In Brussels, My First Cycling Accident with a Motorist

by Chikashi

So, I got hit from behind by a muppet whilst waiting at a red light.

Location:  heading south on Rue des Palais, junction with Rue Dupont, just before merging with Rue Royale.

Time:  approximately 1:30 pm, on Saturday, 22 September 2012.

Car:  mid-1990s silver Audi 3-door hatchback (likely to be A3, but badged S4 for some strange reason), Dutch number plate 81-TH-SG.

I do not really like cycling to Brussels because the route is not all that pleasant or fun, and one cannot really avoid going through the crummy areas in the north of Brussels.  Cycling in Brussels isn’t fun either.  The return trip is slightly more than 100 km, and there are plenty of other 100 km routes in Belgium that are actually enjoyable.  However, I had an appointment in Ixelles, and the weather was nice.  The grey, damp season is quickly approaching, so I thought that I would take advantage of the fair weather whilst it lasts.

I was waiting at a red light, on Rue des Palais, in a position equivalent to that behind the white van pictured above, at the mouth of  Rue Dupont to the right.  The lights at the junction flash amber at the weekend, but turn red when the lights turn green for the zebra crossing.

The cretin in the Audi hits my rear wheel from behind.  I lose balance from the impact and fall off the bike.  I walk over to the driver’s side of the Audi and ask, ‘What the fuck?’

The driver gets out of the car and asks me whether I did not see that he had his indicator on to turn right, implying it was my fault.  The guy comes from behind, with his indicator flashing, and it’s my obligation to see it and spring to action?

I tell him the obvious:  I was right in front of him, in daylight.  He says that he did not see me and proceeds to ask whether I see everything all the time.

I also tell him another obvious thing:  I was waiting at a red light.  By this time, the light has reverted to flashing amber, so he questions me whether I am sure that it was red.

He asks me what I want him to do.  ‘Your bike is not damaged.  (lifting my bike an inch)  You are not hurt.  What do you want me to do?  If there was any damage, I would pay for everything.  What is the problem?’

The problem?  How can I explain…  Well, how about apologising?  Show a bit of contrition?  With 2 hijab-clad women sitting in his car looking on, perhaps he felt that he could not back down lest he lose his face.

Actually, his line of argument is all too familiar in certain non-contiguous regions of the world.  It’s usually not a problem.  You just start the negotiation from a different opening position, expect the whole process to take a different path and perhaps enlist a native to assist you.  However, this was not about a potential transaction.

By this time, I was thoroughly annoyed and was hoping that he would touch me, just one finger, so that I can engage.  I had not even sparred in well over 10 years and cannot remember the last time I had a full engagement.  My reflexes must be considerably slower now.  However, at this point, I was itching to find out whether it was ‘just like riding a bike’.

The fruitless conversation, that is, if you can call it a conversation, carried on without a hint of him actually crossing the line.  I also realised that I was already late for my appointment and thought that it was time to move on.  I did not report the incident to the police and was 1/2 hour late for my appointment as a result.  In hindsight, it was probably good that it did not escalate because we were in a quartier where he could have acquired casual allies off the street, and I could have been utterly overwhelmed.

The rear derailleur seems out of tune.  The bike fell on its right when the idiot struck me.  The one time that I ride a geared bike to Brussels, I get this.  I hope that the derailleur or the hanger is not bent.  I don’t know whether I will ride to Brussels again any time soon, but next time I’m riding a fixie.