By KENWYN CARANNA, News & Record
GREENSBORO, NC (AP) — Carl Fenske is still a bit shaken and definitely sore after a hit-and-run driver struck him on Spring Garden Street.
“I’m always scanning, I’m always riding defensively,” said Fenske, a certified bicycle instructor. “I think I know what’s going on around me all the time.”
And he did see the SUV’s fast approach behind him, but not in time to take evasive action.
“I looked in my bicycle rearview mirror, just checking traffic routinely … and I saw this black Jeep, I think it was a Jeep Cherokee,” Fenske said.
“I immediately put my hand out to say ‘slow down,’ thinking he might have seen me. But what I saw from him was a complete uncaring look, like there was nothing urgent about to happen,” Fenske recalled. “He was just 10 feet behind me … and then he hit me.”
“I didn’t hit my head on concrete, I wasn’t thrown off the bike,” said Fenske. “I was right in the middle of the road, I was not thrown into the curb or off the road where I might have gone unnoticed.”
Fenske, who is also a board member of Bicycling in Greensboro, said the driver then slowed to pass him, but sped away quickly.
Other motorists stopped to help Fenske and he was able to walk with assistance to an ambulance.
“The triage nurse said ‘I’m so thankful to see you here, because I have seen so many other results. You’re lucky you did not suffer from an internal decapitation because that’s one of the things that happens with a rear-end injury to bicyclists,'” Fenske said.
And what does internal decapitation mean? “It means the spinal cord is severed on the inside … and you die,” Fenske said. “It was very sobering.”
He managed to escape without any broken bones, but he suffers muscle spasms.
“Honestly, my back, it’s just gotten worse every day. It really hurt to get out of bed this morning,” he said.
Fenske, who recently retired from coaching soccer at Greensboro Day School, estimates he’s ridden more than 30,000 miles — including a ride across the United States in 1979. And he’s not had any collisions until this one.
“At first, … I didn’t want to tell my cycling friends. I felt embarrassed that this could happen to me. But I knew I’d be in big trouble when they found out,” he said with a chuckle. “And they would have found out.”
Fenske said the Greensboro police officer investigating the crash examined his bicycle looking for damage that may have transferred evidence to the vehicle that hit him. The officer also pulled video footage from a nearby traffic camera to see if the vehicle could be identified.
However, Fenske said the officer recently told him he wasn’t able to identify the culprit. “He was really thorough, but … there’s only so much they can do.”
He decided to go public with his experience, despite being a bit of an introvert.
People need to pay more attention, whether they’re driving a car, truck or bicycle, Fenske said.
“(Cellphones) have made the roads more dangerous for everybody,” he said. “Even when people are talking on speakerphone, it’s still distracting,” he said.
He encourages bicycle riders to make themselves conspicuous by using flashing lights, wearing bright clothing and using reflective tape or triangles at night. They also should be strategic and know where they’re going and why they’re doing it.
For vehicle drivers, he wants them to look beyond what’s just in their lane, expect to see bicycles or pedestrians and be respectful.
Motorists should also understand that bicyclists don’t have to use bicycle lanes.
“It is a state law that bicycles may use the full lane, even if there’s a bike lane there. A cyclist has the choice of being in the bike lane or the full lane,” he said.
And some drivers are unclear about what to do when encountering a bicyclist — especially on a two-lane road, where they’ll often follow slowly behind.
He suggests using your turn signal and passing around the cyclist when it is safe.
“What most people don’t know is automobiles may legally pass a slow-moving vehicle — no matter what the double-line says — as long as it is safe,” Fenske said.
He still drives a bus for Greensboro Day School athletics, as well as a 54-passenger motor coach for High Point University.
“I am a professional, whether I’m in that motor coach or on my bicycle.”
And he would like an apology from the person who hit him.
“I had to pay the consequences,” he said. This is “not a bad person, but he was inattentive and he made two bad mistakes. One, being inattentive, and two, leaving me there on my own without knowing anything about me.
“I do want reconciliation and … the simple words ‘I’m sorry, I made a mistake. I’ll try not to ever let that happen to me or anybody else I know again.’”
And he wishes everyone would be more kind.
“I’ve had some incivility. I’ve always known and followed the rule that the motorist is always right and always wins,” he said.
One instance, when he did say something to a motorist on Westridge Road, reinforced that rule.
“I said something to a guy who was just plain rude. He reached for his gun and I backed off,” Fenske said.
For now, Fenske said he is looking forward to getting back on his bike. But, as he continues processing the crash, he’s having some second thoughts.
“And that crushes me, because it is something I truly love to do. I love riding, I love being part of traffic — I really do. And it works, but it requires everybody to be a good driver.”
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