Although he left the hospital with what doctors would call minor injuries, 50-year-old Stephen Hayes is still shaken by a cycling accident that has changed more than just the way he rides.
I still cannot get over the violent impact, he said. I didn't sleep for three days.
Hayes has recovered from the extensive bruising and swelling that marked his body for a month, but still gets emotion recounting the most violent experience he said hes ever had.
I was just in a heap on the side of the road, he said.
Hayes set off to work on a new bicycle he had just received for his 50th birthday on June 4 wearing a helmet now split throughout with cracks he bought three days before.
He said that during his first ride from home in Amherstburg to work in Windsor the week before, he wore only shorts and a T-shirt.
I felt pretty exposed; its a long way, and I thought, if Im going to do this again, I should probably have a helmet on, he said.
Hayes said he had just lost 60 pounds and wanted to start cycling again after leaving it for about 20 years.
At about 6:30 a.m., Hayes was riding down Malden Road in LaSalle east of the River Canard Bridge as the sun was sitting just above the trees. Hayes said he made sure to stick closely to the roads outer white line.
Two cars passed him without a problem, he said. He heard a third vehicle approaching from behind.
I didn't see it coming, he said, and then it was just like an explosion on my back.
The side mirror of a Ford F250 travelling at about 60 km/h smashed into the middle of Hayes back, launching him over his handlebars and onto the side of the road, he said.
The driver stopped, but he just kept (mistakenly) dialing 991 because he was panicked, Hayes said.
Hayes was released from the hospital after about four hours with road burn, a badly bruised back and left leg and swelling on his hip.
I had police on the scene, I had paramedics on scene, and I had the ER doctors all tell me that if it wasn't for the helmet, I probably wouldn't be here, Hayes said.
He said he believes the driver, who claimed he didn't see Hayes because of the sun, was charged by LaSalle police for failing to avoid the collision.
Laura Kay, executive director of the local brain injury association, said bike helmets reduce brain injuries by 88 per cent.
Were just really happy that Steve was able to walk away from that because we hear often enough that just isn't the case, she said.
Kay said her group is focused on breaking down the excuses kids and adults make for not wearing helmets with statistics. Its not about being cool or not cool, she said.
Kay said her organization also runs a program to equip kids who cant afford them with free bicycle helmets.
Co-ordinator of trauma services Diane Bradford said Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital has seen 518 patients for cycling injuries in the past two years.
Of those patients, 21 were admitted to the hospital with major injuries with one death among them.
And out of those 21 patients, Bradford said 17 were not wearing helmets.
Society has to keep in mind that even the most seasoned rider falls off their bike, she said. Helmets prevent major head injuries, which can be very life-changing.
Hayes, who said he now wears bright, reflective clothing along with a new helmet courtesy of Schwinn, is fixed on continuing to ride to work at least once per week.
I just think its something I have to do at this point, he said.