Sure, poor Bradley Wiggins. The guy's my hero and I winced for him when I heard he'd become the latest victim of every cyclist’s fear - the driver that just does not see you. But he’s built of steel and will have suffered more serious injuries in races than the broken ribs he sustained last night. He’ll be fine. So, as angry cyclists round on the driver who knocked him down, I’m feeling sorry for her, too. Apart from anything - and I say all of the following as a dedicated road cyclist - she will forever be known as the woman who nearly killed a national treasure.
The driver was reportedly distraught before and after police told her who she’d hit. Even Bradley appears to have paused; witnesses have said he sought to calm his wife, Cath, who arrived at the scene and was understandably furious with the driver. And yes, she may yet have a case to answer. She may regret not looking for a split second longer to see a cyclist in the dark on a rural road perhaps not filled with bikes on a Wednesday night. But it may equally have been a no-fault accident.
Like the majority of cyclists, I am also a driver. And, like all drivers, and all cyclists, I have sometimes, despite all my attention and good intentions, simply not seen something. Fortunately none of these lapses have resulted in an accident in which anyone has been hurt. It happens because we’re human, and after accidents in which nobody is at fault, the party who kills or injures someone can be a different sort of victim.
My hope is that Wiggins’ plight does not increase the senseless conflict on our roads. If there is a war, it’s between mindless, angry, impatient people, who ride bikes as often as they drive cars. The cyclist who bangs on a window or shouts “wanker” (popular one, that) at drivers guilty of even the most minor misdemeanour are unlikely to inspire sympathy in them or anyone nearby (I prefer simply to make eye contact with a driver who has erred; showing you have a face reminds them you are vulnerable).
What last night should fuel is the calmer debate about the suitability of our roads for cycling, and the awareness among drivers of cyclists, both of which undoubtedly need to be improved. Certainly anyone driving near Wiggins’ Lancashire home will likely be more wary once Bradley is back on his bike (very soon I’m sure) and I hope the same will be true everywhere today. In the meantime, the reasonable road-using majority realises the safest approach is to be aware but also calm, civil and nice. Because for as long as there is tribalism and conflict, I believe there will be more accidents not fewer.