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.