As Bradley Wiggins breaks his ribs in a cycling accident, an open letter to Britain's motorists

Our writer was horrifically injured when hit by a lorry last year. Here he argues that the onus should be on motorists to prove that they obeyed the rules

Related Topics

The shattering effect of being hit by a lorry while cycling still impacts heavily on my life, both physically and psychologically. Whenever I hear of another cyclist being hit it produces a physical responce. I literally shake, I feel sick, I can feel the blood draining away from my cheeks.

This morning’s incident may have had more than a few people shuddering alongside me because it involved Tour de France hero, Olympic Gold Medallist and sports personality of the year elect Bradley Wiggins. So naturally it topped the early news bulletins.


What I found interesting was the tone of the early conversation about the incident and the questions that were being asked. These included: Was Wiggo wearing a helmet? Did he have on a florescent bib, was he carrying a bright pink sign with neon flashing lights bearing the legend “watch out, innocent cyclist abroad”. I made the last one up. But you know what I mean.

Here’s what I’d like to know: Was the driver looking where they were going? Did they check their blind spot, looking over their shoulder as well as in the mirror before setting off? Were they using a mobile phone, or fiddling with the stereo, or the blowers, or the sat nav?

Why were these questions not being asked? Why is it always the responsibility of the cyclist to ensure that a car or other vehicle sees them (with that pink sign perhaps) rather than the motorist’s responsibility to look.

I write not just as an ex-cyclist but as a motorist of two decades’ standing. I have a perfectly clean licence that has never been sullied by so much as a point because I do all of the above. I look, I make sure that when there are cyclists about I give them plenty of room and I don’t streak past them unless I’m able to give them a wide berth, regardless of whether the idiot behind me starts tail gating, pipping on their horn, flashing their lights and gesticulating in my mirrors. Which often happens if I simply happen to be obeying the speed limit when I’m driving in London, let alone paying due heed to the cyclist in front of me.


I do this for the simply reason that when I get behind the wheel of two tonnes of metal and plastic, I treat it with respect because if not I could kill someone.

I’m not being pious. It’s a simple fact. Nor am I trying to say that I’m a perfect driver; I just obey the safety rules. And the speed limit. Even when there aren’t camera’s around (note to people who moan about them - if you don’t want a fine then just obey the speed limit. It really isn’t that hard). 

I don’t want to pre-judge the outcome of the police investigation into the incident referred to above. It may just have been a genuine accident. These things sometimes happen. And at least Wiggo appears not to have been seriously hurt.

But the way the immediate question always asked when it comes to accidents involving bikes with other vehicles is “was the cyclist on the slender metal frame being good” rather than “was the motorist in the machine capable of killing obeying the rules” infuriates me.

I’m a motorist. The onus should first of all be on us to answer “yes” to the second question. If all of us did, there would be a lot of people who have been needlessly killed on our roads alive today. They’re not all just cyclists, either. There are innumerable pedestrians and other motorists in that group.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions