How my Manduka Yoga Mat saved my Life when I got hit by a Truck on my Bike.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Dec 9, 2011
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Three Takeaways from getting hit by a Truck on my Bike.

Here’s the set up: I’m riding along in the bike lane on a three-lane stretch of University Ave, thinking about whatever I’m thinking about. I’m wearing a bright neon orange hunter’s hat, which I like to wear because I’m a big guy on a big bike and it helps car drivers see me. I’m wearing a red wool Pendleton coat, I think, and gloves and there’s little flags hanging off my bike. In the back I have a black milk basket that holds my laptop (my life, my business, which I can’t afford to replace [again—two weeks ago a gent spilled coffee on it and booked it, leaving me without a functioning laptop for better part of a week, and $1,000 the poorer]) and my big oversize un-cut 100-inch or something Manduka yoga mat. I’m on the way to the Yoga Pod, where I, Natalie (elephant’s part-time staffer) and our six interns are doing yoga, sponsored by elephant and the Yoga Pod.

A truck wheels out of an alley to my left, crosses one lane of traffic, headed right at me. There’s 20 feet between us, so I figure he’ll see me. I am in a bike lane. 1/2 a second later, he still hasn’t seen me, he’s only 10 feet away, I let out the loudest yell I can. He must have his windows closed, cold day, he doesn’t hear me. Somehow he still hasn’t seen me, though I’m directly in front of him. 1/2 a second later, he’s crossed the lane of traffic to my left and is crossing me, heading into right lane to take an immediate right turn. I’ve begun veering to the right, seeing this madman is heading straight for me (in a big delivery truck).

He hits me. He hits the back of my bike, since I’ve begun veering away. The truck hits the bike basket with the Manduka yoga mat in it. Luckily, it’s snowy out a bit and my bike just slides and is pushed off the street. If there were more traction, I might have been a b-bump dead man. I’m knocked over into a pile of snow, heroic yoga mat on the street.

Pedestrians and another truck-driver are screaming at the truck driver, “I got his license plate!”…who, oblivious, has stopped at a red light 50 feet off. One is banging on the truck driver’s window. Another is standing in front of the truck, preventing him from driving away. Someone else is helping me up, I think. I’m shaking like a leaf. I walk forward and backward and seem fine. I wheel my bike around, it seems fine. It’s a Christmas miracle. They bring the truck driver over to me. He’s freaked out…not about me, but probably about getting fined or insurance or police. I tell him “Happy Holidays, drive carefully” and he promises me and drives off. As usual when I’m hit I’m weirdly thoughtful of others, and don’t think common-sense about myself. I don’t even get his driver’s license or anything.

I bike off and go to yoga. I feel like crying. I ride slowly and am freaked out by alleys and cars and streets for days.

1. Life is a bubble. Life can stop happening at any moment. Your to-do lists, my to-do lists, don’t matter.

2. Make sure you tell people how you feel about them. Not just love, but clarity with everyone.

3. Bicycling, driving a car, driving a truck—they’re all incredibly dangerous. Driving, for most of us, is by far the most dangerous thing we do.

We forget that we’re hurtling along in a tin can and others are doing the same. Please ride and drive carefully, and slowly, and don’t do two things at once: texting, smoking, listening to music all the time, talking…focus on what you’re doing. Car accidents account for annual holocausts, more dead good people than a hundred 9/11s put together.


Make a practice of being aware of what’s around you as you bike/drive. Instead of what most of us do, the opposite, which is trying to distract ourselves from the present moment with phone, book-on-tape, music, conversation. Instead, look around, out the window, enjoy your day.

Enjoy your life. Merry Christmas!


Bonus: A video replay of the accident:


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


19 Responses to “How my Manduka Yoga Mat saved my Life when I got hit by a Truck on my Bike.”

  1. happyholidays says:

    glad you're ok 🙂

  2. Wow! Glad you are ok!! I wish people would take driving more seriously and not use it as time to talk on cell/text/apply makeup/etc.

  3. Monique says:

    Glad you are OK, Way. Come to the Netherlands where we have abundant bike lanes and crazy laws that make drivers liable for anything that happens to cyclists, even if you the cyclist hit into them. It´s great cause motorists avoid you like the plague.

  4. wearsabicyclehelmet says:

    Tisk tisk. Wear a bicycle helmet. If you care about yourself at all, or have people who care about you, wear a bicycle helmet. You only need to space out for a second to damage yourself. Wear a bicycle helmet.

  5. elephantjournal says:

    Amen…I've been told they don't wear bike helmets in the Netherlands, where bicycle commuting is 100x more frequent. I have plenty of friends who've been hit by cars wearing helmets. The real solution is 1. More bike lanes 2. Equal respect/status for cyclists from auto drivers and 3., okay, wear a bike helmet!

    Still, on 9th street where I live, with no bike lane going downhill, I've always said it's a matter of time before I get hit. I've been hit once on that street, smushed the bike, but I was fine.

