I don’t want that news to one day be about me

Gosh I’m angry. I may regret writing.

This morning, shortly after waking, I heard some news. It wasn’t about anyone close to me. It involved a family, of which I’ve met the mother once. The father had died; suddenly and way before his time.

I desperately don’t want to make some kind of political point out of this tragedy. But I do want to tell you what subsequently happened this morning, and how I felt about it.  I’m not going to say what I think should be done. You can make your own minds up.

Because of that news, I approached the morning with a renewed sense of the preciousness of life, and of the importance of keeping myself, Isaac, and Sally safe. I’d already nearly shed a tear or two. My emotions were on edge before the day had properly started.

Despite grey clouds and a wet seat, I buckled Isaac up and, with helmets and lights on, we cycled, the quietest, safest way we know, to nursery.

On the way home, I confess, I’m a little cavalier because I don’t have a kid on the back. By which I mean (…drum roll…) I cycle (…here, it’s coming…) ON THE ROAD!

Yes. I know. Perhaps that’s something I need to change.

And today, while on the road, not one but two cars made dangerous overtaking manoeuvres. One as I navigated a small roundabout that exits on to a blind corner frequented by buses. One at a narrow bit of road as another car was coming the other way.

You could sense that both drivers got half way through the manoeuvre before realising something like:

  • Argh, what’s coming the other way?
  • Woah, that cyclist is going a bit quicker than I thought!
  • Gosh, there actually isn’t really room/time to do this safely!

There’s the slight pause in acceleration, a hesitation long enough for me to know that a decision is being made, then the swerve and pull-away once the driver’s decided that he may as well finish what he started as quickly as possible.

They were big, posh, expensive cars. A BMW and an Audi. It’s a gross and wholly unscientific generalisation for which the only data I have is my own recollection of previous incidents, but: they usually are.

I stopped. I physically stopped by the side of the road after the second incident. I considered my route, my clothes, my helmet, my bicycle, my road positioning. I considered whether I should be cycling at all.

I turned left, cycled the last few hundred yards home, opened the door, stepped inside, and cried.

I’m angry and sad.

I don’t want that news to one day be about me.

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  • irishmark

    I’m often surprised by the lack of consideration by road users to cyclists. I hate the “Road Tax” argument they rely on for the justification for being inconsiderate and often dangerous. It doesn’t change the fact that 1ton+ V’s “considerably less than that” cyclist is not going to be a pretty encounter.

    I’ve watched a few cam riders on YouTube who have handled these situations really well by challenging the drivers calmly and kindly in a friendly manner.

    I too hope that neither you nor I will ever be “that guy”.

    • http://oikos.org.uk/ Ross Wintle

      Thanks Mark. I’m not surprised by it any more. I fully expect it. And it still scares the life outa me.

  • Jacqui O’Beirne

    Never give up cycling, I cycle in Central London every day and have for the last 8 years. There have been a few near misses but I’m not going to stop doing the thing I love, I cycle for pleasure as well as transport. I glow like a damn Christmas tree come Winter but I’ll still be on the road every day, twice a day, whatever the weather. Campaigns such as http://spaceforcycling.org/ and http://allpartycycling.org/ are helping change perception. We can also help by not being meek, cycling in the middle of the road as is your right, not in the gutter, it is proven the further from the gutter you are the further out a car pulls to go past you.

    My friend died last year as a result of cycling in London, its hard, no one says it isn’t but if we all stopped doing things because bad things happened to someone we know – would we ever do anything?

    Jx

    • http://oikos.org.uk/ Ross Wintle

      Thankyou Jacqui. I won’t give up. I’m not a meek cyclist, I’m very confident and take the lane where I need to. But the truth is that I shouldn’t have to do that. I should have safety and space regardless of how and where I choose to ride. It’s not optional.

      • Jacqui O’Beirne

        There are lot of things we shouldn’t have to do but we do. I suffer bike rage every day because of some idiot or another. Its a sad truth (and I’m going to get lynched for this!) but the cyclists that get hurt are mostly the ones that take risks themselves, try and get through a gap that’s too small or pass a lorry or bus near a junction forgetting they have massive blind spots. (just yesterday a cyclist in Camden got hit by a lorry at a junction…). Our safety is key but we can control it to a degree. I agree its scary rand I agree there needs to be something done, but we need to play our part too. I truly believe those cyclists that also drive are more aware than those cyclists that don’t. Its the minority that as always will give the majority a bad name. I often shout at those who jump lights telling them it will be because of them that I get killed.

  • Johnny5a

    Actually cycling in London is safer than in towns/cities where cycling is not prominent because the majority of drivers know how to approach cyclists.

    I agree with Jacqui I can’t give up cycling either even in London.I hate sitting in traffic, I hate getting stuck on the tube, on a bike I will always know how long it will take me to reach my workplace, regardless of traffic problems.

    A lot of riding nowadays is riding defensively, these are the techniques I use (not sure how correct they’re):

    – if the road is narrow/side street, I ride in the middle
    – if I’m taking the corner, I move to the middle/outside of the lane and take the corner wide so cars cannot overtake me on the corner, often cars do not follow the corner but straight line it thus cutting you up
    – if the road is wide enough, I ride 1metre from the kerb/parked cars

    – no headphones/music/distractions
    – anticipation, always looking at the side of the road, what’s/who is going to pull out from the side, watch the pedestrians, are they looking at the direction your coming from if not they might just step out, are the pedestrians on their mobile phones, it’s likely they will step into the road.

    Jury is out on the hi-viz thing, studies have shown that drivers drive closer to people with hi-viz and helmets on. I do wear a helmet but not hi-viz.

    Safe riding and don’t be put off by today’s event. All cyclists have a close call.

    • http://blog.wintle.me.uk/ Ross Wintle

      Thanks Johnny. Yeah, I use a lot of similar techniques. I’m a pretty experienced and confident rider. It doesn’t change the fact that some drivers just don’t know how much space and time cyclists needs and over the years I’ve developed the view that I’d prefer not to have to share the road with them.

      • Johnny5a

        sadly these incidents do tend to happen more outside of the main cities where cycling is not popular. Also we’re a hated majority now.

        People complain when we cycle on shared paths (i hate these)
        Drivers complain when we ride on the road.

        So where the hell are we supposed to cycle?

        • http://blog.wintle.me.uk/ Ross Wintle

          And people complain if you want to spend money building infrastructure for cyclists, right?

          I seems daft to me that most road users are unhappy with this situation, and yet no one wants to do anything about it.

  • http://www.komadori.me.uk/ komadori

    I’ve cycled for about 30 years. For much of that time it’s been the means by which I’ve done most of my shopping and from time-to-time also the means by which I commute to work. I’ve had a few near misses in that time. But then, I’ve had a few near misses in other parts of my life, including a fair few as a passenger in a car. Do you think those drivers of posh expensive cars are treating cyclists any worse than they treat anyone else they share the road with? I doubt it. I suspect they treat pedestrians and other motorists with equal disrespect.

    I’m an experienced and confident cyclist, but I’m also a cautious one. just as I was taught in car driving lessons, I practice anticipation when cycling. That sometimes means that a bad driver takes precedence when they shouldn’t have right of way, but I’m still here and still cycling.