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This morning I almost witnessed an accident. I was a couple of hundred metres behind the incident but arrived at the scene when a pedestrian was picking a bike from the middle of the road, a distraught driver was parking his van and a cyclist was lying on the pavement very dazed and grazed.

Several pedestrians stopped, one called an ambulance, the van driver put a jacket under the cyclist's head for comfort, but otherwise we didn't move him, we kept him talking, he wasn't complaining of cold. He did want to know about his bike, he was more worried about it than his bashed up leg.

But what should we have done? Did we miss out anything crucial? Do we do wrong?

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It sounds like things were handled pretty well. Had it been a more serious/complicated accident, the final position of the bike should have been marked, to assist reconstruction, but probably not important in this case. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 24 '11 at 11:06
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Take video or pictures if you can do it without preventing or giving care to the injured. –  Moab Aug 24 '11 at 20:54
    
I also asked "how's my bike" when a car bumped a bit into me and I fell. The driver was surprised maybe. I am concerned about my bike-it's a part of my life. –  Theta30 Dec 10 '11 at 5:33
    
A similar happened to me a week ago. The accident seemed to have happened within the previous 2-3 minutes, but an EMT and a nurse were already there talking to the cyclist and making sure he was OK. He had a hurt leg, but otherwise seemed OK. His bike had some visible damage, though. One crank arm was snapped in two. The chain ring was bent into the shape of a waffle cone. After a minute, the driver came over and asked if he was OK, and said, "the light was green." The biker, EMT, and nurse, each said, "No it wasn't." –  Neil Whitaker Oct 31 at 5:34

5 Answers 5

up vote 17 down vote accepted

The highway code has some advice on First Aid on the Road. It says:

1. Deal with danger - the cyclist was on the pavement and the van was parked, so you did this.

2. Get help - an ambulance was called, so you did this.

3. Help those involved - you didn't move the cyclist and you kept him comfortable, so you did this.

4. Provide emergency care - you don't mention what injuries the cyclist had, but it sounds like you didn't need to do this.

I don't think you missed anything crucial, assuming the cyclist didn't have serious injuries (e.g. heavy bleeding).

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+1 - Great checklist! Easy to remeber which means it will get used. –  Walter Aug 24 '11 at 11:56
    
The order is good as it's really a good thing to care about safety first. There's little sense to reanimate the cyclist on a highway corned shortly after the hilltop and then being run over, too. Better ensure the cars approaching are being warned and slow down first. (Yes, my example is not that realistic, but to make it clear ...) –  johannes Oct 21 '11 at 0:36

Here is a well-written guide for what to do at the scene of an accident. It addresses much more serious situations than you encountered.

The only thing I would add to that is "be a witness." Having been in an accident myself where nobody who witnessed it would give their (genuine) contact information, I can tell you it's very frustrating to not have witnesses.

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If I could offer a partial acceptance, I think that this would be it. The one thing I think I should have done is leave my details - even though I didn't see the incidenet and doubt I could have added anything to those others still there who did. –  Unsliced Aug 24 '11 at 14:44

There are 'hit and run' accidents where the driver notices that nobody has noticed and legs it, to leave the victim all alone, however, these are the exception. By and large most accidents do gather a small crowd in a short period of time and one or two individuals will take the lead in helping as best as they can. Therefore, by the time you arrive at the scene or shortly thereafter they may well be people better able than yourself to look after the injured cyclist.

The 'how's my bike?' question will tend to be trivialised by those 'phoning the ambulance' and those that arrive in the ambulance, however, to the one in pain this is the top question even if it seems a bit silly given the state that they are in. Therefore, as a cyclist, the best thing that you can do is to be completely honest to them about the state of their bike, and in detail. Even if it is bad news it will put their mind at rest.

If you have a camera on your phone then take some pictures of the scene and the bicycle. With that done you can take responsibility for what happens to the bike next.

If it looks like the ambulance is going to be used that day (e.g. for a check for concussion) then ask them if they have a relative able to come and collect the bike. Offer to wait with the bike or ask a local address if they can look after it until it can be collected. Obtain and return D-lock keys to secure the bike if required. Locked up inside a building but not to anything means that their relative will still be able to collect the bike, the cyclist will also know it is not going anywhere until such time as it is collected.

If there is no ambulance trip needed then let them know that you can help them with a second opinion on whether the bike is okay. If you have tools to straighten the bars etc. then offer your help with that.

Be aware that the bicycle might be at fault rather than the driver, the rain, unicorns in the street or anything else. Check the bike for something lethal such as a broken front mudguard that may have got caught in the fork and thrown them over the bars. If you do establish the responsible cause then the cyclist will want to know about it to avoid a repeat incident. Tell them your suspicions diplomatically.