  6. Scary- glad you made it- nice work with the truck driver- the hilarious Hancock clip brilliantly lessened my level of stress after reading your post. 🙂

  7. Monique says:

    I can confirm that we don´t wear helmets over here – including young children – much to the collective horror of all my non-Dutch friends. The yearly death toll for cyclists is so low that they don´t bother with helmet laws. We have good bike lanes and drivers who are mindful because they themselves are cyclists (plus the stringent laws of liability helps). Everyone is a cyclist. It is in the culture. Meanwhile in Britain, where bike helmets and any other health and safety related gear such as reflective vests are the norm, there are more cycling-related accidents cause cycling is not ingrained in the culture (except for student towns).

  8. […] How my Manduka Yoga Mat just saved my Life when I got hit by a Truck on my Bike. […]

  9. Angela T says:

    I am glad to hear you were safe. My mat was what nearly killed me when I was struck by a van. Similar experience, in the bike lane, despite brightly coloured clothing, went unnoticed by an unruly white delivery van. In my instance, the driver didn't clip my bike but the double wide of the yoga mat world, my Prana Revolution. Bam! I flew off my bike as my mat went twisting around my torso and I dislocated shoulder. No information exchanged, as he sped off into the distance none the wiser of what he'd just done. Someone needs to invent a tote for carrying a yoga mat on a bike. Having it strapped across your back or sticking out of a basket, I am convinced, is a recipe for disaster!

  10. Ben_Ralston says:

    Sorry Way, but I have to call you out on this. (Especially in the light of the recent hoo-ha about 'advertorial' writing…)
    The above piece is great – honest, insightful, helpful for many people… but your (specific brand name) yoga mat "saved my life" comment sounds like nonsense to me.

  11. Colin Wiseman says:

    Well done for being strong! I'd have chased him down and been angry as heck!

    PS Sorry kinda have to agree with Ben. Branding up the article is a bit crass, but i guess you did it so people would read the article? Otherwise it would have fallen in the top the black hole of other "how yoga saved my life" articles.

  12. elephantjournal says:

    I thought it was fun, and made it clickable. How's a yoga mat save someone's life? An article titled "I nearly got hit by a truck while riding my bike" is okay, but not…interesting. In this context, I thought it just made it clickable. The above title is analogous to, say…

    "How Facebook introduced me to the love of my life."
    "How my Klean Kanteen saved my dog's life."
    "How my Masi is my best friend."
    "How Ben Ralston, therapist, sorted my issues out."
    "How Colin Wiseman, webmaster, saved elephant."
    "How Waylon needs to go and get some coffee at Trident Cafe."

    All those titles have brand names. Some, as in the case of Ben or Colin, might imply that I do have a business relationship with them. The problem isn't mentioning businesses. The problem is trying to sell said businesses through an article…instead of just telling a story and letting it speak for itself. It's a fine line, and you're right to question. In my view your article went over that line, especially the title. That said, it could easily have been a great article–just pull the salesmanship back a bit. That's not what elephant is for.

  13. Ben_Ralston says:

    I just found myself wondering – did Way actually buy his mat, or was it a freebie from Manduka. Because otherwise it didn't make sense to me that you didn't just say "how my yoga mat saved my life".
    Guess I'm a bit sensitive about the issue rigt
    The *service* I provide literally saves people's lives sometimes (or at the very least makes them worth living again, oftentimes) and you and others say that it's wrong to advertise (when as you pointed out before, most articles on EJ do just that anyway). I don't try to hide the fact that I'm advertising my work though. Because I don't think I need to – because I'm not just selling a product that has no inherent value.
    So when I do see *products* literally advertised in an post like this, makes me question…

    Oh, and all of the titles you reference are factual – true (as was the article I wrote) – Facebook probably has hooked ppl up! Whereas the idea that your life was saved by Manduka is stretching the limits of imagination just a tad 😉
    And you see, that's where i have a problem with accusations of 'Advertorial!' Advertising that relies on trickery to sell crap *is* advertorial, whereas advertising that simply promotes something worthwhile is not (in my opinion). I think that most people are so desensitized to the advertorial that they barely recognize the difference. But the difference is huge, isn't it?!

  14. […] I relaxed a little. Still feeling a little hyped up by my “near death” experience, I started thinking about my foolishness and decided maybe it isn’t so foolish […]

  15. elephantjournal says:

    Glad you're alive! Don't like your title.

  16. elephantjournal says:

    It's a mat I've owned for 9 years, and has torn out sections from when Red was a puppy. It's my lifer mat.

    Again, Manduka doesn't advertise…I just thought it was a fun detail. If they did advertise, it might be crass, or it might not. The devil's in the delivery and framing of the thing…but mainly where it's coming from. It's a good discussion and one I'm honored to have with you. You have nothing to be sensitive about—not that being sensitve/raw/open is bad—you're one of our best voices on elephant, Ben, have been for a few years now!

  17. […] Lululemon being the top preference. As far as practice mats go, the yoga mat must at least be a Manduka. The John Friend model is preferred since it leads to enlightenment, but remember, you can only […]

  18. I love it. And you. And your mat. And the title. Maybe when someone has a "moment" like that and wants to view it and be honest and add humor or open-heart-relating in any way their individual personality sees fit, they'll be a little less judgmental. Or something.

  19. yeah but you're from Glasgow. They chase trucks….