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Bike crash highlights helmet use

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.

  • Stevenmcrane

    To second this, my life was also saved by wearing a helmet when I was 5.  Just on a neighborhood ride with friends and I got hit by a truck, taking most of the force with my head.  Escaped with only a broken femur and third degree burns, but I’m forever grateful to my parents for making me wear a helmet and encourage everybody to do so to this day.

  • guest

    Witnesses mentioned that the car did not completely stop at the stop sign (ie. rolled through the stop), but also that the biker did not stop at all before crossing the street. Everyone should be wearing a helmet. But bikers should also be following the rules of the road. Many accidents are preventable if bikers are more responsible. I cannot count the number of times I would have been hit, even after stopping at a stop sign and having the right of way, had I not noticed the driver of a car did not see me. Make eye contact with a driver before ever biking in front of them!

  • reasonable

    This bitch is stupid, she deserves what she got. Bikers: STOP at stop signs. This story is a prime example of how bikers LOSE in an accident with a car. Lucky she was wearing a helmet.

  • Kyle V

    Wow, you’re so ‘reasonable,’ calling someone who gets hit by a car a “bitch.”  Don’t think you’re adding anything constructive here.

  • Dying.

     ^ This Bumpkin….

  • me

    Absolutely no bigger Law Breakers on campus then students on bike

  • Norm Sleep

    I have been faculty at Stanford since 1979. Bikes are a hazard to pedestrians on the campus. Most recently (last week) I was nearly hit be a bike coming toward Tresider on the Lagunita Court side of Santa Teresa. I was walking toward Campus Drive on the sidewalk. There are bushes along the sidewalk so we did not see each other to the last minute. The bike swerved back and forth when breaking from full speed so I could not dodge it easily. The cyclist did miss me and continued on like nothing had happened. There is a perfectly good street there for bikes to go full speed.

    Slowly moving bikes are less of a hazard as they don’t swerve on breaking and as one can grab the handlebars to fend off.

    I agree with you that there is an above-the law attitude of cyclists on Stanford. My wife was run over years old and injured and Mr. Noblesse Oblige did not deign to even slow down. Ca. 1980 two drunks on a motorcycle at midnight deerlighted me and tried to run me down in White Plaza. I braced myself, threw forearm at driver’s shoulder and rolled to escape injury. They did not attempt a second pass. I was ready to clothesline the driver with hard forearm to avoid getting hurt.

    Recently, I have had bikes (especially the low kind) go through stop signs (where I had stopped car and signaled left) and turn left across me. My son delivers pizza on campus and he is always breaking for bikes that ignore signs.

    Cyclists need to realize bikes swerve unpredictably when breaking at high speed. The center of gravity of the cyclist is high and there is much potential to injury pedestrians who are not strong, alert, and agile.

    Re 911: Two bikes collided hard on White Plaza ca. 1985. Both cyclists stayed down and were obviously hurt. I called 911 from Tresider pay phone (before cell phones existed). The 911 operator could not believe bike crash could cause major injuries. I had to argue and finally said that I did not think the cyclists were flat on the pavement to sunbathe and I could not give detailed injuries from 100 feet away. She finally sent help that did come.

    Norm Sleep Geophysics
     

  • Guest

    I was hit at that same intersection 3 years ago.  The problem is bikers are extremely irresponsible on campus and so many cars roll stop signs.