Jul 27, 2010

The Woman on the Bicycle

It's been an odd, and slightly troubling day.

Not least because of the 10 centimetre dent now branded on my car's passenger side door. I've had the car for less than three months. I thought I might get away without any damage for at least six.

It was a woman on a bicycle. I was stopped on the driveway at my place of work, waiting to pull out onto the road. Paused, I looked to my right for traffic. Then I glanced to my left. Then my gaze was wrenched sharply left, as I noticed the rounded form of a bike helmet approach the left hand side of my Yaris. The brief outline of a face flashed into view, before a thick rubbery wheel hoved into view, and there was an almighty thump.

The shape fell away, the sound was gone.

I froze, briefly.

Then I unfroze. "Oh my God!" I cried, fumbling at my seatbelt and throwing on the handbrake.

I pushed the door open and raced around to the front of the car, to find a woman, probably in her late 50s or early 60s, pinned under a pushbike and looking slightly dazed.

"Are you OK?" I yelped, squatting down to start lifting the bike off her.

"I'm fine, I'm fine," she panted, her chest heaving rapidly. "I'm sorry, I didn't see you, I was riding on the footpath because I don't like the road..."

"That's OK, are you OK?"

"...and I didn't see your car, and I've damaged your beautiful car..."

"Can I get you a cup of tea? You seem shocked, are you OK?

"No, I'm fine, I'm fine."

We were standing by this point, and the lady reached down to right her sturdy mountain bike. "I'll just walk, I'll just walk."

"OK, well if you need anything, my name is Natalie and I work in this building here..."

"Thank you Natalie, thank you, I'll be fine, I'll just walk..."

And off she went. My car, still humming, sat in the driveway. I noticed the dent glinting at me from the door.  I turned to look after the woman, now 10 metres away and moving quickly. She was most likely embarrassed, not to mention a little stunned. She was running on adrenaline. I was running on bewilderment and low batteries, having been sick with a cold for the past few days.

I paused for a moment. This dent wasn't my fault. Maybe I hadn't completely stopped on the driveway, maybe I had edged forward slightly to get a better look at the road and possible traffic. There was a large skip bin on my left, perhaps she hadn't seen me as I motored up beside it. But still, shouldn't I be asking her for insurance details? Or at least her name?

What was I to do? Run after a slightly-traumatised 60-something lady waving a pen and demanding to know if she's NRMA or RACQ? Do cyclists even have insurance? I'd never been in a minor bingle with a cyclist before. Is it automatically the car driver's fault? What if she's injured and I just let her walk off? Should I chase her for my own good? But I've got a media conference to get to - it's the Prime Minister, I kind of have to be there...

So I let her walk off, at speed, pushing her bike along. I jumped back in the car and drove away.

I checked my car insurance policy when I got home this afternoon. My basic excess is $600. I know mechanical repairs always end up being more than you'd think, but somehow I doubt my dent will hit that mark. Knowing my luck, it'll be $550. I don't know who the woman on the bicycle is so I have no recourse to track her down; but even if I did, would I? Or would that be mean-spirited of me? She did, after all, have an accident.

Now does anybody know any reputable smash repairers close to the city? I've got to get a quote...


  1. Cyclist can become insured by joining Bicycle Qld.

  2. Good question. I doubt she would have insurance, but if she was prepared to make a statement your insurance company might waive the excess, Of course, then they'd probably go after her for the cost of repairs anyway.

  3. That kinda sucks! I guess cars are subject to dents, and usually you get back from work/shopping/blah to find someone's left you a surprise but you don't know any of the details. I'm not sure if knowing the details makes it better or worse!

    If it were me, I'd be hesitant to use insurance, even if the cost to repair was a little over your excess. I was brought up on my Dad's notion of "insurance is for when the HUGE stuff happens", like writing off your car, or leaving your musical instruments in a house that ends up burning to the ground. (Only one of those has happened to me.)

    Also, I know of someone who made two claims that were not her fault, then inquired about making a claim for something that *was* her fault. Her insurer told her that if she made that claim, she would then be un-insurable. "But it's my first at-fault claim!" "Yes, but it's your third claim." So I'm nervous about making a claim that is teeny tiny.

  4. Thanks guys - but yeah, I don't have her name, address, any details at all. So that's that.

    And Kris - yeah, it's likely I will follow the "Dad's notion" too - my Dad had the same notion. :)

  5. Nat - See if you can track down one of those paintless-dent removal guys. Dealership sales depts tend to use them. A good one can do remarkable work, usually they come to you and cost a fraction of the cost of going to a panelbeater. I've seen them fix stuff like that in under a half hour, ok it was a few years agao now (8/9 ?) but costwise maybe less than a couple of hundred $ if you're lucky.
    Good luck.

  6. It adds character. You should get a little silhouette of a bicycle and start a tally on the panel under the window.

  7. Insurance companies are the devil. Given half the chance I'd burn then all to the ground.

  8. The way I see it you're now allowed now to hit a cyclist.

  9. Nat, I worked for an insurance company and Kris is totally right.

    You're better off not bringing your insurance company into it.

  10. Speaking from dent experience with my car, (parking in city car parks 6 days a week sucks) the guys at the Toyota service centres (mine's a sci-fleet toyota, not sure about others) are great. They have a few people employed to do jobs just lke this when you book your car in for a service. Not too pricey... although from your photo it will depend of whether that ding can just be 'popped' out or not...

  11. I am so glad that you are Ok, and the cyclist is Ok. All above is good advice.

  12. Sounds like you did everything you could. And managed to be alot nicer than I would have been. Sucks about the car though. I hate cyclists.

  13. Cars, in the city most definitely, are a consumable. Ding it up, live with the scars, and smooth it out before you sell it. Find a decent cheap panelbeater and get it done without involving the insurers, because it'll only cost you long term.