On Monday, I was attending a training class in Crystal City, VA. I had brought my Brompton with me to ride along the Mount Vernon trail that goes along the Potomac. I used to live in Virginia — Vienna — for nearly 15 years and I used to ride this trail 3–5 times a year. I got up early and was on the trail by 6:30 or so. I rode south towards Alexandria. I rode through the city and went to turn around at the Jones Point Park south of the city. My thinking was to turn around at this point so I could get back in time for the training. I was going to cut across the parking lot there at the park when disaster struck.
A vehicle had just exited the parking lot via the exit as I was entering the parking lot on the other side. As I got closer, an orange light started to flash but I could not see a gate so I was confused and slowed down. As I got closer to the exit, a giant steel gate came out of the ground. It had just cleared the ground when the Brompton and I struck it. I went over the handlebars and landed on my face, suffering lacerations on the bridge of my nose, above and below my right eye, and a fat lip. Two very nice gentlemen helped me reorient myself, called for an ambulance, and stayed with me until the ambulance arrived.
Aside from the lacerations on my face and knees, I was fine. The bike actually sustained pretty minor damage also considering the impact – bent fork and damaged headset. Kudos to Brompton for making a sturdy bike! My eyeglasses unfortunately were completely demised.
Some lessons I learned though:
- Always carry identification. My RoadID saved my bacon. It was the only identification I was carrying and literally one of the first couple of questions I received at the hospital was ‘Did I have insurance.’ The RoadID is easy to use and pretty unobtrusive. If I had been unconscious, it would have made even more of a difference. Get one. It is worth its weight in gold.
- Smartphones make you a bit stupid. I do not know anyone’s phone number anymore since I never dial them…
- Tegaderm is a miracle cure for road rash where you have to wear clothes. While pricey ($12+ for 4 sheets), it goes on easily and comes off just as easily without removing all your body hair in the process. It allowed me to wear pants without the pants rubbing back and forth against the wounds on my knees.
During the week, I have been trying to track down the park’s owner to notify them of the danger of this gate. The gate, it turns out, is owned by VDOT but it is on the National Park Service land. While the gate has a visual and auditory warning (orange hazard light), there is no signage as to what the warning about is referring to. In my informal polling this week, virtually no one had ever seen a gate come out of the ground. You just don’t look for them there.