So that’s what it’s like to get hit by a car…

3 Dec

Last night I went to the Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) monthly meeting, which I’ve been meaning to attend for quite some time. The meeting was great. Though I was the only non-biker there, I felt very welcomed and was excited to hear about WOBO’s recent successes.

After the meeting, a bunch of us decided to head over to Z Bar for a drink. Most everyone biked over there, but one of the WOBO leaders was kind enough to walk his bike over with me. We walked down 27th from Harrison, and when we reached Broadway, we needed to cross the street. Since 27th intersects with Broadway at an angle, there’s a short pedestrian crosswalk with no light that crosses in front of the right turn lane onto Broadway. A car was stopped at the crosswalk. We made eye contact with the passenger and then started walking across the crosswalk.

After we had walked several steps and were right in front of the center of the car (almost directly in front of the driver), the driver accelerated and started driving forward. Since I was closer to the car, the car hit me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but apparently I flew up just a bit in the air.

The driver stopped almost immediately. I think all of us were in shock because we all just sort of froze there. Eventually, I kind of glared at the driver, motioning to him that he needed to at least apologize. So he rolled down his window and offered a lame apology, saying he didn’t see us. I told him that next time he should be more careful and pay more attention.

I’m a bit shaken from the experience, but aside from a huge bruise on my leg and my back hurting a bit more than usual, I’m fine.

But being hit by a car as a pedestrian got me a bit riled up. It was so clear to me that the driver had not even been looking for pedestrians and bikers because he was so fixated on looking to his left for oncoming car traffic. To him, we were essentially invisible.

WOBO has a lot of work to do, not only to get the City to increase visibility and safety for pedestrians and bikers, but also to increase awareness among car drivers. WOBO’s doing a big membership push right now so if you want to help insure that fewer accidents like mine last night occur, please sign up to become a member. Basic membership is $35 and for a $50 donation, you’ll get a brand new WOBO t-shirt.

And if you’re a driver, please remember to always look out not only for oncoming car traffic but for pedestrian and bicycle traffic too. You could end up saving a life, or at least avoiding an accident.


23 Responses to “So that’s what it’s like to get hit by a car…”

  1. A December 3, 2008 at 9:35 am #

    Add to that several hundreds of dollars of damage to your only method of transportation, and finding your body covered in pebble-and-grime-filled road rash — that’s what it’s like to get hit by a car.

  2. Eric Fischer December 3, 2008 at 10:24 am #

    And there’s even a “peds to your right” sign posted at 27th and Broadway in an attempt to alert drivers that they will do stupid things like this if they don’t pay attention! I guess it doesn’t work.

    I’m sorry to hear that you got hit, and hope that someday “slip turn” lanes like these will be banned.

  3. dto510 December 3, 2008 at 11:00 am #

    You are a martyr to the pedestrian cause! I hope you’re recovering well.

    Yeah, slip turn lanes are really bad. The Broadway Retail Specific Plan is being drawn up now by a consultant, it’s supposed to be “transit-oriented” so hopefully we can look forward to that stretch being redesigned for pedestrians.

  4. inadvertentgardener December 3, 2008 at 11:38 am #

    Gaah. This is ridiculous. The most dangerous part of my walking commute is at 7th and Broadway, where drivers are flying off the freeway exit and often just going right on 7th without even looking. That’s not even to mention the people turning left onto 7th who are more concerned with beating the oncoming traffic than any pedestrians in the intersection. It’s scary. I spend a lot of time giving people stern looks…as if that does any good.

    Anyway, sorry you got hit, glad you’re (mostly) OK, and while I hate to have anyone be the poster child for better transit- and pedestrian-oriented development, I’m glad you at least have a platform to talk about it and use it for illustrative purposes. Sigh.

  5. Becks December 3, 2008 at 11:46 am #

    What’s interesting is that at intersections where people are flying off the freeway or at crosswalks on Telegraph with no lights where cars are always speeding way too fast, I’m SO careful about crossing. I step into the street slowly and wait to make sure the car in the first lane is slowing down and then sometimes have to stop to let a car in the next lane pass me and then wait for another to stop.

