Sunday, 23 September 2007

Where is your bib, helmet and emergency info wristband?

On Friday evening I set off for a road run. I had my day-glo yellow reflective bib on and my wristband, which contains my emergency information (name, emergency contacts, medical aid etc). No more than 300m from my house I stopped at traffic lights; a young chap was next to me on his bicycle. He wasn't wearing a helmet so I told him off, adding that a helmet could save his life. On Saturday morning I got a call from Ian Adams' dad to say that Ian had been hit by a taxi while out training on his bike. His helmet saved his life.

This blog has been pending for weeks; I've had it on my list ever since I wrote the column on reflective gear for Runner's World magazine (August 2007 issue). Ian was actually my assistant gear tester; we headed to a dark, quiet suburb street to take turns parading in front of my car's headlamps and scoring the efficacy of various reflective items. It was a revelation for both of us to realise just how invisible runners are to motorists. Our top reflective must-have items include a reflective bib and an ankle band (or wristband, although ankle is best) of 3M Conspicuity tape (that yellow reflective tape used on trailers, trucks and taxis).

Searching the web I discovered a wealth of research on this particular topic (pedestrian visibility). Did you know that a motorist will notice a pedestrian in the dark at 50m and in a reflective bib at 96m. A car travelling at 60km/hr will cover this distance in 6-seconds. That is not enough time for the driver to register your presence, make a decision and do something about it. Scary.

The young cyclist I "accosted" on Friday night was the second one this week that I gave safety advice to. Why, why, why do people get on bicycles without helmets? It is like people driving without seatbelts or under the influence. You are asking for trouble.

About my emergency info wristband... a few years ago a runner was knocked over a couple of blocks from home (I drove past after the incident; helpers were already on-scene). The young lass looked unconscious. And it made me think; if I was knocked over how would they identify me? This was reaffirmed in January last year when after mountain biking at Groenkloof I stopped in at a local store to get a cold drink. A lady came up to my friend and I to ask whether we rode with identification. Her friend, a cyclist, had been knocked over - and killed - a few weeks before. His wife was away and it was only when he was missing from work that a search began. His body had been unclaimed for days because he rode with no form of identification.

Back to Ian...
He was riding along Allandale road, coming up the hill towards the Engen. It seems like there were two slower cars ahead of the taxi and being impatient, the taxi driver pulled into the emergency lane where Ian was riding. Ian thinks that the driver was looking behind for vehicles when he drove straight into the back of Ian's bike. Ian got plastered to the windscreen, which his body shattered, and the taxi kept going for a few seconds before the driver hit his brakes. The passengers were screaming; Ian describes the situation as "pandemonium".

Credit to the driver, he didn't try to run, but stuck around to help Ian. Nearby construction workers also came to his rescue, bringing their site medical kit with them. The ambulance took about 25-minutes to arrive and Ian was shipped off to the hospital, which fortunately was less than 3-minutes drive from the accident site. He was also conscious the whole time and asked the helpers to call his parents, who met the ambulance at the hospital.

All in all he got off very lucky indeed. His injuries include:
  • Fractures to the L1 and L2 vertebrae; he will be in a back brace for 6-weeks. A harder fall or a fall in another position could have done serious damage to his spinal cord. He has full feeling, movement and mobility. UPDATE - A couple of opinions later, no need for a back brace. Injury not severe enough to demand restricted movement. That's good news. But, no running for 2-months. In the next week Ian can start with stationary cycling and then add a dash of swimming. Impact activities not allowed.
  • Gash in left calf; was surgically reconstructed on Saturday afternoon
  • Gash in back of head; has a couple of stitches. The back of his helmet has been decimated and without this vital piece of cycling equipment it is very likely that we would have lost another of our community.
  • Fracture to the top of his right pelvic bone; seems like a piece has been chipped off, docs will monitor the situation.
  • Road rash and miscellaneous cuts

This morning, a day after the accident, Ian was up and walking and he was discharged this afternoon. No running or cycling for him for a while.

Ian says that when he is back on his bike in two months there is nothing he would do differently. He was on the far left of the emergency lane. He had all of his visibility aids on. This accident, like many others, was driver error and not cyclist error. You can only make sure that you adhere to safety requirements; the rest is actually out of your control.

Friends, if you see a cyclist without a helmet and visibility aides and a runner without a bib, even during the day, please chastise them. And if you are not doing the above... consider this my lecture to you. And I advise you all to make your own emergency wristbands; they serve to speak for you when you can't.

Finally... Ian was our AR Club teammate for the Golden Reef 100-miler road race this Friday night, 28 September. We have entered a team of 4 and will run the 160km as a relay team, alternating runners ever few kilometers. Although we'd love another AR Club runner to join us, we are also open to outside applicants. If you would like to run about 40km, in bite-sized chunks, between 19h00 on Friday night and mid-morning on Saturday, please drop me a note. We're aiming at maintaining a decent 5-5:30min/km pace. Ian was our secret weapon (he runs faster than the rest of us) so we're looking for an enthusiastic replacement to join me, Tim and Tony A.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was reading your blog (23 Sept) about helmets, ID and reflective clothing. Check out

I became concerned when training for triathlons in January and having to do road cycling, at that time there were cyclists being knocked over weekly by trucks and mini-busses. A friend of mine told me about ICE ID and I now wear mine anytime I do any outdoor exercise (run, bike, canoe, swim). As important as the next of kin contacts is the fact that the paramedics know you have medical aid and send you to a private hospital.

Since getting my ID and wearing it I have noticed people think it’s a good idea but still make no effort to get their own, which makes me think that maybe it is their fear of admitting that something could happen to them so they would rather remain in denial and head out into the dark – which is quite selfish to their next of kin! This is possibly why you still see idiots cycling without helmets or jogging in tight trendy black shirts at night, they are just too scared/stupid to ‘tempt fate’ and admit that they could be next and do something about it. My favourite when training with someone and they ask me about my ID band is to inform them of the fact that with my age, fitness and cholesterol profile I am a high risk of imminent heart attack – could explain why I never manage to keep a regular training partner!

Keep up the fantastic website.

Best Regards