YOUR STORIES

Stories to offer hope, inspiration and advice

YOUR STORIES

Sharing your story can aid in healing, inspiring, and encouraging others to get back on their bikes after a bad crash.

Brady O’Bryan
UCLA Triathlon Head Coach 2011-2017

In November 2015 I collided with a car during the bike portion of a triathlon in Florida. I sustained a traumatic brain injury that led my doctors to place me in a coma for 2 weeks. My lungs were also crushed and I was left with half of one to breath with. I cannot speak to the important things to do after a collision to protect one’s legal rights like exchanging information and having a police report because I have no recollection of what happened even the day before the race much less the day of and the 2 weeks after.

However, I can say that I do not think I would have survived had it not been for 1) the rapid response of the EMTs and 2) the fact that my family was with me from day one and every second thereafter, until I walked out of the hospital one month later. My advice is that you never ride alone and that you always tell your loved ones where you are going. I was in a race, therefore my critical contact information was readily available.

My other advice is that if someone you know is in the hospital, even if they are unconscious, being there and talking to them makes all the difference. They can still hear you.

Kelly Kosmo
UCLA Triathlon 2011-2016

I was involved in a cycling accident when I was 18 years old, and had no idea what the proper steps were to recovery. I was very fortunate to have the right people surrounding me to help me with the things that I otherwise would not have known to do. Many of the things I learned are mentioned on this website, and would have been very helpful to know at the time. I was riding in the bike lane at the end of a hard training ride when the classic movie scene that you never think will happen actually happened – a driver in a parked car on the side of the road opened the door directly in front of me, with no time to stop. I tried to turn, leaving me to take all of the impact with the right side of my head.

Adrenaline really is no joke; when I found myself lying in the middle of the road, I impulsively stood up and walked to the curb, unaware of what really happened. But getting up probably wasn’t the best idea…I started to pass out, but luckily was able to sit against the wall in time. Luckily, a man who was walking by acted as witness and called 911 as soon as he saw my face bleeding heavily. The witness wrote and signed a note with his contact information saying it wasn’t my fault.

I didn’t know the value of this note at the time, and wouldn’t have known to ask for one. This is a very helpful step that a witness can take in any accident. Young and concussed as I was, I tried to refuse the ambulance ride, thinking there was no way I’d ever be able to pay for it. Luckily, the witness’ head was less smashed than mine, and he knew that going in the ambulance was the best course of action. I learned that it’s very important to take the ambulance and go to the hospital no matter what. I have this tendency to try to act tough, which I learned was not helpful in this situation. I wasn’t able to think straight and didn’t want to stay in the hospital (again, not really knowing about this whole insurance thing and thinking it’d be way too expensive), so I kept saying I was fine and convinced the ER doctors that my grimace was a smile, trying to act like I wasn’t in pain.

This caused the ER doctors to not fully evaluate me. They just stitched up my face and discharged me without diagnosing me with a concussion. Two things I learned from pretending to be fine that may be helpful to others:

1. I still have a scar from the stitches, and apparently I could have asked for a plastic surgeon to do the stitches instead of the ER doctor. That way, I probably wouldn’t have a permanent scar on my face…but whatever, it kind of looks like a dimple. It’s probably not the face decor that most people want though…

2. I had a severe concussion and it would have been very helpful to diagnose and take care of this earlier. I thought it was a stupid way to crash…I mean, the car wasn’t even moving!! So I was embarrassed, and tried to pretend it was fine again for a while. But ultimately, I started struggling in school, which led me to get a brain scan, do some cognitive therapy, and take a lighter course load until I recovered. This aided the (excruciatingly slow) recovery. I learned that it is best to be very honest and conservative with your symptoms up front. This helps with the insurance claims, and most importantly, with your health; taking care of things sooner can help speed up the recovery process. But hey, I graduated just fine – just a quarter late.

It’s important to not put your brain in jeopardy of another concussion when you are still recovering from one, so it’s best to not get back to riding until you are cleared by a doctor to do so. But once cleared, my passion for the sport far outweighed any fear that the accident instilled. If you have a passion for biking, it’s important to not let fear or anxiety hold you back after a crash, but rather, you can use that fear to increase your awareness as a cyclist while still enjoying one of the best activities there is. Now, I always make sure to ride on the outer edge of the bike lane outside of the door opening zone, and yell “DOOR!” at the top of my lungs when riding in a group and someone opens a door. Hopefully you do too so that no one else has to get doored unless they’re in a movie! Also, if you ever regress to using a car instead of a bike, take a second to check your mirror and look behind you before opening your door when parked on the side of the road!

Nicole Hood
UCLA Triathlon 2011-2015

My worst cycling accident occurred because a car made a right-hand turn and was not paying attention to the cyclists riding by it. This accident was scary for me because I sustained a head injury. I have no memory of this accident. I recall “waking up” in the hospital at UCLA. I was lying in a hospital bed, wearing huge gray sweatpants. I was told that I had been in an accident where I flipped over the front of my handlebars on Topanga canyon.

My injury was severe enough that I was unable to answer simple questions. I was taken in an ambulance down Topanga canyon and then helicoptered to Ronald Regan Hospital. I had a CT scan and an MRI to make sure I did not have a major brain injury.

