I love to ride my bike. I have done so for years – it’s a great way of getting around and I like to ride for sport, too. Despite the fact I love the feeling of whooshing along tarmac, with recent crashes grabbing the headlines, it’s hard not to let worry creep in when commuting on busy roads.
I’ve had two incidents with cars in my riding career, and both have taught me a similar lesson: always be aware, and never assume.
The first crash took place as I waited in a Brighton cycle lane to the left hand side of a queue of traffic.
There was a one way street to the left hand side designed only for the purpose of allowing oncoming traffic to leave from the station. There was, in my opinion, no chance of any driver wanting to take the denied road and drive up to the station.
As the lights changed, a thud proved otherwise as a small red car rammed into me and pushed me to the ground before I got a chance to react. The driver stopped, started making those annoying high pitched noises that drivers make when they’ve hit you and are totally in the wrong, got out the car and apologised profusely whilst various onlookers offered to provide photographic evidence if I needed it.
Thankfully, I was unharmed excluding a wing-mirror mark to the upper arm, and the alloy bike I was riding was also unscathed since the crash had been at a very low speed, so I never took them up on the offer.
This accident taught me a valuable lesson: never assume. Following the highway code, that car would never have turned left and would never have hit me – but real life on the roads, does not always follow the highway code.
As cyclists, we should always seek to follow the code, but we have to bear in mind that the unexpected might take place. In this case, I should have positioned myself in front of the car, I should not have been to the left hand side of it, and I could have made eye contact, and the accident, though definitely not my fault, could have perhaps been averted.
My second crash was a lot more painful and resulted in much more damage to my bike. Happily pedalling my way home from work, only minutes from my front door, I rode past the entrance to a small car park. It was dark, but I had high viz stripes on my trousers, and a high powered front and rear light set.
From nowhere, it would seem, came a set of headlights crossing from the other side of the road, directly across my path and careering into me. I registered the situation, told my hands to pull on the brakes, and then started to realise, in slow motion, that the brakes were not going to stop me quick enough.
Straight onto the bonnet I went, before hitting the tarmac. Once again, on the floor – not my fault. The driver had been turning into the car park from the opposite side of the road, I had been blocked momentarily from her view I think by a parked car, and she’d not taken a second to check the entrance was clear before pulling in. I must have screamed quite alarmingly because a member of the public called the police and an ambulance.
This accident resulted in whiplash, purchase of new front forks, helmet, and shifters – and also nearly risked me missing my Majorca training camp holiday. Thankfully, I managed to mend myself in time to get on the aeroplane and go. The driver paid for the work to my bike with her insurance and was sent on a driver awareness course.
Note: If you are ever in an accident, we work with CAMS to help cyclists claim back any damage to their bike and get them back on the road as fast as possible. Find out more here.
In this case, I learnt to always be aware. Now, when I cross any junction – be it a car park, a minor road or a major junction, I’m careful to keep my wits about me. Though my path was crossed and the accident wasn’t my fault, I could have prevented it by looking around for headlights acting strangely before moving across the entrance.
On the roads we all have a responsibility to look out for ourselves and for others. Among drivers, many accidents are prevented by another person behind the wheel taking evasive action because unfortunately – people sometimes do stupid things. When cycling, we need to do the same – constantly being aware of what is going on around us and managing our own safety.
Though we sometimes meet antagonistic, rude drivers, the majority don’t really want to hurt us, and though cyclists often feel irritated by drivers, we don’t really want to collide with them. Since we all have a shared aim of getting where we are going safely, we may as well work together.
If you’re worried about riding on the roads, check out our post on how to make your cycling safer.
Michelle is a time trial rider who works for a bike shop but writes for a number of websites, including her own Ride.Write.Repeat. site in her spare time.