Cyclists have good reason to be hyper-aware and cautious on the road. Transport trucks sometimes barrel past too close for comfort (think lumber trucks in B.C.); motorists can be aggressive and road shoulders can be too small to ride on.
Riders can mitigate all these risks. What they can’t prepare for are the unforeseeable, fluky moments.
It was one such recent moment that has derailed one of the ConnecTour team for several weeks. It was a serious, scary moment that came on so suddenly, none of us had a chance to react until it had already happened.
Lisa and I were riding east on Highway 15 from the town of Outlook, Sask., about an hour’s drive south of Saskatoon. It was a calm, sunny day and we were having a relaxed ride. We had just cleared a section of the road where a crew was doing tar-and-chip surface repairs to the asphalt. Lisa sensed a vehicle approaching from behind and signaled that she was coming over to the shoulder.
But fully loaded bikes can be hard to manage. As she moved over, one of the panniers on her bike came into contact with mine. Losing control, she suddenly veered into the traffic lane. As I watched helplessly, I saw her front wheel go sideways and then she went down – hard. She didn’t even have a chance to put her hands out to break her fall.
I threw down my bike and ran over to her. She was lying still on the pavement, entangled in her bike. I called out to her, but she didn’t respond. Her eyes were open but there was no sign of consciousness. I called out a second time and she didn’t respond. Fighting a sense of panic, I kept repeating her name.
After maybe two endless minutes, she began to stir. She had no memory of the incident, and asked over and over what had happened. By now, several motorists had stopped and the rest of the ConnecTour crew had gathered around. Someone called an ambulance, and we helped Lisa into a chair by the side of the road.
Because of the road work, it took a long time for the ambulance to arrive . . . perhaps a half-hour. The EMTs immediately put on a collar, loaded her on a stretcher, and off she went to Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. Thankfully, the EMTs allowed me to ride along in the ambulance.
The ER staff were excellent. Within minutes the on-duty physician had determined there was no sign of internal bleeding, and sent Lisa off for a CT scan and then xrays. As I waited, I picked up her helmet and saw it had been shattered by the impact with the pavement. I thought of an incident my friend Dan Gaynor had experienced about a decade ago when he had a sudden fall and shattered his helmet. That helmet had saved his life, and I realized that Lisa’s helmet had saved her’s, as well.
Within perhaps an hour, the staff had determined that she did not have a concussion, but she did have a fractured clavicle. That will put her off the ride for a minimum of four weeks, and likely more. Our hope is she can rejoin us when we reach central Ontario in a few weeks.
A number of people stepped forward to help, and we are extraordinarily grateful to them. The driver who was approaching behind Lisa was Tim Haugen. He invited the other members of the ConnecTour crew over to his grandfather’s farm nearby for lunch. The next morning, he showed up in Saskatoon with Lisa’s and my bikes.
Although Tim witnessed the crash, he shrugged it off. “All my boys (three) have broken their collarbones,” he chuckled. “They’re full of pins and screws.”
Lisa, fortunately, needed no pins and screws. The doctor was confident the bone would heal on its own.
Another generous friend also stepped forward. I contacted Jim Kerr, a Saskatoon automotive writer I had met on several assignments, and he instantly offered to provide whatever help we needed. With his help, we had Lisa’s bike boxed within a day so that it could return with her back to Ontario where she is recuperating with family until we catch up to her. Two days after the crash that scared the life of me, she boarded a plane for Pearson Airport in Toronto. It was an outcome that seemed almost too good to be true, thinking back to those terrifying moments after her crash.
Meanwhile, Jim and his partner Deborah weren’t done helping us out. After driving Lisa to the airport, they headed east for the hour-plus drive to Watrous, so I could be reunited with the ConnecTour crew.
Once again, the concern and kindness of the people we encountered along the way made what could have been an extraordinarily difficult set of circumstances very manageable.
The ConnecTour ride carries on. And all of us are counting the days until Lisa can rejoin us.
FOOTNOTE: Saskatchewan drivers get a gold star
Saskatchewan drivers are the safest and most courteous people we have encountered on our trip. When approaching us from behind, they almost always slow down, and when they pass they move over to the ongoing lane so that we have as much room as possible. Drivers approaching from the opposite direction often move onto the far shoulder to provide as much room as possible. These drivers are a model for the whole country, and we thank them.