RKJTfinal: A Guide to Attempted Vehicular Homicide

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At 2 a.m. on Sunday, June 25th, I was struck by a hit-and-run driver while riding my bicycle.

I lived.

I’m still in some significant discomfort, for sure.

But I lived.

As this news made the rounds via friends and family on social media, some openly wondered why this wasn’t covered in the local media outlets. There are three main reasons for this.

First: Don’t let those half-assed, crammed-in bike lanes on Broad Street fool you: The City of Mankato doesn’t give a shit about cyclist safety, and by extension, neither does its police force. My incident is the third such occurrence I’m aware of (anecdotally) within the last three months, and each time the Mankato Department of Public Safety has seemingly expressed zero interest in pursuing the assailants. This isn’t surprising, considering that up until recently, their employees feigned ignorance as to whether parking a motor vehicle in a bike lane was illegal. At the time of the incident, they didn’t even ask me for a statement, meaning that no report of this potentially felonious occurrence likely exists. (Update: According to a journalist with Southern Minnesota News that reached out to me via GoFundMe, the police stated that they made a report within 5 hours of the incident. If this occurred, it was done without any input from anyone directly involved.)

Second: I declined to give a statement to the local news. An employee from the Mankato Free Press reached out to me via Facebook Messenger the day after the incident, and upon returning her call, the conversation basically amounted to something along the lines of well, the police don’t have much information, so if you could provide the basic info, that’d be great. When I asked if there were any questions that she’d like to ask me about the incident, there seemed to be little interest in actual reporting or inquiry, so I declined further statement.

Here’s the deal: My face was riddled with freshly-congealed scabs, my shattered heel was awaiting surgery, and my opiate cocktail was in full effect. The last thing I wanted to deal with was being misquoted in a local fishwrap with a highly-questionable editorial reputation and an online readership comprised of pasty MAGA chuds frothing their jowls at the opportunity to dogfuck tired-ass CYCLISTS BREAK THE LAW TOO AND THEY DON’T PAY TAXES tropes in the Facebook comment sections at my expense.

How I dealt with my own trauma was my own fuckin’ business. I don’t need to martyr myself in the press for your knitting group that spends its time advocating for more Specialized parking at the next Styx concert.

Third: Independent journalism in Mankato is fuckin’ non-entity, or I would’ve gone that route. Yeah, we gave it a shot for a minute there, but life is hard. ANYWAY

If anyone was going to hear the real story behind this thing, I was going to have to do it myself. But I shelved this draft for weeks and weeks, because honestly, it comes off as really bitter and angry. Which is to be expected, given the situation, but the outpouring of love from my fiancée, my family, my Fun.com crew, the Cactus Tattoo collective, and everyone that’s contributed financially has made the usual bile that drives my writing dissipate.

I just ain’t that mad anymore.

But, popular demand is a sonofabitch, so here we go: For those interested in how to nearly kill someone with a 2,000 pound weapon and get away with it, here’s your guide.

At roughly 1:30 a.m., my attorney, Adam, lured me away from Lower North to Blue Bricks for last call. I ordered a High Life. I wanted to get up early and roll the Red Jacket + Dump Loop with the Flying Penguin brigade in the morning, and I didn’t need an IPA headache. (I’d already been pegged as hipster trash because I ride a heavy-ass bike and rarely wear a helmet, so I didn’t need to perpetuate the stereotype with a wicked hangover from “too many growlers.”)

After sticking around for a few uneventful minutes, I made the move to leave, but I was faced with the eternal late-night dilemma: Should I ride home across the Veterans Memorial Bridge, with its drunk drivers weaving to-and-from 2nd Street and its dodgy transitions onto the off-street path? Or take the Cherry Street bike lane down to Hy-Vee, in order to hop on Poplar Street on my way to the North Star Bridge?

The latter option was poorly lit and laid out like shit, but that night, my gut told me it was the way to go.

Plus, it was just a nicer trek. The summer air was crisp and cool, a perfect 60 degrees, the kind of weather where you could just mash away in jeans and a sweatshirt without breaking a sweat. Crossing the North Star and the rolling straight into Lower North is just a rad little ride that’ll never lose its charm.

So eventually, I was rolling up Poplar in Kato, sweet-ass mullet flapping in the wind.

On paper, this stretch of road was designed to be “bike friendly.” Poplar boasts dotted bike lanes going in each direction, with no center line for cars. This was implemented roughly 18 months ago, yet motorists are still largely confused as to how this arrangement should work.

[Helpful Hint: Much like regular traffic lines, dotted bike lanes can be crossed by vehicles while solid lanes cannot. On Poplar Street, if there are no bikes in the lane, YOU CAN DRIVE IN IT. Don’t roll down the middle of the street like a goon. If there’s a bike in the lane ahead of you, slow the fuck down and only pass them when it’s safe to do so.]

These bike lanes just straight-up disappear at the Sibley Parkway crossing, as it’s assumed that cyclists will transition to the small stretch of off-street pathway that materializes here.

This is what I have done each time.

And each time, I have done so with extreme caution, because it’s dangerous as hell.

Why?

  • Motorists traveling way from Sibley Park rarely come to a complete stop at the traffic sign under the trestle bridge, despite the fact that the Poplar Street cross traffic does not stop
  • Motorists are often confused by the web created here by the off-street paths and split streets that allow access to both the Sibley Park area and Minnesota River Trail, leading to a lot of “no, you go!” situations regardless of who has the right-of-way
  • There is no signage in this area to notify motorists of increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic, so when craning their necks out to see beyond this deep intersection, they’re often just looking for other cars
  • It’s a deeply set intersection, so when transitioning from the bike lane to the path, you actually have to move 6-10 feet into the intersection to make the move
  • As mentioned previously, the lighting sucks

Each time I make this transition, I rise out of the saddle and put my head on a swivel, looking left and right dramatically, taking precaution to avoid a collision even though I have the right-of-way and am free to travel unimpeded. (This right here is a microcosm for the flaws in our infrastructure: the burden of responsibility and safety is shifted not only to the person that actually has the right of way, but also person with the least-dangerous mode of transport.)