It was a very disorienting experience to become aware in a hospital with no recollection of how I got there. I never recovered those memories. I learned the details of the accident from witnesses that saw it happen.

I was scared to get back on my bike after the accident but cycling was something that I really enjoyed. I did not want to let my fear keep me from doing something I loved. Each time I got back on the bike it became a little easier.

After an accident, it is important to be cautious and take the safest course of action. If there is a choice between taking an ambulance and not, take the ambulance. Go to the ER and get a CT scan. Do not trust your judgment that you have not sustained an internal injury.

Don’t get back on too soon but don’t let the crash discourage you from riding. You just need to make sure you are riding safely.

Don’t trust anyone completely. When drafting it is better to leave some space and lose a couple seconds than to accidently bump their wheel. Don’t rely on people to call out hazards in the road. Look for yourself. Make sure you are comfortable on your bike and with your brakes before riding with a group. Don’t endanger others. Don’t be reckless.
My crashes taught me that safety is the number one priority. Biking can be extremely dangerous. Even if you are taking precaution, other people may not be.

Joshua O’Keefe
UCLA Triathlon 2013-2017

Both of my bike crashes have involved me either losing control of my handlebars or taking my eyes off the road. My first crash occurred on a descent when I grabbed my water bottle to take a drink and lost control of the handlebars. My second crash occurred during a race when I was in my aerobars. I was passing another competitor on a straight section of the course and took my eyes off the road for a second. During that moment, I ran over a small pothole in the road and, before I knew it, was on the ground.

Since both of my crashed were completely my fault, I only had to deal with the road rash, which was more severe after my second crash. Being in a world of pain after the adrenaline from that crash wore off, I went to sleep when I arrived home after the race and did not visit the emergency room until the next day. This was a big mistake as some new skin had started forming around the asphalt particles that had been lodged into my arm from sliding on the road. The ER nurse had to then take a steel wool brush and scrape off the newly-formed skin and asphalt particles underneath.

I have learned a few lessons from these crashes. First, I find it is easiest to lose control when going all out on the bike during a race or in practice since my brain is solely focused on not getting dropped or gapping another competitor and not on the road. Therefore, I have always been willing to sacrifice some speed for safety. Second, I have learned that it is always best to go to the ER as soon as possible after a bad crash to avoid any complications such as having a layer of skin scraped off. Finally, while it is in the human nature to be afraid of getting back on the bike after a bad crash for maybe a few weeks, I believe that all the benefits of cycling such as setting a personal best on a climb, going on a long group ride, exploring new places, and not having to do other forms of exercise such as swimming for the rest of your life do significantly outweigh the risks associated with cycling.

Nolan Isozaki
UCLA Triathlon 2013-2016

Cycling is not inherently a dangerous sport, but that dynamic changes when we take our passions to the roads with the cars. I’ve been exposed to dangerous situations more often on a bicycle than when ski-mountaineering in whiteout storms. The main danger comes from cars and unpredictable circumstances, which just happen much more when on a bicycle in an urban environment. This is not to discourage you from cycling, this is just to say that unpredictability is part of urban riding.

I’ve been hit by a car once. It was a route I had done probably a hundred times, in day, night, heavy traffic, and when empty. This ride was meant to be just like the previous rides, a nice speedy night jaunt through West Hollywood on our way to the training grounds of downtown LA we coveted so much as urban riders. Flying down the iconic 2nd Street tunnel and riding through empty streets of Gotham meant we had to cross through the parties of Hollywood at night. It was on one such ride that I was given the decision to run into the back of a van or get sideswiped by a taxi. As an urban rider, sense of flow is important and positional awareness is paramount. Being alert is half the equation. The other half is hoping drivers use their turn signals and do not swerve into the bike lane. When the taxi started shifting before swooping for the sidewalk, I had a few seconds to slow down (I was in the bike lane), but I couldn’t slow down fast enough and I found myself parallel to the taxi with a parked van in front of me. I knew I was at too awkward of an angle to hop onto the sidewalk. I also knew running headfirst into a van would be a pretty dismal way to break a neck. I decided to let the taxi hit me, sending my hip into the mirror and body into the side of the door.

Without a turn signal, I wasn’t able to anticipate that he wanted to drop passengers off. Even with my bike lights and vigilance, the taxi caught me without enough of a margin to escape. I was lucky to have a police car rolling a few cars behind. The officer was able to file a police report for me, which was critical for my lawyer to request compensation from the taxi’s insurance company. I learned I should have hopped into the ambulance that showed up to the scene, but I felt okay enough to continue the ride until the adrenaline wore off. I didn’t feel like I was injured enough to need an ambulance with only dull pains and the expected bruising but my lawyer told me that if an ambulance shows up, take it. After six months of physical therapy, I was more or less good to start riding again, and I realize it could have been much worse.

The biggest tip I have learned over the years is to have situational awareness. Keep track of the things in your immediate space and things 5 seconds away, 10 seconds away, and so on. When you can keep track of those things, any sudden changes should set off potential alarms. Always look for an exit or provide yourself enough space to exit (if you’re in a paceline). There have been times where I have had to assess my speed, the speed of incoming traffic, and the speed of an oblivious car to swerve out of the way, into the exit space I had been managing. Staying alert is your #1 weapon when training on urban roads. If anything, you could always become an alpinist.

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