Help for Collision Survivors

Here’s one we didn’t see coming: the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition recently announced the formation of a Bicycle Crash Support Group to deal with the emotional effect of a traumatic bike-involved injury collision. Serious vehicular and bicycling accidents bear the hallmarks of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the symptoms of which linger. But help may be on the way.

The¬†Bicycle Crash Support Group is facilitated by marriage and family therapy intern Aurisha Smolarski, who took her turn as Executive Director of the LACBC several years ago. Subsequently she’s decided to try her hand at salving the wounds of our mean streets by addressing an under-appreciated need: outreach to heal the emotional scars of the crash in order to get us back in the saddle again.

The need is clear: bike-involved collisions are on the upswing, according to the Beverly Hills Police Department. Twelve thousand individuals were seriously injured in 2009 statewide, according to the latest collision data digest from the CHP. In case you’re curious, men are over-represented among the injured. And middle-aged men are most likely to suffer a bike-involved collision fatality. (Read more about patterns in bike collision injuries.)

That year fourteen were injured in bike-involved collisions in Beverly Hills. The next year (2010) 25 cyclists were injured here in Beverly Hills – an increase of over 40%. (Read more about this data.) Talk about these injuries and how to mitigate serious crashes through better-engineered streets didn’t figure into the Traffic & Parking Commission’s deliberations back in May regarding bike-friendly street improvements.

Sometimes cyclists who survive the hairy crash don’t remember the experience; they wake to find themselves in an ambulance or a hospital bed with incapacitating injuries (as described to our City Council in August). Others can recall the event in all of its detail. What these sufferers have in common is a sense memory of the trauma that is easily recalled when passing the spot or when they encounter similar road conditions.

The Bicycle Crash Support Group will help cyclists share our stories so that we know that we’re not alone in our trauma; that healing takes time; and that pleasurable cycling can indeed await even after the most egregious injury. From the announcement:

Been in a bicycle collision and not feeling quite the same? Join us in a space for individuals who have been involved in a bicycle collision, and come together to learn, heal and support each other. Share your experiences and resources with others who may be suffering from similar symptoms. Gain insight and understanding about emotional and psychological trauma and grief. Develop new coping strategies. Participate in a safe, supportive and nonjudgmental environment.

Been in a bad crash? Consider lending your story. The group meets on Saturdays from 11:30 AM to 1 PM at 6310 San Vicente Blvd, Suite 401 in Los Angeles. If you are a post-crash survivor and sufferer, contact Aurisha by email or call her at 323.203.1526. It may be just the thing needed to get you back in the saddle.