Let me build some context about my friend DJ Sean..
Sean goes surfing and comes back with a huge cut to his forehead that needs stiches.
A few days later he goes surfing again and comes back with a sea urchin stuck in his foot.
He goes to the beach and comes back with a scorpion sting.
It won’t surprise you when I tell you that Sean is on a first name basis with his doctor. In fact, he has him in his favourite contacts.
Driving back after the scorpion incident, Sean, turns to me and says:
“Andreas, there’s been something I’ve been meaning to ask you about cycling”
What is it that Sean is going to ask?
Is it how do we create more liveable cities centred around public transport, cycling and walking rather than the car? Is it what do you think is behind the growth in the number of cyclists? Is it what first inspired you to start cycling?
Or perhaps Sean wants to raise some kind of controversial question: Don’t you think helmet use should be compulsory for cyclists?
Sean, with a sea urchin still in his foot, stiches across his forehead and a scorpion sting on his finger asks:
“I’d love to cycle in Vancouver but isn’t it dangerous?”
I had to laugh, yet it’s a universal question on so many potential cyclists lips.
A question I’ve been asked 100s of times.
It always throws me.
Just as you can go surfing and end up with stiches and a sea urchin in your foot – so you can be hit by a car or you can come off your bike.
It’s not something I generally think about when I set off every morning on my bike.
Just as a surfer doesn’t go out thinking they’ll be bitten by a shark today.
Statistically speaking, surfing, cycling and a myriad of other outdoor activities involve a certain degree of danger.
Statistically speaking, these activities are far more likely to extend your life, than reduce it.
That may be little comfort but Sean and I are both logical guys, so I choose statistics to further answer his question.
Nearly 50% of cyclists deaths on London’s roads involve heavy goods vehicles. The drivers cannot see the cyclist that pulls up on the inside of the lorry. With the cyclist in the blind spot, the lorry unknowingly turns left in to the cyclists path.
Stay away from lorries and you’ve already greatly improved your safety.
Two more techniques are crucial for safe cycling.
The first is riding further out from the pavement. Drivers will generally give you as much space as you give yourself. If you hug the side of the road, drivers will attempt dangerous overtaking manoeuvres.
The second is glancing over your shoulder every 10 seconds when in traffic. This works well, as it establishes eye contact with the driver and it centres their attention on you. Our eyes are drawn to faces and it turns you from a nameless cyclist, in to a person.
The short answer to Sean’s question: I wouldn’t give up cycling. I’ve had a few minor incidents but they are vastly outweighed by the benefits and the joy it brings me.
“I’d love to try it” Sean tells me. He also shared a small parable with me:
“You don’t want to run across the finish line of life without any cuts and bruises – you should crawl across, bruised but having lived a full life”.
I’d be inclined to agree.