I was running late this past Friday morning. I decided to turn what would be a 10 minute walk into a 5 minute bike ride by going on side streets. Well, my travel plans were hampered when I was suddenly struck by a car turning left onto the street that I was going straight on. We were not able to see each other from around the corner of the high concrete wall. He had a stop sign, and had already started to turn. However, I did not have a stop sign and continued on.
Please note this handy diagram I have created to help you better understand:
( please note this is not drawn to scale)
Luckily, I didn't fall off of the bike. I was pushed forward, the side of my left thigh and right knee are bruised, as well as a spot on my torso that was pushed into the side of the twisted handlebar, and my hand has a small cut from where it pressed into the handlebars.
Mr. S was OK, but his vehicle sustained an injury of a fairly large dent on the passenger's side (or it would be the driver's side in the US) of the front bumper.
I believe that if we had been going at a faster speed, I would have gone right through his windshield.
We stopped. I removed myself from the bicycle, and Mr. S exited his vehicle. I began profusely apologizing in the most apologetic Japanese I know. The only thing that was going through my mind was the fact that "I am foreign and they will use that against me. The police are gonna come and this is going to be all my fault."
Ah, but such was not the case.
Mr. S began explaining to me that in cases like these, when a motorist hits a cyclist, 70% of the fault is attributed to the motorist. Later on, I found out that Japanese insurance companies always place a percentage of blame on both parties. So in this case... my portion of the blame would have been 30%.
Since it was mostly his fault, I was the one who should have contacted the police. However, I explained to Mr. S that I had never gotten into an accident in Japan before (or in the U.S., for that matter), and wasn't sure of the address or even what to tell the police once I had contacted them. He obliged and said he would call the police. Enter even more profuse I'm sorries and thank you's.
Meanwhile, I contacted my company to let them know I would be late for school and of course to tell them about the accident. They also spoke with Mr. S and with the police once they arrived.
Mr. S and I got to talking, he asked me where I was going. I of course answered, to school. Further explaining that I am an elementary school teacher at the nearby school. He then replied that he was a good friend of my vice principal, and had lunch with him often. He gave me his business card and phoned his office, which was right around the corner. A few moments later, his co-worker was there asking if we were all right and what had happened.
Soon, two uniformed police officers, a man and a woman, who are both stationed at the koban in front of my apartment, who I see basically every day, arrived in their teeny tiny patrol car. Then, a larger van with two officers in bright blue jumpsuits, who I assumed to be some kind of accident specialist team soon followed. The accident specialists started taking measurements and asking us both what happened and how it happened and even going so far as to draw a few chalk circles on the pavement.
The regularly uniformed officers seemed relieved when I began explaining to them what had happened in Japanese. They made copies of my alien registration card and also took my phone number and company information.
While all of these things were happening, I was still wringing my hands in fear that someway, somehow, someone was going to stick some kind of blame on me and make me pay some ridiculous amount of money for something. Thank goodness that was not so!!
One of the specialists, a younger guy, came over to me and asked what I was planning on doing with the bike. I said, well.. I'll just have to carry it (since the front end was smashed, there was no way I could wheel it) home and then walk to school.
Mr. S interjected here that he would drive me to school, to which I responded "No, really, it's OK, I feel fine and it's only a 5 minute walk from here." To which he said, "No, no, no, I hit you and I want to talk to your vice principal, if it's OK with you."
I had no choice. Mr. S was going to drive me to school.
Then the young specialist said... "well.. if it's not too much trouble.. could we have your address so we could take it to your home for you? If that is OK with you?" I was pretty surpised. I dont think this happens very often, so I asked if it would be all right and then said that if it wasn't too much trouble for them, I would be very grateful. He replied that it was nothing, and the police gave them my address and they were all.. "Oh! That's so close to the Koban!! No problem at all!!" So they loaded my poor wreck of a bicycle into thier van and went on thier way.
Mr. S, his co-worker, and I got into his little, dented, car and went to my elementary school.
Mr. S parked outside the front gate and walked into school with me, and had a little chat with the vice principal, who then came back into the teacher's room with a grin on his face and said that everything was going to be allllll right.
I think I was still pretty shaken up from the impact, but I was able to do lessons (albiet not with the same vigor with which I usually conduct my lessons) for the day.
After school, I stayed quie a bit longer than my usual working hours, because I felt bad for missing time in the morning. I know it wasn't my fault, but I just wasn't ready to walk home yet.
Then, I got into a conversation with one of my 3rd grade teachers, we'll call her Mrs. K, about Anne of Green Gables, which somehow changed into a conversation about food, which then morphed into Mrs. K inviting me out to dinner after school.
Well, I said I had no plans... and she said... "well, that's it, we are going to go shopping and go to dinner!"
Meanwhile, my head teacher had made arrangements to let me borrow one of the school's bicycles until I could figure out my own bike situation.
Mrs. K and I soon did your "sorry we are leaving before you" goodbyes and put the school bike in Mrs. K's van and took it to my apartment.. where we saw my poor broken bike sitting in the bike parking lot.
We left the bikes and drove to the Aeon in Ota, and had food court bbimbap (spelling?) and did some hyaku en and window shopping and played some video games (like the taiko game... awesome.) at the arcade. It was nice to hang out with one of the teachers for once, I hope that in the future we can all hang out together. She was telling me that at school, if something goes wrong, the teachers take care of one another, it's just what they do. She said they are kind of like a big family.
While we were out, my company called and said that they had spoke to Mr. S, who had decided not to contact his insurance company and would pay for his own damages as long as I would just replace my own bike.
My company coordinator further explained that auto body work would fairly exceed the amount I would have to pay to replace the bicycle, which was company property anyway, so I was getting a very very good deal here, especially since I could do my own bike shopping and bicycles are easy to come by cheaply in Japan.
I just didn't want to make anyone at my company (or Mr. S, for that matter) angry by arguing this agreement, so I said that was fair and that I would buy myself a new bike and apologized for causing everyone so much trouble and worry that day. My coordinator, who is a very nice person, said she was glad I was OK and that I didn't get hurt, which was the most important thing. She said it wasn't my fault and that accidents happen, and to be careful.
I woke up the next day feeling fairly sore from the impact with my bruises ripe, black and blue.
I'm feeling better now. The bruises are healing, but still sore.
I think I am very lucky to have only escaped with a few bruises and an order for a replacement bicycle. Yes, I am a very lucky person.