Stopping by a Crash on a Balmy Evening…

photo (c) sahra

Fountain Ave. seemed unusually crushed, even at rush hour.

As I rode up the hill towards Hyperion, the cars parted and I saw a woman lying on the ground in front of a white compact car.

She was clutching her leg and crying.

And she was all alone.

Lying in the street.

It was bizarre.

How was it that a handful of people were standing around and no one was talking to her or trying to help her?

I got off my bike next to her and asked if someone had called 911.

They had.

“Do you speak Spanish?” asked a woman.

The woman on the ground was crying on the phone in Spanish to her father.

I was hit by a car, dad, and it hurts so much. I was hit by a car. It hurts. It hurts…

Her ankle was absurdly swollen and her foot flopped awkwardly in the wrong direction.

A Sheriff came up with a blanket that he tried putting under her thigh.

“It’s her ankle,” I said, moving the blanket to a position that supported her leg better.

He got up and walked away, talked to some guys at the scene, and then moved off to wave sporadically at traffic.

I put my hand on the woman’s good leg, hoping it was comforting.

The heavyset bald guy leaned up against his car continued to stare down at her.

He was distraught.

He hadn’t seen her, he said.

She came out of nowhere.

He didn’t know how it happened.

Actually, I think it was pretty easy to see how it happened.

Judging by the positioning of the car — the body was straddling the white lines of the pedestrian crossing and the front end was well into the intersection — he had probably been looking left to see if he could merge into traffic and never looked right to check for pedestrians. He probably also rolled right through the stop to get a better view of oncoming cars, as the intersection is on a bit of a curve. I have seen it happen a million times at that spot.

“This has never happened to me before,” he repeated, shaking his head and looking down at the woman on the ground, who was still sobbing into her phone.

“I never saw her.”

One of the witnesses comforted him, telling him these things happen.

I squeezed her good leg — she looked like she was in a lot of pain and still shocked at having been hit..

She hung up the phone.

Habla usted inglés? I asked.

“No, no,” she cried.

OK, I nodded. Me quedo con usted. (I’ll stay with you)

The fire truck arrived.

They told me they had a paramedic that spoke Spanish, so I got up and let them do their thing.

I left very puzzled by how surreal the whole experience had been.

Was it the language barrier that kept people from reaching out to the injured woman? Or just that people are uncomfortable around those in pain?

I didn’t know. Whatever it was, it was incredibly clear that people preferred comforting the driver to assisting the woman on the ground.

I also thought about pedestrian collisions, in general. Given how much time I spend out in the streets on my bike, I do see a tremendous number of close calls. Many times, there is no question that, if the incidents had resulted in collisions, the driver impatience or inattentiveness would be to blame. But, I’m also surprised by how many pedestrians walk out into intersections as soon as lights turn, often without looking to see if a car is gunning it through a red. Too often, we expect drivers will respect our right of way, when the reality is that, too often, they don’t. And in the battle of human vs. motorized vehicle, the human is always going to lose.

Am I the only one that has come across a surreal crash scene? What has been your experience?

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