Route 200 bike lane
61 miles today
This part of the story was all relayed to me by the motorcyclist when he came back to the intersection at which the crash occurred. The motorcyclist followed the SUV about a half-mile down the street to a development in which the owner of the SVU apparently lived. When the driver got out of the car, the motorcyclist told the driver that she had hit a cyclist back on Route 200. He told her she needed to return to the scene immediately. She said she hadn't hit anyone and hustled into the house with her kids. The motorcyclist returned to the scene of the accident and relayed all of this to me. He also gave me the plate number and his contact information. After he left, I decided to call the police and file a report of a hit and run. The dispatcher said that an officer would be by shortly to take my statement.
While I was waiting, a man appeared on foot from across the intersection and asked if I had been hit by a car. I told him that I had, and I explained the incident to him. He then told me that the driver of the SUV was his wife. He then relayed the following to me. His wife called him immediately after she got back into the house. She told him that a big guy on a motorcycle had followed her home and accused her of hitting a cyclist. She had no idea what the motorcyclist was talking about, and she felt a bit threatened by this big guy in her driveway (recall she had her 2 young kids with her). As her husband worked not far from the accident site, she had called him and asked him to come over and check out what was going on. This was the man who appeared on foot.
I started to talking to him, and we started to get everything ironed out. He was a really nice guy and handled the situation very well. He called his wife who immediately returned to the accident site. The police also showed up during this time. Basically, she had not realized that she had cut me off and just kept driving. It was an honest mistake. The police asked me if I wanted to file a report and I told them no. Since she had returned I basically just wanted to convey to her that she needed to be much more careful when turning across an established bike lane. I am a relatively young guy who thinks very quickly and can take falls with relative ease. I told her that I just wanted to make sure this did not happen again to someone else who might not be so lucky. Both her and her husband handled it amazingly well. He was actually really into my story and asked for my blog address. He asked if I needed lunch. I told him I was fine, but he could make a donation to The Conservation Fund and American Birding Association instead. He gave me some cash that I will contribute to the pot on his behalf. It was a good ending to an initially very bad situation.
The bottom line is that everyone needs to be careful to avoid bikers. Since Boston (where I lived before this trip) has so many commuter-cyclists, I have become very accustomed to double checking for cyclists before I make right-hand turns. However, here in Florida where car culture dominates, motorists are have not yet been forced through the required repetitions to avoid cyclists. This is something of which I will have to be mindful as I continue into areas with few cyclists.
I also think my decision to take the fall really helped me. I instantly knew it was going to be impossible to get my feet out of my clips during the incident. Since I accepted this so quickly, I was able to minimize the damage that was going to occur once I did fall. Had I tried to avoid falling altogether, I might have ended up doing much more damage. I knew falling left into the street behind the car was better than trying to avoid the fall altogether, hitting the curb, and then smashing my face into the pavement. A guarantee of falling on your side is much better than a 50% chance of falling on your face.
That's all I'm gonna say about this. I will be a bit more cautious at intersections in the future. I did, at least, gain 2 more blog followers and a few more conservation dollars out of the whole episode.
OK, back to birding! Today, I decided, like yesterday, to backtrack to find a bird. This time I backtracked to the Croom Tract of the Withlacoochie Forest to look for Bachman's sparrow. It was 12 miles each way, or a 24-mile total detour. I rode through this same area yesterday, and I thought that it looked perfect for the sparrow. I did not hear a peep during the heat of the afternoon, but this morning was a different story. I arrived just at sunrise and immediately heard several sparrows singing in the area I scouted yesterday. I had some really nice looks at these birds as they ran around on the ground and then popped up to sing (Bachman's sparrows nest on the ground). I also found 4-5 Red-cockaded woodpeckers in the area as well as dozens of pine warblers. It was a really nice morning.
***Click thumbs for bigger images***
Bachman's sparrow habitat
Bachman's sparrow, back view
Bachman's sparrow, front view
I spent much of the day today riding on the Withlacoochie Rail Trail. This is a fantastic bike path that runs for about 45 miles through Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties. There are even bike stores that have sprung up along the path as there is sufficient bike traffic on it to support the businesses. My host (Harry) from last night uses it as his exclusive commuting route. Today, Harry had a dentist appointment 18 miles from the house, so he rode the 36-miles to-and-from it! I actually knocked into him on the trail as I was headed out to the north and he was returning home to the south!
Part of the Withlacoochie Rail Trail
Harry on the trail returning from the dentist
Harry's wife Mary
Tomorrow I am going to head to Gainesville where I will bird Payne's Prairie in the afternoon. Saturday I am going to visit the Kanapaha Prairie, a Conservation Fund Project for which I a raising money. It will be very exciting to be on the very ground I am hoping to save!