Monday, 14 November 2011

Do You Actually Have A Driving Licence?!?!?!

On my blog I write a great deal on my mountain bike rides, equipment and professional road racing.  Yet what I spend most of my actual riding time doing is commuting on my road bike. 
I have commuted for many years in various places, including the busy city of Birmingham, congested roads of County Surrey and my home town area of Durham.  My routes have often varied between four to ten miles one way, so are never over taxing on the legs, but I have never in all my time been allowed to forget the danger that I put myself in.

A few years ago my luck finally ran out and I was involved in my first proper collision.  It was an early October morning it was a clear day and the light conditions were good.  I was on my usual run out of my town, a route I had taken many times before, and I suppose ride automatically without much thought.  I was on a straight road when I noticed a blue little Nissan Micra pull upto the T-junction that led onto the road I was on.  His intention was to turn left, and so by head in the same direction as I was (we drive on the left hand side of the road remember my foreign readers!).  The junction was open and clear and I'd spotted him early on.  In most circumstances I will eyeball a driver in this situation to ensure I have an idea of whether they have seen me or are really looking out properly.  I know this time I didn't, I stupidly trusted that the driver will have seen me easily.

As I came to pass this junction he pulled out.  I got a big image of blue car on my left hand side and was doing my best to move aside to the right hand side to avoid hitting him.  The car struck me from the side sending me crashing from my bike and onto the other side of the road.  I was lucky that the road was restricted to 30mph so the cars heading toward my prone body were able to react and slow accordingly.  Although I'd hit the ground hard I wasn't badly hurt, I got up fast acutely aware of being in a dangerous position.  As I did so the car that had knocked me over was reving its engine but not going anywhere fast because my bike was wedged under its front wheel.  He finally stopped the car so I could retrieve my bike, and limp to the safety of the side of the road.

He checked whether I was alright, apologising saying he was in a rush to pick up his daughter. (he never once left his car).  He said he'd pay for any damage, and when I told him where I worked and to see me there (where I was going) he drove off.  Obviously this was stupid.  I should have done many things, like call the police to the scene.  Asked for insurance details etc.  I was just totally shaken up and not thinking clearly.  The only saving grace was a he drove off I took his number plate details and instantly put them in my phone.

Apart from a sore hand and grazes to my hips and elbow I was in one piece and nothing broken but my bike was a mess.  The bars were twisted and the wheel crushed and twisted beyond repair.  I wasn't riding to work that day!  I limped home, got in and (being totally emotional) cried. 

That incident was resolved in court and my bike was replaced but mentally it scarred me.  It was another six months before I even touched my bikes.  I was even ready to sell them, and convinced I was ready to give up cycling for good.  Even when I got back on my bike every time a car pulled up to a junction I'd get flash backs.  I was a nervous wreck on the roads.

As you may have guessed, I continue to ride my bike and didn't give up.  Even though my confidence is back I still come across totall idiots on the road.  Only the other day on the return from work I was subject to stupid driving.  Coming up to a roundabout I was at the junction ready and waiting to go straight ahead.  A car came on my right with indicators on to turn left.  Did she wait?  Nope she pulled away at the same time as me and was in full intent to still turn left and go across me.  Realising her intent to do this dangerous manouver I backed off, waiting until she had gone past.  I was furious.  How senseless do you have to be to pull a stunt like that?

As a rider I have always been defensive.  I ride a good metre from the curb, hold position in the road when over taking cars and approaching right hand turns.  I always, always assume that drivers are idiots and can't see me, and so never try to dominate the road and ride recklessly.  At the end of the day in a collision I know who will loose.

Talking of safety for bikers, it was good to see that the Tour Du Danger went well in London.  This was a ride across London visiting ten of the most dangerous junctions (black spots).  Word had spread and hundreds of cyclists turned up to support the ride.  Over 15 cyclists in London have been killed  this year so far, and with a large amount of cyclist using the road there and terrible road layouts which still favour the motor vehicles this will continue to rise.  I hope this sort of action will lead to some forward development not just in London but the country over.  You can see the report here.



Jez,being lucky enough to have not been in an accident with a car, I can only imagine your intrepidation on getting back on the bike.Glad to see you came out of it OK.

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