Thursday, 5 November 2009
It is now four months since the car knocked me off my bike, breaking my pelvis in three separate places. Time has healed the injuries – I’m even back on the bike – but not diminished the sense of outrage I feel about the carelessness of the driver who could so easily have added my name to the worrying statistics on cycling fatalities.
On a beautiful sunny summer evening, he somehow failed to see me coming in the opposite direction. Without indicating, he turned right, straight in front of me, and I hit him head on, snapping my bike frame in two. His moment of madness could have deprived my children of their dad, and I thank my lucky stars that I got away with a month in a wheelchair.
It was six weeks before I heard anything from the police officers who had attended the scene. They had decided no action was to be taken against the driver, despite his admitting that he was entirely responsible for the accident. When I kicked up a fuss – pointing out how serious my injuries had been – the police reluctantly sent him on a “driver awareness” course.
I’m not one of those cyclists who believes that it’s them and us on the mean streets. In the decade I’ve been riding in London, I’ve seen as many cyclists do utterly stupid things as motorists. And I know it makes motorists – and pedestrians – mad when cyclists jump red lights or ride on the pavement, as so many routinely do.
Still,the fact is that the consequences of drivers’ misbehaviour are almost always more serious than what happens when cyclists break the rules or just fail to take proper care. Too many motorists behave as if they believe cyclists have no right to be on the road or, equally culpable in my book, as if they should not be expected to think about whether there might be a bike about.
That disregard is then reinforced by the punishments doled out to motorists who mow down cyclists. My experience of the authorities’ near total indifference to a driver seriously injuring a cyclist is the norm rather than the exception.
No doubt the increase in the numbers of cyclists on Britain’s roads partly explains the increasing number of accidents. I also buy the theory that, by and large, female cyclists tend to be less assertive on the road and suffer disproportionately for that.
But that is not to accept that we cyclists are to blame for our own misfortune. Most of these accidents could be avoided if motorists weren’t too lazy, selfish and reckless to just do the basics: concentrating on the road ahead and checking their mirrors properly.