Sep 242022
Broken Wrist, Dang It! No Riding for a While

What happens when you’re backing up trying to frame a good picture of your sweetie at the ice cream shop and you trip over a foot scooter on the sidewalk? You fall and you fall hard.

My double-scoop butter brickle and caramel apple went shooting off over my left shoulder, adding to the tragic circumstances. I lay there, stunned and shaken, immediately knowing my wrist was broken.

Of course it was my right wrist and yes, I am right-handed.

My top takeaways:

1: Always, always look behind you before backing up. (This advice applies across all modes of transportation.) My incident didn’t involve falling into the Grand Canyon or off a cliff but that was luck, not planning. This is what we call user error.

2: We need dedicated parking off the sidewalk for foot scooters and other micromobility devices. Yes, I tripped over a scooter-share device. No irony there, given that I work in active transportation and focus a lot on safety.

3: The built environment does not work for everyone and those barriers come about through design and decisions. The barriers don’t have to be there and even if you don’t have disabilities now, someday you’ll wish we had truly included everyone’s needs in making those design decisions.

4: If you’re in Spokane you need to go to Doyle’s Ice Cream at Nettleton and Boone and get a cone. Tell them you’re there because they were so, so nice to that lady who fell and broke her wrist.

I don’t blame the scooter. We provide lots and lots (and lots!) of dedicated use of the public right-of-way and other parking that we pay for as a hidden tax* for people to store their personal belongings. By which, of course, I mean their vehicles. Despite that, some people still think they should be able to drive up over the curb (adding to future maintenance costs) and park on the sidewalk, taking up far more of the space than the little scooter. The scooter was on the sidewalk because a place hasn’t been provided for it that keeps it out of the way so it isn’t a potential tripping hazard.

What would I do in my dream world to reduce the chance of this happening to someone else in the future? Some context for my dream world first: Intersections are the top place in Washington state for serious or fatal crashes in which a driver hits a bicyclist, based on the last few years of data, and pedestrians are most often hit and seriously injured or killed crossing the road, whether it’s at an intersection or elsewhere. (“Elsewhere” includes locations where a properly marked and controlled crosswalk makes a lot of sense but it hasn’t been installed.)

Thus, in my dream world the space closest to the intersection is a dedicated parking spot with bike racks and room for scooters.

It’s illegal for drivers to park that close to an intersection but people do (and here’s your policy reminder that passing laws to change people’s behavior doesn’t guarantee that they will in fact change it, which is why we need design solutions). When they park big vehicles, other drivers can’t see people in the intersection or crossing the side street. Keeping that zone clear is referred to as “daylighting”: We’re shedding light on the interactions the driver needs to negotiate.

My dream world also includes much wider sidewalks; places to sit and rest with some shade; drinking fountains; places to go to the bathroom with dignity and without feeling obligated to buy something just to be inside an establishment; and much, much more. Of course there’s also a nice protected bike lane alongside and it’s easy to roll up and park. For now I’m focused on parking.

A little bit more of the story for color commentary:

My sweetie rushed to my side. I really needed to just lie there for a minute, then managed to get up with his help. He went into Doyle’s to get something to wipe me up with since my ice cream cone had made acquaintance with my dress. Inside the owner took his double-scoop cone, put it in a bowl, and stuck it in the freezer to save for later. That’s the kind of person you want at your side in an emergency–quick thinking!

Sweetie helped me to sit at the outdoor seating area. The proprietor came out with a bag of frozen strawberries for me to ice my swelling wrist while Sweetie sprinted back to get the car since we had walked from where we were staying. I almost fainted sitting at the table but I knew I couldn’t because if I went down I was going to jar the hand even more. I kept wanting to throw up from the pain. The kind people at the next table chatted with me to take my mind off it. This didn’t work but I appreciated the effort.

Sweetie returned and got me settled in the car. The proprietor told us if we felt like coming back the next day he’d give me a free ice cream cone to make for the one I lost in the fall. Again–go to Doyle’s and buy ice cream!

The frozen strawberries made for a humorous touch when we got to the ER, since my arm looked as if it were tremendously bloody. Hadn’t thought of that and I could still laugh even though I really just wanted to lie down.

I had a typical policy moment as I gave them the information: I asked them to make sure they put certain keywords into the description so if someone is doing research later on this type of incident they’ll find the record even if the word “micromobility” isn’t in their search because really, who thinks of that word a time like this? Me, that’s who. My inner wonk really never sleeps.

Closeup photo of the right hand of a white person. Hand is wrapped in a thick white and beige striped ace bandage that has the thumb wrapped separate from the rest of the hand.
Initial splint had me pretty immobilized. Went up past my elbow and held my fingers without much wiggle room.

If you’ve ever been in an ER you know what the next few hours were like. Suffice it to say I was happy to get an IV with some morphine and an anti-nausea med (morphine makes me feel sick but they wanted to give me something fast-acting) and the splint and to be discharged with orders to see a doctor back home and the warning that I likely needed surgery.

In good news, I don’t need surgery. I’m in a cast, I’ve regained some mobility, and I go in for X-rays in a couple of days to check the progress. I already had practice dealing with life one-handed (and some sleeveless dresses) thanks to my broken elbow of a few years ago, although it’s harder when it’s your dominant hand. I’m dealing with the many design barriers with workarounds like holding my water bottle in the crook of my right elbow and unscrewing the cap with my left hand, and having Sweetie dispense my pain pills into a little cup because I can’t open the childproof cap they put on my prescription. (They didn’t give me one of the reversible prescription bottle caps and I didn’t know about them to request them.)

And yes, dear reader, my sweetie went back the next day to get his cone and brought back a double scoop of butter brickle and caramel apple for me. So, so good.

Closeup photo of a white person's right hand and forearm in a bright blue cast.  The cast keeps the right thumb separate from the other fingers.
New and improved. My elbow is free to bend and I have more use of my fingers. Downside is that this leads to overdoing. I’m sparing you the images of the bruised and lumpy wrist I saw when they took the splint off. You’re very welcome.

Related reading and resources

Photo of two people holding giant double-scoop ice cream cones in front of a wall packed with glass-front cases holding a wild variety of memorabilia from various old science fiction movies and other topics. The white woman on the left is wearing a blue and white striped sleeveless dress that buttons up the front, a light straw hat, and blue glasses. The brown-skinned man with silvering hair standing next to her is smiling and pointing at the ice cream cones. He is wearing blue jeans, a charcoal gray short-sleeved collared shirt, and rimless glasses.
Didn’t we look happy right before the fall? And those are some seriously luscious ice cream cones. We had a lot of fun looking at all the chotchkes in the cases at Doyle’s while we waited for our cones.

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