PROVO Andy Chapman has scaled mountains in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. He rock climbs and ice climbs. But it was a man driving a "kitchen-on-wheels" that took him out on State Street in American Fork on Sept. 12.
"Rock climbing and ice climbing, that stuff is safe," Chapman said, reclining in a hospital bed at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. "Riding in traffic is dangerous."
Chapman, 28, an avid cyclist, knows he's often invisible to drivers. He's had some close calls and was even hit by a car back in Michigan where he grew up.
But it's never been like this.
That morning, Chapman was on the final leg of his TRAX/bus/bike journey from his home in Salt Lake to Timpanogos Academy in Lindon, where he teaches art to elementary school kids.
Pedaling south, Chapman watched as a 78-year-old man driving a decades-old, catering-style van cut in front of him with a sharp left into the exit of a McDonald's.
Witnesses say Chapman, flying on his thousand-dollar road bike, wobbled a bit and attempted to go left, moving from the shoulder of the road into the flow of traffic to avoid the van.
It wasn't enough, and he slammed into the back serving area of the van and its glass panels.
"The first person on scene (Adrienne Burke) most likely saved my life," he said.
Burke has since visited Chapman at the hospital, filling in the details of what he doesn't remember.
She told Chapman he hit and shattered a few windows, then spun clockwise and landed on his face, still clipped into his mangled bike. His helmet was shattered.
"(The situation) definitely was intimidating," Chapman said. "But (Burke) stepped up to the plate and did what she had to do."
Burke and another passer-by held T-shirts to Chapman's neck, trying to stanch the bleeding until paramedics arrived.
The cuts exposed his carotid
and jugular arteries, and had the cuts been millimeters deeper, doctors told Chapman, he would have bled to death in the street.
A week later, the cuts and bruises on his face have healed surprisingly fast. Doctors removed a slew of stitches from the right side of his neck Friday morning and released him from the hospital around 2 p.m.
He'll be back to visit soon so doctors can check on a serpentine, stitch-filled scar on his lower neck and chest. That's where doctors had to enter to fix his fractured collarbone. He's also got some vertebrae issues and fractured bones in his cheek and around his eye.
While he healed, Chapman's room was decorated with posters from his artistic students. "I hope you get better," Emma wrote. Another poster proclaimed, "We love you, we miss you. We (are) so sorry you got in a car accident."
"Andy is a fabulous art teacher," said Sherry Anderson, administrative assistant at Timpanogos Academy. "He is loved by his students."
Chapman has taught kindergartners through fifth-graders for a little more than six years.
"We love his outdoorsman spirit," Anderson said. "This really is his second life. His real life is climbing. So we love hearing his adventure stories."
Along with visitors, gifts and posters, Chapman's phone continues to ring. He said he used to take a nap and wake up to 20 voice-mail messages.
The only person Chapman hasn't heard from is the driver.
"I don't expect him to," Chapman said. "I'm sure he's fearing legal repercussions. (But) if I nearly killed someone I'd definitely express remorse and sympathy."
The out-of-state motorist was cited for failure to yield and a registration problem, said American Fork Police Lt. Sam Liddiard.
Chapman also found out the driver had let his insurance lapse, which means more expenses for Chapman, who only has basic health care through his three-quarter-time job at the school. He also works at REI.
Friends have set up a Web site and fund to help with medical bills and the cost of being out of work for months. Donations can be made at Zions Bank or through the Web site, www.AndyChapmanFund.com.
But it's not about the money. Chapman just wants to get the word out about bike and car safety and how the two modes of transportation can co-exist.
"I'm acutely aware that bikes lose every time (against cars)," he said. "I'm very aware when I'm commuting (that) drivers are not paying attention."
And that should change, Chapman said. Drivers and cyclists must always be attentive, especially when pulling out of a driveway or turning. And never underestimate how fast a cyclist can travel, he said."I just want awareness," Chapman said. "Every time you go out, you have (a) close call (when) a driver isn't paying attention. You fear the day being a close call changes to being an accident."