DI Voices | The greatest bike crash of my life


Talia Duffy

Assistant opinions editor Talia Duffy talks about her experience with the worst bicycle accident she has gone through.

By Talia Duffy, Assistant Opinions Editor

There was a thud and a crunch as my body collided with the gravelly road. But the impact — however intense it was, I don’t really remember — wasn’t enough to take my momentum. I continued to slide for a few feet as dust billowed around me in thick clouds and rocks tore apart the skin on my arm, taking bits of my blood with them. 

Finally, I was still. My hands, knuckles white, still clutched the handlebars; I hadn’t fully registered what happened. 

And what happened was the most massive bike crash I had ever been in. 

I got up. 

“Well, that was dumb,” I said. It probably wasn’t my brightest idea to fly down a hill, unrestrained by brakes and towards a layer of gravel left over from road construction. As soon as I turned my handlebars the slightest bit, at that speed and on that uncertain terrain, I had lost all control.

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    My little brother looked at me, his mouth slightly open. “Are you okay?” 

    “Yeah, I’m fine. Let’s go home.” I sounded nonchalant, like I hadn’t just torn apart the whole right side of my body. Which was mostly because I didn’t know I had torn apart the whole right side of my body. At least, not until my brother pointed at me and said, “Oh my god.” 

    I looked down. A gash ran right down the center of my forearm. It was covered in blood and complemented by dozens of smaller scratches on my hip and my thigh. 

    “Oh,” I said. 

    Later, when I got home, I stood at my kitchen sink and tried to remove the dirt and chunks of rock from my skin. I didn’t feel any pain until then. It didn’t heal nicely. For weeks afterward, I had to sleep with my arm upside down because yellow and green goop kept oozing around my Band-Aids and getting on my blankets. I still have a scar, a streak of purple-white skin topped with little bumps where the deepest indents used to be, mostly concentrated on my elbow.

    But when I look back on that day, when my blaring red bike and I barreled towards an uncertain fate, I don’t see it as a mistake. 

    I see it as a culmination, a grand finale of my lonely pandemic journey.

    That crash happened in May 2020. For two months before that — from mid-march, when the world became a ghost town, to May, when the hope of seeing my friends and family started to seem realistic — I rode my bike nearly every day. 

    It was an excuse to get out of the house when opportunities to do so became sparse. Even in the bitter winds of late March — when everyone in the Chicago suburbs thinks spring is coming but it’s actually just winter part two — I put on my hat and gloves and braved the cold. 

    I loved it: seeing how fast I could pedal up a hill, floating with the exhilaration of letting myself glide down the other end; taking risky turns at high speeds, feeling the inward acceleration as I jerked my handlebars to the side; zig-zagging back and forth on once busy roads, not caring if there were any cars behind me because I knew every lane would be empty. In those months, nobody drove anywhere. But I could bike everywhere. 

    When I felt the walls of my bedroom closing in on me, I rode my bike.

    When I got in a fight with my mom, I rode my bike.

    When the hallmarks of normal life were canceled one by one — the SAT, tennis leagues, junior prom — I rode my bike.

    It sounds dramatic, but I felt like I had little else to keep me going. I’m one of those people that hates feeling motionless, unaccomplished, helpless. The pandemic made me feel all of those things. But riding throughout the streets of my neighborhood and the areas around it gave me a little motion, a little accomplishment, and a little help each day. 

    Yes, my bike caused me pain on that May afternoon. But it was fitting, in a way. I’d been through a lot with that bike, and now I could add “surviving a crash” to the list. 

    And then it went missing after I brought it to campus. So if you’re reading this and you recently stole a bright red Trek from outside Scott Hall, you kind of suck. And I hope you fixed the brakes — the right side was totally broken.


    Talia is a freshman in Media.

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