Stanford’s Bicycle Program, in conjunction with the Department of Public Safety, is working to improve traffic control and congestion on campus by installing bike-specific stop signs and riding guidelines on the roads. Two recent bicycle-related accidents, however, contribute to this existing call for increased focus on biker safety and responsibility, according to those involved.
Stanford undergraduate Anna Polishchuk ’15 was hit broadside by a car while biking on Monday, May 7. Polishchuk hit the windshield of the car, which was going about 10 miles per hour through an intersection by Florence Moore (FloMo) Hall. She was thrown unconscious two car lengths away into the bushes.
“I was biking home from the dining hall, and then I find myself waking up on the ground,” Polishchuk said.
Despite the severity of her crash, Polischuk escaped with minor injuries because she was wearing a helmet.
Stanford undergraduates are notorious for not wearing helmets, and this reputation has not gone unnoticed by Stanford hospital’s emergency department (ED), according to Robert Norris, the ED doctor who treated Polischuk.
“I told her she could not be a Stanford undergrad because she was actually wearing a helmet,” Norris said.
Polishchuk heard similar comments from more of the ED staff.
“I was shocked by their shock at my wearing a helmet,” Polishchuk said. “It was unsettling how amazed they were.”
Norris commented on the value of wearing a helmet.
“This $20 investment [the helmet] saved her life. Period,” Norris said. “Without the helmet there’s no doubt in my mind that she would have been an organ donor or dead upon arrival.”
The University has been trying to fight the stigma behind wearing helmets.
According to Ariadne Scott, bicycle program coordinator, the Bicycle Program — under the umbrella of Parking and Transportation Services (P&TS) — continues to offer resources such as a New Student Orientation (NSO) program on bicycle education for freshmen, free bike safety classes offered twice a month for the entire campus community and a bike safety web page. Additionally, the program tries to increase helmet usage by collaborating with P&TS to offer discounted helmets.
Despite these resources, much of the campus continues to bike without helmets, and when a collision does occur, accident protocol can get hazy.
Last month, a fellow in the Stanford Department of Pathology, Ellen Yeh, was crossing the street as a pedestrian between Serra Mall and the Main Quad when a bicyclist hit her.
“I saw him coming really fast, stopped to let him pass,” Yeh said. “He swerved into me from the front, and I fell onto my back. Both my arms hit the ground.”
A witness had called 911, but Yeh refused the ambulance, as she “didn’t suspect bad injury.”
Yeh reports that the bicyclist was “unapologetic” and claimed that he had the right of way.
According to Scott, bikers should yield to pedestrians on shared paths.
Upon noticing swelling and pain in her arms, Yeh went to the ER, where she was informed of three fractures in her arms, two in the left arm and one in the right.
“You can get really hurt by getting hit by a bicyclist,” Yeh said. “It’s not trivial — it’s dangerous.”
Yeh said her injuries have compromised her ability to perform daily functions, as well as caused her to postpone her medical research trip to Thailand.
“There’s a hazy part to being hit by a bicyclist rather than a car,” Yeh said, in reference to difficulties in contacting the biker who hit her and the reluctance of police to get involved.
“The police say there’s no reason for them to be involved, and I can’t force him [the biker] to talk to me,” Yeh said.
“I just want him to realize his speed, safety and be somewhat compassionate…which is hard to achieve with a bike accident apparently,” she added.
To reduce accidents in the future, bicyclists must “get in the mindset that they are ‘driving,’” Scott said. “They should be predictable and visible. Bicyclists should be 100 percent focused on riding their bike.”
Finally, to reduce the trauma associated with said accidents, Norris encouraged helmet usage.
“I’ve seen too many young adults cut off in the prime of life for not having a helmet,” Norris said.