David Prosser: It's time for a truce before more cyclists' lives are lost

Eyewitness: Cyclists, like drivers, do idiotic things... but when drivers don't pay attention, people die

Related Topics

I was late into the office one day earlier this week. Riding to work through the centre of London, I came across a prostrate man who had been knocked from his bike by a lorry and was lying in agony in the middle of the carriageway. Someone else had called an ambulance but I wanted to help – all I could think to do was to put my rucksack under his head while we waited for the paramedics.

In the middle of the rush hour, plenty of people had seen the accident happen. Many of the witnesses were upset – several of them in tears. But none of the cyclists who stopped at the scene seemed to share the sense of shock. It was grim, for sure, but by no means unexpected. Everyone who cycles regularly in the capital has a horror story to tell – we all know the risks that see barely a day go by without another headline detailing the death or serious injury of a rider. I'm reminded of those stories every day just now – my own department is a man down, with one of our colleagues still recovering in hospital from an awful accident two months ago.

Don't get me wrong. All the statistics show that cycling is far safer than is commonly perceived. It's just that when cyclists do collide with cars, buses, vans and lorries, they tend to come off badly.

It is the knowledge of that vulnerability that leaves cyclists mystified about why they are so disliked. Four years ago, in this newspaper, the actor Nigel Havers was asked to name one thing he would like people to take more notice of. His answer: not world peace, not climate change, nor even his own faltering career. The issue Havers chose to highlight was "cyclists who jump red lights and ride on pavements because they're all bastards". He's not alone.

The one thing that has increased more rapidly than cyclists taking to the roads in our towns and cities in recent years has been the opprobrium to which they are subjected. A couple of years ago, after getting knocked off my bike, I wrote about the frustrations of being in a wheelchair. The first 10 comments on our website ignored that topic, preferring to focus on whether the accident had been my fault.

In theory, I don't mind the hostility. We cyclists are generally a hardy bunch, impervious to the contempt of others (how else would we leave home dressed like that). In practice, I think the antagonism people feel about cyclists is dangerous – it has encouraged a climate in which people think we deserve what we get and don't need protecting.

At the scene of my own accident, the policeman who attended hopped into the back of the ambulance to tell me that the driver had admitted to him on the spot that he had been at fault. Six weeks later, I received a perfunctory letter from the Metropolitan Police informing me that since there was no evidence of fault, no action would be taken against the driver. When I made a fuss, they sent him on a driving improvement course. I lost the use of my legs for six weeks and now have permanent scarring on my back. He was forced to give up a couple of hours of his time.

The solicitor I consulted, who came recommended by the London Cycling Campaign, tells me this experience is typical. But if the police don't bother to look out for the interests of cyclists, what hope is there for the rest of the public? If drivers know they can mow down riders with impunity, why should they bother to check their mirrors before turning left?

Asked why he felt so angry about cyclists, Havers complained that we do not make a contribution to the upkeep of the roads whose regulations we flout. "Pay some tax" is the sort of thing I hear from drivers pretty often (the less foul-mouthed ones in any case). It's a myth. Most of us have cars and pay road tax. Even those who don't, pay other types of tax – and it's not as if road tax revenues all go towards the roads.

None of us are blameless. Cyclists, just like drivers, do idiotic things from time to time. Some are arrogant, smug and self-righteous. But when we ride like fools, 99 times out of 100, no one gets hurt. When drivers don't pay attention, people get killed. Let's call a truce and start thinking a bit more carefully about everyone with whom we share the roads – before more people lose their lives.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Neo-Nazis march in London  

I'm taking my Jewish kids to a vile neo-Nazi rally in London this weekend because I want them to learn about free speech

Richard Ferrer
A police officer carries a casualty to safety  

Tunisia attack proves that we cannot stop terrorists carrying out operations against Britons in Muslim countries

Robert Verkaik
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map