Six months ago he had been hit by a car on Rodeo Road, the young man told me. He was laid up for seventeen days. Now he had a metal rod in his back.
It wasn’t a story that made the news. And it wasn’t a hit-and-run – the driver actually stopped to help the downed cyclist. But it was awful all the same.
It was also the first I had heard about it.
And I only got to hear it because I had stopped to help the young man fix a flat tire on his BMX. I had seen him holding a lighter up to a DIY duct tape patch on an inner tube at the bicycle repair station at Leimert Park’s People St Plaza and figured he could use a hand.
“Do you need a patch?” I asked.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said, pointing at the tape. “This here’s what we call a ‘ghetto fix.'”
As I pulled the tape off, I saw the tube was pretty torn up – something in the rim had done the damage.
I explained this to him and we checked the rim.
Like on a lot of the second- or third-hand bikes I tend to see lower-income folks riding in the area, the inside of the rim was a hot mess of spiky spoke ends and worn-through rim tape. And information about all the different things he could do to keep his bike in better working order wasn’t going to be much help to him. He rarely had much in the way of disposable cash.
Instead, we used the duct tape patch to cover up some of the sharpest spots inside the rim and got to work trying to make a pair of patches cover the damaged surface of the tube.
The BMX wasn’t his regular bike, he said. That bike had been totaled when he had been hit from behind in that 4 a.m. crash. He had tried suing the driver for his medical expenses, he said, but never saw any of the settlement. He figured the lawyer ended up with the money.
“But, it’s not cheap to get a rod put in your back…?” I ventured.
“Whatever,” he waved, shrugging it off. “It’s done now.”
The bills, he seemed to be indicating, had gone unpaid. And he couldn’t do much about that, even if he wanted to. So he stopped worrying about it.
Usually when I write up an encounter like this for Streetsblog, this is the point at which I segue into a discussion of what this story means in a larger context. And the case of this indigent and occasionally homeless young man is certainly not lacking for larger contexts. Read more…