Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Une intersection fuckée

I got hit by a car last week. I ride through the Ville de Mont-Royal, which cuts a perfect diagonal from Parc-Extension to Ville St. Laurent, where the school I teach at is located. The Ville de Mont-Royal is a city within a city, a rectangle of upper middle-class houses that is independent politically from the City of Montreal. It was built in the middle of the century specifically to house the executives and upper management of CN Rail, who were mostly anglophones (I believe entirely anglophones) and it was specifically designed so that it would be very difficult to for non-residents to find their way around. It's a rectangle divided diagonally by an X of two major thoroughfares. But in between the arms of the X, the streets are all loopy and random. (You can see it here.) It's kind of elegant to look at on a map, but you really can get lost here. I spent about half an hour trying to find my way out and the only thing that saved me was the top of Mount Royal (the mountain, not the town I was lost in!) poking out above the houses.

Montreal, especially outside of the Plateau is one of the most car-oriented cities I've ever been in. It's heinous. The whole north side of the city is divided by the Autoroute 40, which is the ugliest piece of 60's inspired pro-car architecture. Worse, when you drive on it, it's constantly under repair and jammed. It should be torn down tomorrow. They destroyed swathes of beautiful old working class neighbourhoods to build it and created an "across the tracks" situation where the rougher neighborhoods are all north of the freeway.

I give you these details because I blame my getting hit on the way Montreal is designed. I was crossing the street at Graham Boulevard (the southeast corner of Ville Mont-Royal) and Jean-Talon. I was riding slowly on the crosswalk. The light was mine and there was a pedestrian coming towards. All of a sudden, the front grill of a van was coming right at me. I had one of those, "it's going to stop moments" then a "it's not stopping!" moment and the next thing I knew I'm on the ground. The impact was pretty solid, but he was only going around 15 km or so and basically knocked me down. My bike is low to the ground and quite heavy.

I got up, checked myself and started yelling at the driver. He looked pretty shocked. People started honking! This really angered me, but I pulled my bike to the sidewalk and he pulled over. A very nice woman on a bike who was behind me came up and said she'd seen everything. The guy had just made a right turn right into me. He came out of his van and looked so upset that I lost all my anger. He apologized and said that he was occupied with paying attention to the oncoming traffic. He definitely fucked up and should have been looking to his right, but I had to agree with him when he said "cette intersection, c'est fuckée" because it has at least 7 lanes feeding into it and the lights are bizarre. Both of them kept asking if I was okay. I was jittery but fine, except for a slight pain in my ankle.

We took names and numbers and parted. My bike turned out to be kind of busted. The rear wheel rubbed and the gears were all wonky. I made it home and took it to the shop. It turned out the chain stay and the seat stay on the side where I got hit were bent in. The whole repairs were estimated around $100. I came home and called the guy who hit me. He again asked if I was okay and said that he would be glad to reimburse me for the repair cost. He came by the next day, gave me $100 cash and said that he was happy to pay it and would have done the same thing I did if our roles were reversed. He turns out to be a biker as well (and an electrician professionally). We shook hands.

I am physically fine and my bike should be out of the shop soon. I feel that the sum result of this whole accident has been a positive one. The guy who hit me showed himself to be an honorable and civic-minded individual. There was no need for any lawyers or bs like damages and loss of work time. Shit happens and good people respond to it. When he left, he said that if I ever needed an electrician, I should call him. And I would.


Olivier said...

I don't think they shoul tear it down; is it in Boston where they had one of those massive elevated highway they converted in some kind of a linear park? That's what Métropolitaine (and Sherbrooke) should be: biking superhighway with some kind of park setting.

Meh; maybe I'm dreaming :-).

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're fine. I basically lost my whole summer after I small bike accident. And because I hit another bicycle, and was tranported to the hospital with an ambulance I don't even know his name. And because how the health insurance works if you have and accident were there is no car involved you aren't even insured. So I had to pay for all my fysiotherapy myself even without having any income for a couple of months.

The roads are badly designed here, but it's also the drivers. They don't look ever over their shoulder when they go right, and more often than not don't use their flashers so you, as a cyclist, can't even anticipate on their turning off.

WeSailFurther said...

I have ridden a lot here in NYC and have only gotten "almost hit/hit" twice. Once a guy moved into my lanne to take a right. I was on 6th ave near 34th. That's just about by MSG and it can be quite hectic there. I banged his door and he slowed and swerved away. The second was a cab.

Just last night a guy tried to take a right into me and I rode along the turn with him, getting ahead as he slowed. No turn signal. He saw me and stopped and I went around the front of him on my way. As I went around the front I pointed too his right blinker and said "nice blinker." He gave me the finger, which I am still trying to figure out.

I find that here in NYC the best way to ride is to be as super agressive as possible and pretend you are a car. I found the same to be true in San Diego and Hawaii, though the San Diegans are more used to bikes on the roads (and they have bike paths on nealry every roadway) and the Hawaiians are super mellow. It's considered bad form there to use your horn. I feel like I ride like a messenger. That is, until a messenger goes by me, full bore, through a crowded intersection. Then I feel like a first class rube.

Anonymous said...

Holy Moly Merde! Glad you are OK. Man, if that stuff happened in NYC, you would be sitting in the Dakota sipping champagne cocktails giving out your Court TV interview with F.Lee Bailey! What kind of car was it again? Ford? GM? I wouldn't be surprised with the luck they are having...instant karma's gonna get you.


meezly said...

Outer Montreal is quite car-oriented, for sure. But the Montreal core is very bike-friendly. That's what makes it so ironic (& challenging as a cyclist) because this city has the some of the worst roads, poorly planned intersections, and the most bike-oblivious drivers in North America!

In all my years of being a cyclist-commuter, I've had my share of accidents. But I've never collided with a flung open SUV-door, or got a flat from all the crap and ubiquitous broken-glass, until I started biking in this crazy city!

WeSailFurther said...

so, uh, anything goin on up there?