being processed at the time, I didn't much like the idea of being charged an arm and a leg for a potentially unnecessary ambulance ride.

We were two blocks from my apartment, so we just walked back there. My knee was bruised, so I put an ice pack on it while we called my parents. At some point I got up for something and realized that my knee hurt like hell and I was unable to put weight on it, so my boyfriend drove me down the street to the ER at Provident Hospital. (I insisted on Provident, given that I was uninsured and underemployed.) A few X-ray radiographs later, I was discharged with a diagnosis of contusion of the lower extremity, a prescription for basically massive amounts of ibuprofen, and instructions on RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation).

I felt many things, among them frustrated, helpless, and deeply unsafe. I had avoided riding my bike altogether for nearly four months because my insurance coverage ended when my job did and I was terrified that just such an incident would happen---and then it happened anyway, but while I was walking, just walking, in a place that was supposed to be safe for walking. Who would hesitate to cross the street at a 4-way stop of two 2-lane streets in a residential area?

I still do, sometimes.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to ride my bike on the street (or road) again. I don't even know if I'll be able to ride my bike anywhere again. Last week the weather broke and my knee was feeling fine, so I took an easy ride along the lakefront up to North Ave. and back. (You might have seen me, the female Fred with the fenders, cautiously pedaling a cyclocross bike at Dutch speed. Walking it with the lights on over the Link Bridge and across Illinois and Grand.) I was laughing for joy. I could do it! It was a little difficult, my knee felt a little stiff, and I felt a little anxious at that spot where the trail has been rerouted onto the LSD exit ramp because of the new harbor under construction, but I could do it. I was going to be OK, eventually. The next morning, I was in such unbearable pain that it hurt me to tears to sit completely still, and all the ibuprofen I could safely take and all the ice I could safely apply couldn't make the pain go away.

Am I now permanently injured for life, or did I just push myself too hard too soon? I don't know. Various experts seem to think that I don't need physical therapy, given that my knee was only bruised, so I may never know. Frankly, I'm rather tired of being treated like I'm only out to profit from a so-called minor accident. Even assuming I do eventually get over the psychological barrier (because there's no off-street trail that doesn't cross or even go onto a busy road at some point, and these things usually heal with time), if I'm still going to be half-gimpy all spring and summer long, then that's an entire season of bike riding that has been taken away from me, and for no reason. It makes me angry and upset to think about it, so I try not to think about it, but it's hard to watch all the bikes come out on these mild, sunny days that we're starting to have more frequently, and not think about it.

It's hard to read all these Internet discussions about how safe cycling is (it's just as safe as walking!) and not think about it.

It's hard to read all these Internet discussions about how unsafe cycling is (because you recklessly put yourself unprotected into the path of cars, or whatever---but I wasn't being reckless, I wasn't even biking!) and not think about it.

It's hard to get all the magazines, newsletters, donation forms, email updates, action alerts, and phone calls from the various organizations I've joined (no, I am not, at this time, interested in making the world safer for cycling, because the world is unsafe no matter what you do, and all the protected bike lanes in the world won't prevent you from getting nailed by a driver while simply walking down the street to get noodles, so you may as well just accept this) and not think about it.

It's hard to wake up every morning with a dull ache in my knee and not think about it.