'I got my head whacked': N.B. cyclist on the mend after Friday the 13th hit and run
Brian Atkinson suffered fractured pelvis, concussion in hit and run on May 13
The last thing Brian Atkinson remembers about the morning of May 13 is putting on his bright orange cycling jersey and turning on his flashing red bike light.
The next thing he remembers is waking up later that afternoon in a bed at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton with a fractured pelvis and a concussion.
His smashed cycling helmet and the large bruise on his hip were evidence of the crash's severity.
The vehicle involved and the person driving it, however, remain a mystery.
"Leaving the scene of an accident is one thing but if you actually hit the person — it doesn't make me very happy, that's for sure," said Atkinson, who spoke to CBC News from his hospital bed on Thursday.
"You can kill people, you can change people's lives forever. And we don't have any protections. I mean, that helmet, that's it... and when a truck or car hits you, you don't have much of a chance."
The Fredericton Police Force have appealed to the public for information about the crash Atkinson was involved in.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the force said at about 8:20 a.m. on May 13, police responded to a hit and run at 3532 Woodstock Road involving a cyclist with injuries.
"At this time, police are following up with witnesses but are looking for the public's assistance to identify a vehicle and the owner who may have information related to the accident," the force said.
The force included a grainy image of a light-coloured sedan in the post, which asks anyone with information related to the vehicle or suspects involved to contact Const. Kristen Main at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CBC News asked police if there have been any updates in the investigation, but did not receive a response by publishing time.
No memory of crash
Atkinson might be of more help to police if he could remember what happened.
He said he set out for what was supposed to be a quick 40-kilometre ride from his home in Upper Kingsclear, through Mazerolle Settlement, and down into Fredericton to take Woodstock Road back home.
Atkinson said he doesn't remember anything that happened after he geared up to leave home, and only has a few details based on what police and others who were near the scene told him after the incident.
"I think I got my head whacked — well, I know I got my head whacked," Atkinson said.
"You can look at the helmet… and it's really smashed in the back. So either that's the the mirror of the vehicle, which is the first guess, and we did find some shattered side mirror a little further down the road."
He said he later found out that an employee from a nearby childcare centre came out after the crash to slow traffic and call police.
"And then what I understand is she stayed with me and I was talking to her the whole time, supposedly for whatever it was — 15 minutes — til the ambulance came. I guess she did a great job."
Atkinson said he's currently on morphine for the pain, and is awaiting news on whether the pelvic fracture will be able to heal without the need for surgery.
He said it could be as long as four months before he can get back on his bike.
Need for better education
Atkinson is 70 years old and said he's been cycling for most of his life.
In recent years, he said he's noticed drivers have become more courteous around cyclists, particularly since Ellen's Law came into effect in June 2017, requiring them to leave at least a metre of space when overtaking cyclists.
Still, he said he thinks more could be done to remind drivers to keep an eye out for cyclists and to share the road.
"In general, drivers have been really way better since they passed that law. I just think there needs to be a lot more education.
"You know, [put] the odd billboard up, like just something to tell people that this is a law and… you got to share the road and we pay taxes too and we are supposed to be there."
Wayne Arrowsmith is the advocacy director for Velo NB, and was part of the group that lobbied government to enact Ellen's Law, which was named in honour of Ellen Watters, who was struck and killed by a car while cycling in Sussex in December 2016.
Arrowsmith said the law mandating drivers give a one-metre berth when overtaking was a positive step, but more could be done to educate drivers.
"I would like to see it as part of the curriculum when people who are trying to get a driver's license," Arrowsmith said.
"That they're educated about Ellen's law, that they're educated about their responsibility for not texting and driving, and despite the fact that everybody knows that, I think it's an epidemic out there of people who are on their cell phones."
4 convictions under Ellen's Law
The Department of Justice and Public Safety says there have been four convictions for violations under Ellen's Law since it was passed in June 2017.
Judy Désalliers, a spokesperson for the department, also said in an email that 52 collisions between vehicles and cyclists happened in 2019 — the latest year that data is available.
She said the information provided by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure didn't indicate the number of fatalities.
"It's an excellent reminder that motorists must share the road, and that all users – motorists, motorcyclists and cyclists – need to adhere to the rules and pay attention to other traffic," Désalliers said.
"An education campaign on sharing the road has been in place since 2017. Cyclists have a responsibility to make themselves visible to drivers, and drivers have a responsibility to make sure they look carefully for cyclists."