Andreas: This is a story from a London Cyclist reader. If you’d like to share your story, please use the contact page.
I didn’t quite make it to work this morning. Half way there, I was knocked off my bike yards from where a fatal cycling accident took place last month. After the shock, I didn’t want to pursue my journey. Instead, I came home and started writing this.
I’m guessing I am not the only cyclist to get the “you bike in London?” question thrown in with a look of total horror. Is it so strange that I prefer the fresh, quick and free method of transport? Until now, I’ve been proud of my answer: “Yes, it is totally safe, as long as you know what you are doing.”
After this morning, I’ve taken a temporary knock to my confidence. However, my real fear is how my friends and family will react. Now that I’ve lived out their dreaded expectations, it’s validation that I’m a crazy person for choosing to cycle.
But I love cycling. I save money, I keep fit, I beat the traffic and I have independence beyond the public transport routes and timetables. Plus, I’m passionate about reducing the pollution levels in cities and encouraging more people to cycle. Why should I let a driver’s misjudgement of when to pull out of a junction rob me of my partnership with my beloved bicycle.
The reaction to cycling accidents shouldn’t be: stop cycling. It should be motivation to raise awareness and educate all those involved – cyclists, non-cyclists, drivers, pedestrians, everyone who is going to need to share our congested roads. This was particularly marked in the ‘die-in’ vigil hat followed the above-mentioned Denmark Hill accident that killed a 32-year old woman.
I worry when I see the message being hijacked by an attack on drivers, rather than mitigating against future accidents. The very name of the campaign ‘Stop Killing Cyclists’ segregates and creates sides; them against us.
In the two years of cycling in London, I have noticed no improvements on the roads. Yes, new cycle lanes are being dug up and the TFL website sure looks glossy, with all its promises to make cycling safer, but what is really happening? Where are those traffic light signals for bikes and where is this new technology for drivers of HGV’s to better see bikes?
It’s got to be about behaviour and attitude, as well as real measures taken; more safety signs, better mirrors as well as mandatory training for drivers. The media should also focus on what drivers can do to be more aware rather than obsessing over statistics of cyclist fatalities.
I was back on my bike this afternoon after picking it up from the repair shop, and it made me happy and motivated to stay safe and continue cycling in London, not scared of future accidents. I was lucky to be in a minor collision and nothing more serious, but now I am certain that better education as well as encouragement to cycle more (because being a cyclist as well as a driver changes behaviour), could make a real difference to our roads.