No cars incoming. No headlights at the stop sign to my right. I was good to go.

Until I wasn’t.

I didn’t see anything.

I just felt it.

A jolt.

That blinding-black realization: “ohfuckithinki’mgettinghitbyacar

The smack/scrape of the pavement.

Then a flash-open. Hyperawake.

I looked up. The base of that off-street path was in sight. I was in the intersection.

I looked down again.

At my hands.

Blood was pooling in my palms, pouring down from my face.

“Well, fuck. I finally got hit by a car.”

The car, of course, was gone. It was 2 a.m. and they’d probably been drinking. They might’ve blown a stop sign. They might’ve hit me from behind. Hell, they might not have had their lights on, for fuckssakes.

I never saw it coming.

What I DID see was a different pair headlights coming towards me, turning off of Riverfront. My right leg was still pinned under my frame, and I was too weak and shocked to move. I managed to outstretch my left arm and feebly flag the car down.

The car stopped. A man and woman came running out.

“Oh, man, are you okay?” he asked.

“I…got hit by a car.”

“Oh shit.”

They both approached me, already dialing 911. I looked down at my hands again, collecting more blood from my face, and looked up.

“Hey, man, do…do I look fucked up?”

“Well,” he replied, “you probably broke your nose for sure, man. And, uh…you’re bleeding. A lot. We’ll get an ambulance.”

I reached into my handlebar bag; miraculously, my phone was intact. (It’s a Revelate Mountain Feedbag and it’s super rad and you should get one.) I called my partner. We had announced our engagement earlier that day.

“Court, don’t freak out. I got hit by a car.

I’m okay.

I just need help.”

The next few minutes wrought an absolute STORM of activity; with adrenaline at maximum, my memories are merely snapshots.

Court and Mike rolled up and loaded my blood-spattered bike into his van, where it eventually ended up on display next to the NaKato pool table. (To Court’s immense credit, she did not freak out.)

A paramedic showed up and asked me who the president was. I said “Donald Trump” for the first time. He immediately threw me in the back of the van and pumped me full of fentanyl.

All I’d heard about fentanyl is that it kills people, so I asked, “Dude, is…that okay? I’ve been drinking.”

“Ah, well, you don’t seem drunk, you’ll be fine,” he replied, “and it’s just a little bump, we do this all the time.”

He called it a bump, which didn’t seem hella appropriate. But okay.

“Um…alright, man, do the thing. By the way, uh, my foot kinda hurts.”

Then I blacked out.

Next thing I remember, I was taking this photo.

The timestamp was about 4:30 a.m., and by this time, we had realized that the major damage wasn’t to my glorious visage, but my foot.

My heel, to be exact.

Motherfucker BROKE MY HEEL.

And after a hastily-scheduled Rochester surgery in which they clamped the busted-ass chunks of my calcaneus back together and drove a couple of screws through it…

…one bulbous pain pump mainlined into a nerve in the side of my leg…

…nearly two weeks of couch-bound immobility (and the stench to go with it)…

…two seasons of The Killing (which was basically a played-straight Twin Peaks spread out over one giant episode of Law & Order and it kinda sucked)…

… two August vacations scrapped, three bottles of OxyContin, and well over FOUR weeks of having my independence stripped from me based on the carelessness of another human being…

…I was fucking pissed.

I was pissed that our police force seems more concerned with bragging about their civil forfeiture skills than actual public safety, even with the cratered expectations of someone who believes their entire corrupt-ass institution should be abolished. (They probably knew this is how I felt, too, considering they never returned my calls inquiring about the incident.)

I was pissed that the frauds that run this city think that they can slap a cyclist on their wack-ass “Visit Mankato” logo as a marketing tactic even though there’s no reasonable infrastructure in place for cycling-oriented tourists to access the storefronts that make our city unique.

I was pissed that the Riverfront Drive initiative lacks any meaningful cycling-friendly improvements, making it an instantly-outdated project.

I was pissed that local advocates seem more concerned with free bagel promotions than the safety of the “silent cyclists” that ride squeaky thirdhand MTBs the wrong way down the sidewalk because they think it’s safer than our unprotected, dooring-susceptible bike lanes. (Hint: it’s fucking not.)

I was pissed that none of this is going to change.

The only way for the Mankato police to start giving a shit about cyclist safety is to have them patrol on bikes themselves. But that would require them to leave their steel-and-glass cages and force them to actually interact with the community, and you can’t have that in a workforce culture that is predicated on quashing empathy and treating the citizenry as “the other.”

The only way that the powers that run this city would realize that their line of thinking is lagging behind the times would be to actively seek the input of those that have transformed their cities—look to Madison, hell, to Minneapolis—into safer, multimodal places. And they’re too clannish and myopic to do anything of the sort.

And we all know that our local media won’t hold anyone accountable.

Well, if you’re mad, get involved! Go to meetings, run for office, start a blog, write a magazine, get involved in the sceeene, man.

Nah.

Thing is, here in mid-September, I’m not mad anymore.

I don’t give enough of a shit about bluegrass, cover bands, regressive nu-metal nostalgia, and small pond poseurs to get riled up.

I’m just glad I’m alive.

And nothing’ll make you start a new chapter in life like getting engaged and getting it by a car on the same day, you know?