Tuesday, 7 February 2012

My personal thoughts on the Times Campaign

Between the 3 months of September to December I was hit three times whilst riding my bike, the final being the most serious of these. All three accidents were not my fault and in one case I was using the cycling infrastructure that was in place.

To summarise the accidents briefly
  1. Riding down a cycle path only to be doored by a car passenger – I was travelling very slowly in heavy traffic and only had a few bruises on my arm. 
  2. Red Van overtook me (I was cycling down a bus lane) and then turned left just in front of me, no indication and no warning – by some quick action I avoided major injury but I did go over the handlebars. The driver initially made a run for it but after 300 meters came back when he saw about 10 witnesses writing down his number plate. I was shaken but not too damaged so I shook hands with him and let him go (I think I may have been a fool for that to be honest.
  3. Main accident – car coming from the opposite direction was stopped in middle of the road – as I rode on he set off for some unknown reason and T-Boned me. You can see more detail HERE. This driver is paying a visit to court for careless driving and I am in the middle of a largish insurance claim.

OK so that is a potted history of my last 3 months of cycling – without someone looking over me two of those accidents could have killed me. So what was I doing to deserve this – well I was going to work!

How have we come to a situation where I have to accept taking a frighteningly high level of risk so I can travel into work?

I am just an average guy – I do a reasonably high profile job, I am 46, we have two expensive cars at home but I choose to commute on my bike, I pay my taxes, have a clean driving license, I hope I am a decent, well-meaning person who puts into society more than he takes out.

Why do I commute? I do it because it is quicker than all other types of private and public transport (with the exception of a motorbike). It helps to keep me healthy (I don’t have the time or desire to go to a gym regularly) and I love the freedom it offers me and the chance to gather my thoughts twice a day. There is no way I am going to give up these benefits, I have had to accept the risk of cycling and I will continue to do so (when I am fully mended).

So how is it that such a mundane thing as cycling to work has to be so dangerous (or so it appears from my recent experiences). I don’t want a life without risk, I accept the chance that I may fall off my bike from my error, I accept there are risks in everything that you do, but why in hell is considered acceptable that I can have three idiots put me in varying degrees of danger in as many months.

Why should I not be protected? Do I not deserve the right to reasonable levels of safety? I pay more into central tax than most and I also am more than paying my way (due the high tax band of our cars) in Vehicle Exercise Duty and I don’t even use the cars on the road that often! I am not asking for a personal motorway – I just want a route that is direct enough and reasonably safe, I don’t want to be wrapped in cotton wool – but surely I have every right to reasonably expect to cycle home after a day at work without my two kids becoming orphans.

I do fear though that, as usual, the very erudite and passionate cycling community will rip itself apart arguing how this safety can be best achieved, to this day I have never understood why cyclist opinions are so polarised when it comes to what is best for safety, A bit of everything is good in my opinion and every step in the approximate direction takes you nearer to your goal – even if it isn’t your chosen or most direct route.

I really hope the Times campaign makes some real achievements and raises awareness and that it is no longer considered a joke or acceptable to non-cyclists about how dangerous it is to simply ride a bike - Good Luck and thanks "The Times".

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