There I was, examining the banana I’d bought for breakfast while waiting patiently for Gumby to say “Go!” at an intersection this morning on my way to work. Corner of Collins and Elizabeth – on the Optus shop corner. I look up to see if there’s any traffic – maybe I can beat the mob and scoot across while nobody is coming. No good. Two bikes are coming. The leader is a chick on a nice single speed trying to beat the Red, the second guy doesn’t bother and starts slowing up. As the girl flies past and I step out behind her, the light has just flicked over to Red. I mentally chastise her for breaking the rules, while examining the feeling of internal hypocrisy for that same feeling – I used to think nothing at all at going through a red – provided it was all clear. I’m sure she knows what she’s doing.
I hear a familiar sound – the sound of a body hitting the side of a car. I look over and see the girl partially underneath a stationary 4WD – about the size of a Subaru, bike lying beside her. The driver had been waiting to do a hook turn and had turned out in front of the girl. She looked pretty dazed, but was able to lift her head and the car hadn’t driven over her – there was only the impact of her into the car. I didn’t even break stride until I’d crossed the intersection, but I was watching most of the way across.
By the time I’d crossed the street, there were 3 or 4 people standing around helping her. Some guy had dropped his bike at the red light and ran across to help her. I was surprised by the massively different reactions. The guy who dropped his bike, blocking traffic with it at the red and running across an intersection was at one extreme – my reaction was the opposite, almost apathetic – at best an interested bystander watching for 30 seconds, then continues on his way.
My feeling on the matter went something like this:
“Silly girl! She shouldn’t have shot the Red – and if she wants to ride like that, then ride behind cars doing hook turns or at least be ready for them to turn out in front of you!”
Then, because my brain has trouble when it’s not conflicted,
“Stupid car driver! He was in the wrong because it’s his responsibility when turning into oncoming traffic. He’s certainly in the wrong legally – he could have looked a bit harder before turning out. If it was another vehicle, he’d have been in much more danger”.
Finally, I questioned my own apathy to the whole situation – why didn’t I run over to help – I was certainly one of the closest people to her. But what do to then? Say nice things to her? Help her up I guess? Or maybe call an Ambulance? She didn’t look badly hurt – very dazed, but in one piece. What if I ran over and helped her stand up, only to discover she’s got a spinal injury and I should have called an Ambulance? How do you know if someone should stay in one place until Medics arrive? What if cars are tooting to get through the intersection? But just walking away seems so callous.
Ultimately, I’ll soothe my guilt by claiming I did the pragmatic thing – there were plenty of other people rushing in to help – I’m no expert in the situation and she didn’t look badly hurt. Perhaps I’d have rushed to help if nobody else had. Hmmmm.