By Ronald A. Karp
I have been riding a bike since I was a child and have been representing folks injured on a bike for decades. When I ask clients what they miss the most about being injured in a bike accident the answer is always the same: getting back on the bike again and enjoying the special wonders that only regular riders experience.
Before we get into compensation for being injured on a bike, let me first describe what is so special about balancing life on two wheels: riding a bike.
What is there about biking that re-creates the wonder one first felt as a child? That very first time I was able to balance without the use of training wheels and the sensation that I was actually going faster than my legs could normally take me, is a sense of wonderment that has never left the child in me.
There was this sensation that the wheels are turning in a greater ratio than they deserved to. My prior experience was on a tricycle and as I peddled the big front wheel turned in the exact same ratio as my little legs pumping the wheel could muster. It was one to one. Like walking. Like climbing steps. But on the two wheeler, I was pumping pedals attached to a chain and the front wheel was suddenly going faster than the old one to one ratio I had known most of my life (up to the age of 4 or 5).
That feeling, that you are moving faster on the ground than walking or running and the sensation of seeing the ground disappear as it moves under you is one of the great wonders of childhood. It is right up there with your first bite of ice cream, of putting your foot into the ocean and the first time you hear a melody that unaccountably lifts your spirits.
This feeling lasts into adulthood. How can this two wheel joy have lasted for so many decades? I suspect it is for the same reason that hearing and seeing the ocean is still a great sense of wonder and relaxation: It represents a sense of freedom. A child is limited by how fast he can walk or run. He is limited by the walls in his house or apartment. Then one day he realizes he can move faster than he ever thought and while he certainly does not understand the physics, he knows something magical is happening when he appears to be defying the everyday laws of time and motion that has framed his life.
A child looks at the ocean and it seems to go on forever. If he is from the city, as I was, he has never seen this far in his life without looking at the sky. He sees waves taller than he is, cresting with fine spray and crashing with exploding white foam. He has never seen such power and wonder. And the air is so fresh and clean that it is nothing like he has ever experienced.
Is it any wonder that all kids fall in love with the beach?
Is it any wonder that they fall in love with a bike?
My love affair with a bike has lasted a lifetime.
Biking can be transcendental. It can be invigorating and relaxing. It is a great green hobby. It uses no fuel (other than what is provided by your body), it pollutes nothing. It is peaceful and quiet. It takes better care of your feet, knees and legs than walking or running.
One recent crisp afternoon, when the fresh cut grass smelled great I was riding along a bike path in Rock Creek Park, one of the great and best kept secrets about our nation’s capital. Mothers were sitting next to the path on grass, eating apples with their children, and life had glided to such a slow and quiet pace, that the ride itself became spiritual.
Biking allows you to “go into the gap” —-that feeling of just floating along with total focus on the ride. When it happens, there are so many gifts to behold: the beauty of nature, the gift of balance and just being alive to take it all in with all our senses functioning at levels we too frequently take for granted. Biking slows down the pace of life and gives us a chance to see things we would miss in a car. It gives us opportunities to recognize and appreciate the miraculous and magic moments that occur all around us.
Then suddenly all of this is taken away in split seconds. One minute you are enjoying the gift of balance and then next minute you are in an ambulance heading for the ER. Wondering if you will ever work again, fearful of the surgery that awaits you and also thinking that maybe your biking days—-one of the great joys in your life—are over.
It has been my experience that some cars just don’t respect the space of people on bikes. The pass too closely, they assume bikes will yield the right of way to them, they look upon bikes as a nuisance that interrupts their day. The same driver that would have respect for a pedestrian has little when that same person is riding a bike.
My job as a lawyer representing a biking victim is to find ways to compensate our clients for ALL that has been taken away from them. Not just medical bills and loss of income, but for loss of enjoyment and for a life without pain. A famous trial lawyer once said that true compensation involves focusing on what has been taken away and what our clients have been left with.
I approach each case with its unique facts and the way it has impacted my client’s life—-especially what has been taken away by a negligent driver. And I know what a special and simple joy life is like on bicycle.
*Ronald Karp is managing partner of the law firm of Karp, Wigodsky, Norwind & Gold, P.A. He has been practicing law for 44 years and is regularly selected by his peers for Best Lawyers in America, which lists the top 1% of lawyers in the United States and to the Top 100 lawyer lists published by the Washington Post in the Super Lawyers section of their Sunday magazine. This list is selected by the voting of other lawyers and a blue ribbon panel of experts. There are over 100,000 lawyers in the Washington-Maryland-Virginia metropolitan area.