    But last night, the car was completely stopped! We made eye contact with the passenger! It seemed completely safe to enter the crosswalk. Oh well, I guess I’ll be even more careful when walking now.

  6. Eric December 3, 2008 at 12:32 pm #

    Becks, I’m so sorry to hear you got hit — and after a WOBO meeting, at that — but good for you for extracting at least a lame apology from the driver, and I’m glad to hear you’re doing okay. Recently, a friend of mine was hit and injured by a car crossing Market Street near Civic Center (the driver just drove off right away). She’s doing well now, but it was a similar situation where it looked like the driver was slowing down for a pedestrian. This is certainly a problem we need to deal with by redesigning steets all across the Bay Area to prioritize people above vehicles.

  7. jennconspiracy December 3, 2008 at 1:17 pm #

    I don’t think that’s a very well lit crossing – and if you’re wearing dark clothing, then you would be pretty invisible regardless.

    I want to make a habit of carrying a flashlight – I need to remember to add that to my shoulder bag – it makes sense to at least use it when you are crossing the street because flashing it across the windshield of the car at the crosswalk is a great way to get attention and illuminate yourself in the crosswalk

  8. Becks December 3, 2008 at 1:25 pm #

    I don’t remember the crosswalk being dim – the area felt well lit to me but I’d have to go back to check. Carrying a small flashlight sounds like a good idea. Thanks for the suggestion.

  9. V Smoothe December 3, 2008 at 2:24 pm #

    OMG, Becks, that’s awful! I’m glad you escaped without more serious injury.

  10. neuroaster December 3, 2008 at 3:03 pm #

    Gosh . . .

    Streets are dangerous . . .

  11. jarichmond December 3, 2008 at 3:48 pm #

    Yikes! It’s good that it wasn’t more serious. It just astounds me that someone could hit a pedestrian and need to be prompted to apologize and make sure there aren’t any injuries.

    That crosswalk has always made me nervous even when driving, but I never thought of it as particularly badly lit. What really makes that one dangerous is that it’s very difficult to see down Broadway when driving, so that you have to take your eyes off the other side of the crosswalk and turn your head back to look for cars.

    I can agree that sometimes pedestrians are dark and hard to see at some intersections, but if I followed you right, wasn’t there someone with you pushing a bike? It’s hard to claim that he couldn’t see you in that case…

  12. Becks December 3, 2008 at 3:51 pm #

    jarichmond – Yeah, the person with me was pushing a bike. If the driver had bothered to look at all, there’s no way he could have missed us. The problem was that he didn’t look at all!

    The more I think about it (and talk about it), the more I realize how screwed up that intersection really is. I’ll have to look up the accident statistics, but I’m guessing they’re high.

    Thanks to everyone for the supportive words.

  13. kevin Cook December 3, 2008 at 4:24 pm #


    That sucks. I’m glad you’re ok and that the driver didn’t hit and run–which seems fairly common.

    Whenever you are hit by a car whether walking or cycling, it’s a good idea to call the police and head to the hospital even if you think you are ok. The adrenaline produced by these accidents often masks pain and injury and you want to have a record of the inicidents just in case you need go after the driver for compensation.

  14. Becks December 3, 2008 at 4:31 pm #

    Kevin – Yeah, my mom already lectured me today about how I should have gotten his insurance and everything, and you’re both right. I definitely should have. Unfortunately, in the shock of it all I wasn’t thinking straight and didn’t do that. Not much I can do about that now.

    I would highly recommend for anyone who ever gets into an accident not to follow my example and to make sure to get contact info and insurance information if possible. Of course, that isn’t always possible since a lot of bike and ped accidents are hit and runs.

    I’m in a fair amount of pain today, though I’ve had chronic pain problems for years so it’s hard to say how much of my pain was caused by the accident. It certainly didn’t help though.