Clearly there will be times when you will be first on the scene and that you will have to do more than look after the bike. As a cyclist you have the benefit of being able to park up instantly and you are also better suited than pedestrians to take control of the traffic situation. Unless you are in the middle of nowhere an ad-hoc team will materialise rapidly, play to your strengths as a cyclist in this team and be the eyes and ears for whomever takes the lead in looking after whomever is hurt. Remember that you are very mobile on the bike and you can go-get stuff in the immediate locality quicker than those on foot or in a car.

I have been fortunate in never having to get involved in actual first aid due to someone more proficient than myself being on the scene in a short space of time. Hopefully another contributor can post the ABC's of first aid as a complimentary answer to this question.

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The "how's the bike" seemed almost too stereotyped, but he genuinely was more interested in it than himself - mind you, it was a very nice looking steed and, I think, not his normal commuting machine ("I didn't think I should have used that one this morning"). After tens of thousands of miles commuting over the years, this is the first time I've been so close to an incident needing an ambulance - hence why I was a little curious as to what I might not have considered in the heat of the moment and thus missed. –  Unsliced Aug 24 '11 at 14:48

Make sure you keep the contact information of the cyclist, in case you need to be a witness in a trial. Also mark down the licence plate number of the car. This might not be needed if the driver was cooperating, but you never know. If the accident is registered, the cyclist can file a claim with the insurance company of the driver to get compensation (I am assuming that the driver was to blame here).

I would also recommend reading this article about experience with insurance companies: http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2011/05/what-i-learned-about-getting-hit-by-car.html

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If it is you in such an incident then you need to follow up the insurance claim as soon as possible (that is if you have chosen or are able to). The attitude of the driver will harden by the day after the incident and he will not want to have higher insurance premiums. You have to follow things up ASAP or else the effort in doing so will end up being as painful as the accident and extremely time consuming. If there is trouble consider forgetting the claim as you do not want to relive the accident, get bitter and have your time taken up by form filling. –  ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Aug 24 '11 at 9:11
    
Agree about recording the license plate. My friend was hit by a little old lady in a car that failed to give way. The driver stopped, talked to my friend for a while to determine he was not seriously injured and then drove off. The drivers insurance could have paid for some of the medical costs if they have been contactable after the incident. –  WW01 Aug 30 '11 at 3:39

My advice is similar. Here's how it went down for me once, after seeing a minor accident:

  • Cyclist falls
  • Traffic stops
  • Concerned motorists get out and help the fallen (and their bike) to the side of the road
  • There's oh and tut-tutting and "are you sure you're alright?" and eventually (maybe only a minute or two) people drive off.
  • I hang around a bit longer, the two of us now alone on the sidewalk. I want to be available but without pestering her: she's still recovering, and not back on her bike (so not alright yet, imo).

She tried to phone her boyfriend (while I waited), but no answer.

I soon saw she has some internal bleeding (abnormal swelling) within her elbow, though no exterior bleeding; and suggest she get it looked at (saying "I'm sorry, that's going to hurt more, later ... and I can't touch it, I think you should get that seen by a doctor, you'll want a bandage or something"); get her agreement; flag down a taxi for her to drive her to the hospital (and check that she has the taxi fare); lock her bike up where it is (thanks for having previously read matthew's advice in this thread); and ask if she knows where she is (so that she or her SO can retrieve the bike again later).

At first she seemed to be behaving a bit on automatic: "yes I'm fine..." to the people who had stopped. Some shock or something as well as a brave face.

The drivers related to her as a person, a social being, an autonomous adult, and let her brush them off.

Maybe my being a cyclist helped me to relate, to be a bit more familiar/intimate, or physical: and to stay a bit longer when others felt it was time to get back in their cars and to let the traffic resume.

FWIW, the one time I was knocked off my bike (a car hit me from behind), I didn't realize how badly I was hurt (swollen leg) nor how my bike was hurt (destroyed back wheel) until after the driver had stopped pestering me with his questions and apologies and his "Oh my God!"s: and had driven off, and left me alone, to discover how I was going to continue - a similar symptom: slow (or non-existent or automatic) thinking; shock or something maybe.

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One more thing: as a cyclist, you might have a water bottle, which other people may not: which can be welcome, e.g. for rinsing grit out of a wound before it scabs. –  ChrisW Mar 4 '12 at 21:16
    
One could also offer to fetch some ice from a local shop/store: ice (wrapped in a cloth, not directly on the skin) may be correct first aid (or only aid), for uncomplicated bruising. –  ChrisW Mar 4 '12 at 23:31

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