Tom Tedesco, a Virginia Commonwealth University student and a Trip Leader for the Outdoor Adventure Program there, had his easy going Saturday flipped on its head while biking home from the library…Literally.

As a Trip Leader and lover of the outdoors, Tedesco has a vast amount of experience with bikes, especially since that’s his main mode of transportation in his daily life. He has been biking around the city for years with nothing but ease and a few close calls. Unfortunately this time, he wasn’t as lucky.

BRO: Describe the event: what went through your head?  

TEDESCO: From my position, this was a blind intersection, blocked on my right by a building and a row of parked cars. It wasn’t until after I had crossed the threshold of the intersection that I noticed an SUV coming quickly toward me. I had three quick thoughts once I noticed the car that had run a red light:

1. Swerve to my left and hope that the car breaks in time and I avoid
the collision, even if it means I crash my bike. 
2. If I swerve to the left and the car doesn’t stop, instead of running into the car, the car will run into me and likely run me over.
3. Continue on my path, hit the brakes as hard as I can, and hope for the best.

Since I didn’t want to get run over, I chose option 3 – I continued to bike straight while engaging my brakes, but it was too late. I was going too fast to stop in time with such short notice, and the car slowed down enough to be directly in my path.

At this point I knew there was no way to avoid impact, and I had the thought that I might be about to die.

I collided with the drivers side hood/headlight and flipped over the windshield of the car, since the driver was still moving through his red light as we collided. As cliche as it sounds, time slowed down mid-air and I had two more thoughts:

1. Thank god I have my helmet on.
2. WOW my light is still green!!

I finished the aerial somersault as I made impact with the pavement, meaning my head and back hit first, almost simultaneously, followed by my legs and arms. I remember almost immediately being surprised that even though pain was starting to run through by whole body, I was alive and conscious.

I was too disoriented to fully understand the extend of my injuries, but as I tried to sit up, I couldn’t put any weight on my right leg. Several witnesses came running over within seconds of the accident, and told me to lay down and not move my head, and they called 911. I remained still until responders arrived, but was anxious to try and move all my body parts and make sure everything still worked.

BRO: Do you feel changed? 

TEDESCO: I definitely feel changed. The entire accident truly put things into perspective for me. Prior to the accident, I was dealing with some other issues life had thrown my way, and although they weren’t necessarily trivial, the fact that I had just narrowly and luckily escaped death minimized all of my other concerns. Problems that seemed so large before no longer weighed as heavily on me, and important people and goals in my life that I had started ti neglect suddenly became incredibly important again.

BRO: Will you continue biking?

TEDESCO: Since this accident only happened three weeks ago, and I’m still dealing with injuries and processing everything that has happened, I feel that I am still being changed in ways that I don’t yet understand. I plan to continue biking as soon as I’m able to physically and can buy a new bike. I’m hoping that this accident doesn’t make me afraid to bike around the city, as it was my primary mode of travel in Richmond, but I don’t think I’ll really know untilI’m able to get back out there.

BRO: Do you regret your speed? Do you feel at fault? 

TEDESCO: I don’t regret anything I did in this situation and I believe I was 0% at fault for what happened. I was obeying all traffic laws, paying attention, biking below the speed limit, wearing my helmet and traveling through a solid green light, while the driver of the SUV was clearly not paying attention, blew a red light, and did not react in time upon seeing me to avoid this accident. That being said, in the future, I plan to ride more vigilantly, and maybe slower, through city streets. Even if I was going slower, at this blind intersection, I wouldn’t have been able to see the driver coming around the corner, but I might have been able to slow down enough to not go airborne, over the car.

BRO: What advice do you have for urban bikers?

TEDESCO: First and foremost, I would like to say ALWAYS WEAR YOUR HELMET. ALWAYS. Not just when you’re biking long distances or biking fast or mountain biking, but always. It doesn’t matter how far you’re going, or if you’re only going to be biking for a few minutes; accidents like this can kill you in an instant.

I was less than a mile from where I was going when this happened, and only a few hundred yards from where I had started, and since I landed starting with my head, without a helmet, the outcome could have been far worse.

I would also like to remind people, myself included, that even if you’re doing everything right, it’s important to remember that not everyone else is. We should all be biking cautiously, with the mindset that every driver on the road is on the phone and might run a red light.

Tom Tedesco hiking in Utah with his dog Kaia photo courtesy of Tom Tedesco

Though it may seem his luck ran out on this one, Tedesco walked away from the situation with somewhat minor injuries. A concussion and many bruised bones, he will be on crunches and very sore for quite some time. But lucky for him, he has his friends and his dog Kaia to keep him company through his healing.