Cyclist and Runner Collide at Stone Mountain Park
Cyclist and Runner Collide at Stone Mountain Park
By Kristi June
Monday, March 17, 2014
Lately, I have thought a lot about bike safety, but I have to admit that my thoughts have primarily been surrounded around the relationship between cyclists and vehicles. For a good reason, a cyclist who was riding in a group charity ride last November was struck and killed, and it was hard for me to get over. The price is very steep when a car strikes a cyclist, and the importance of cyclists and motorists following the rules is undeniable in order to increase the safety of cycling.
However, I am so used to cyclists being the victims in collisions that it struck me as strange when I learned that a cyclist hit and injured a runner. The victim was Coach Griffen Ellington, who is a fellow cyclist and triathlete. On Wednesday, February 19, 2014, Ellington was on a training run at Stone Mountain Park when he was hit by a cyclist. He was knocked unconscious, and he suffered a concussion along with cuts and bruises. Coach Ellington's story shows the serious consequences that can occur when a cyclist and runner collide. Today, Ellington has agreed to share his story with everyone in hopes of inspiring both cyclists and runners to be more careful.
Kristi: Thank you for agreeing to share your story with everyone.
Coach Ellington: Thank you Kristi for giving me the opportunity to express my life threatening experience to your readers. I truly thank God to be alive. I hope and pray that no one (cyclist or runner) is ever involved in an accident that can cause long term recovery or fatal injury.
Kristi: I hope for the same thing. Now, set the scene for us. Where were you running? Multi-use trail, the road? Was it heavily traveled by cars and bikes?
Ellington: Typical Wednesday afternoon approximately 5:30 p.m. I was jogging around Stone Mountain Park, and I had ran about 2.8 miles of the 5 mile loop. The park has three paved lanes: one for cars, one for cyclist, and one for walkers and runners. On this day, there was a slight overcast but plenty of daylight. Everything was very visible. There were not too many cars or cyclist out, mostly walkers.
Kristi: Have you ran at Stone Mountain before?
Ellington: I have trained for Ironmans and marathons for years at this park.
Kristi: How do cyclists normally interact with you when you run there?
Ellington: Actually, I have done my brick work (cycle -run) there many times. The park has a super fast EMS/police response time for accidents, casualties and life threatening occurrences, so if I was somewhere else, I really don’t think I would be blessed to be able to respond to you today.
Kristi: Did it feel just like any other day or did you have a gut feeling that something was not going to go right?
Ellington: Actually, I originally considered going to L.A. Fitness and doing brickwork there. However, because of the “Snowjam” and two races (one of them was that Saturday) I wanted to train outside. I really wish I could go back and change that day because I have reoccurring headaches from my head hitting the pavement.
Kristi: Can you tell us what you remember about your run leading up to the crash?
Ellington: I was going at a good pace for the elevation distance. I was in the jogging lane heading towards the playground pass the big red wheels. The street was straight with a slight incline. I was preparing to go up one of the large hills just around the corner. There were four ladies walking up ahead, so I looked back to see if anyone was coming. I didn't see anyone coming, so I went around the walkers in the bike lane.
Kristi: Do you remember what you were thinking right before the crash?
Ellington: I had just passed the ladies and I was gearing up for the hill around the corner. I was wearing my MP3 and rolling with tempo/stride cadence. I saw something blur around me to my left side. That is the last thing I remember.
Kristi: Can you remember anything after the collision?
Ellington: Well, this where I was completely knocked out, lost over a pint of blood and apparently unable to respond correctly. What I have remembered was about five people talking to me. I don’t know what I was saying, but it was not correct. I don’t really remember hearing them until they got me up and put me on the curb.
I wanted to continue to run; I was told I could not. I wanted to jog back to my car, but someone said to me, “Do you see all this blood? This is yours! You lost too much to be allowed to leave. The ambulance is on the way.” The shirt I had on was really wet, I thought it was sweat but it was my blood.
The ambulance pulled up and put me in a neck brace. The paramedics strapped me on stretcher and attempted to insert an IV. I told them I wanted to go to my car to get my phone and wallet. I was told there was no time for that. The paramedic said, "You lost too much blood. We got to get you to ER." Next thing I know I was at the hospital getting checked in.
Kristi: Wow. Did the cyclist who hit you crash? What happened to him?
Ellington: Honestly, he never spoke to me. I never saw him. I have not heard from him. I got the police report and found out what happen and people told me what happen. He was drafting behind another cyclist. The 1st cyclist was the blur that passed around me. The 2nd cyclist was drafting behind him and hit me traveling around 24mph as he stated on his incident report. I am told he still rides around Stone Mountain as usual.
Kristi: Since you were knocked unconscious, you won’t remember, but what did people tell you happened next? Did anyone call security or the police?
Ellington: Well the park has a super fast response time, but I can’t tell you how much time had passed from the accident to the ambulance taking me away. I don’t know who called the police, but two police units were there by the time I stood up. I was told that he hit me so hard that I was knocked up in the air and my head hit the pavement. The pictures of the street show the blood puddle. The back of my head had received several lacerations and a huge Y shaped gash. Nineteen stitches were used to close the wound and it still bleeding on week three.
Kristi: What were all of your injuries?
Ellington: In the beginning it was mostly blood a lot of it, all over the street, clothes, ambulance and hospital table. Then from the ER 19 stitches, head concussion, long term and short term memory loss, reoccurring migraine headaches, left side numbness and body pains. But, after a couple of different specialty doctors, cat scans, and X-rays, I am truly blessed to have gotten some of it straighten out. The way my body was twisted it appears that the point of impact was my left pelvic area. I have some nerve damage. I have no broken bones or fractures, but I have to go and get more body adjustments and alignments to straighten out disc nerves.
As for the concussion and migraine headaches, I have to do more test to see what can be done to reduce pain or prevent it from reoccurring.
Kristi: Is the cyclist who hit you going to have to pay for any of your medical bills?
Ellington: No, he has not contacted me at all to help with the cost or apologize. The bills right now for this accident is over eight thousand dollars and still rising because of the different specialty doctors I have to go see to try to get back to a somewhat normal life.
Kristi: What do you hope that people will take away from hearing your story?
Ellington: Well, this is difficult because I am a cyclist and runner. Now, I simply wish I could go back to that day and choose to go to the gym. I think it was an isolated incident, but it will happen again because someone will not be paying attention to the other person, cyclist or pedestrian.
Cyclists really need to be cautious and pay attention to the road for the safety of others and themselves. There is really no need to get close to a pedestrian at anytime. As a runner, I guess you have to jog on the side walk and face cyclist and oncoming traffic because if they are not paying attention to you this could be the result of your fatal catastrophe.
Kristi: I think those are both good suggestions. Pedestrians need to be extra careful if they are going to pass other pedestrians using the bike lane, but cyclists need to communicate upcoming dangers to any cyclist that is drafting behind them. I would also advise against wearing any headphones on the road, cyclist or pedestrian. Safety is the first priority out there. Thank you again for sharing your story, Coach Griffen Ellington. I am sorry this accident happened to you, but hopefully, telling your story will inspire both cyclists and runners to take extra safety precautions when on the road. I wish you a speedy recovery.
Ellington: Thank you for your time.