  15. Navigator December 3, 2008 at 4:40 pm #


    I’m sorry to hear that you got hit. I hope your feeling better soon.

  16. riddlebiddle December 3, 2008 at 9:07 pm #

    Wow, that is scary. I’m so sorry to hear about the scrape. I actually cross that spot twice a day – going to and from work. It’s probably the worst cross I face, between the spot where you got hit and people trying to turn left into the intersection and not looking for pedestrians until they’re barreling down on them. Also not good: Piedmont and Broadway.

    I wish I had a better solution than glaring at drivers, but it’s hard not to on some days. People just seem so immersed in whatever they’re doing in their cars, and so entitled to get wherever they’re going next in the fastest way possible. I’ve also learned the hard way that making eye contact with a passenger isn’t fail-safe. I always imagine the worst possible scenario – like maybe the car’s driver and passenger just had a fight and aren’t speaking to each other.

    So, yeah, all that rambling to say that I’m so sorry to hear you got hit. I love your site and have been lurking for a while. I’ve also been meaning to check out WOBO, so maybe I’ll see you at one of their meetings soon. Be careful out there!

  17. inadvertentgardener December 4, 2008 at 6:18 am #

    Yeah, the eye contact thing blows me away, in particular. Quite creepy that you could make eye contact and yet, somehow, clearly you didn’t make eye contact — or the driver didn’t, anyway. Maybe next time, you should just walk over the hood to be safer…I bet the driver would notice you then!

    I probably would have not gotten the insurance either, ’cause I would have been so shocked, too.

  18. OaklandSpaceAcademy December 4, 2008 at 9:45 pm #

    Becks – So sorry to hear you were hit. That was probably very scary, frustrating, and painful. I’m glad to hear you are relatively ok.

    Kevin and your mom are right. Whenever you are hit, even if you don’t think you are injured, you must contact the police and wait for them to arrive to assess the situation, and that way they’ll have the driver’s information, hopefully file a report, and issue a ticket. And you also must go to the hospital to get checked out to make sure everything is ok. Not only is it a good idea for you yourself to do this, but it is your responsibility to all bikers and pedestrians. Of course, it is easy to forget with the shock of it happening, especially the first time.

    Most of the time I think eye contact works pretty well, but sometimes at night it is difficult to ascertain. I’m floored by how often drivers on Telegraph and Broadway don’t stop, even as I inch into the roadway a quarter step at a time. Oakland really needs to step up their enforcement of crosswalk laws. There are broken windows to be fixed here.

  19. Justin December 5, 2008 at 5:56 pm #

    I’ve been hit by a car in Oakland and San Francisco and almost get run over while walking two or three times a week around Lakeshore – where I live. WOBO has it’s work cut out for them to get Oakland drivers to approach the level of grudging respect/fear that SF drivers have, which is not a pretty sad goal.

  20. Georgia December 6, 2008 at 10:20 am #

    How are your leg bruise and back? Ditto the thread continued by OaklandSpaceAcademy.

  21. Becks December 7, 2008 at 10:04 pm #

    Georgia – thanks for asking. My bruise looks pretty disgusting, but it only hurts if I put pressure on it (it’s odd not being able to cross my legs in that direction). I’m still having a lot of back and neck pain and am going to the doctor tomorrow to get everything checked out. Ultimately, I think I’ll be ok, but the accident definitely exacerbated my previous pain conditions.

  22. Ken December 11, 2008 at 11:42 am #

    Hope you have gotten better already… being hurt by a car is lame!

    I was in Beijing a couple years ago and the sidewalk sign was green, as was the traffic light. I was trying to cross a freeway offramp (though on a city street.)

    My goodness!–the oncoming drivers had a RED light yet they were all honking at me for crossing?? I had a huge WTF moment there.

  23. Ken December 11, 2008 at 11:43 am #

    One solution would be for Oakland to close Broadway to private auto traffic. (SF gov should do same for Market Street!)

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