The accident(s)

I came off my bike, one day a few months ago, on the way home.  Luckily it was a day when the boys were with my mother so they weren’t left at after school club while I picked myself up.  I was riding downhill alongside a queue of stationary traffic  There was a turning on my left and I had no idea that a van driver had flashed his lights, indicating to a lady driving up the hill, indicating right, that she could turn into the side road.  I couldn’t see the car until she was across the bike lane and she couldn’t see me until even later.  I slowed down as much as I could, she got out of the way as fast as she could but I clipped the wing of her car and came off my bike.  A lovely chap on a motorcycle came over to see if I was OK, offering to stay with me, to call someone, to go with me to talk to the driver of the car.  I don’t know who he was but I know he was wonderful; having someone with me, offering to stand up for me, helped me stop shaking so much sooner.  If you ever read this, Mr Motorcyclist, and remember that day, thank you.  The driver stopped just around the corner and both she and her father came over to find me.  I was a little battered but was still standing and (thanks to my helmet, which I then had to replace) able to ride the rest of the way home; my bike had a lucky escape; the car was undamaged; my glasses were repairable.

So whose fault was it?  The driver of the van who should have checked there was no-one using the cycle lane before indicating to the car driver it was clear to turn?  Technically all flashing ones lights at someone means is “I am here”, it makes no guarantees about where anyone else is.  The driver of the car who should have checked for herself that the way was clear before she turned?  There was no way she could have seen me before she had already completely blocked the cycle path, the “Keep Clear” was clear and the van driver was telling her he was letting her cross his path.  Me? I was riding in a cycle lane, not exceeding the speed limit, I had right of way down that road.

My conclusion was that we should all have been more vigilant but that these things happen.  However, as the person who would come off worse in any situation like this, I need to shoulder the responsibility for my own safety, to be more alert and aware of these dangers.  None of us were driving or riding recklessly and yet the accident still happened, but there are reckless drivers out there.  So eyes open, Girl; be aware; stay safe.

Last night I read through what I had written so far and decided I just needed to make a few minor (ok, major) adjustments to the final (previous) paragraph and I could publish.  This morning I find I need to write more.  I have been keeping my side of the silent bargain I made; I have been more vigilant; more conscious of potential dangers.  If I can’t see exactly what’s going on, I slow right down rather than just easing off a little.  Honestly though I have no idea how I would have avoided the car door which was opened across the cycle lane a fraction of a second before I rode into it this morning.  The car was already stopped over the boundary of the cycle lane (they always do there) but even if it hadn’t been, there was nowhere for me to go, even if I’d had time to react.  This is the “reckless driver” from the previous paragraph, although it wasn’t a driver, it was a back seat passenger.

I’ve heard that in the Netherlands children are taught when growing up to always open a car door with the hand which is furthest from it, thus automatically positioning their body and head to look behind them to check for cyclists and other traffic.  If the man in the car had been brought up like this, nothing would have happened; my commute to work would have been unremarkable.  I sat on the pavement for a few seconds, shaking slightly.  The man who knocked me down asked if I was OK and offered to help me up but I declined with less grace than I might have had, although at least I wasn’t outright rude.  A cyclist behind me also asked if I needed any help and I accepted with more grace.  With his help I straightened the gear/brake hood on my handlebars and got back on and moving.  As it turned out, he was on his way to work at the same business park as me (quite a coincidence as we were both only a few hundred yards from home – our children are at the same school!) so I had company and conversation on my way in, which helped settle my nerves and now the only signs of the accident are the bruises on my arm and the derailleur-shaped dent in my leg.

End of the day update – the leg is fine but the bruises on my arm are promising to be real shiners and faithfully informed me of every single pothole, manhole cover and join in the tarmac on the way home.  I had been thinking I’d rather drive in tomorrow but adding this paragraph I’m reading the one below and it’s injecting just enough guilt into me to ensure I ride tomorrow.

So have these accidents put me off road riding?  No.  It’s too convenient and, honestly, too much fun.  I love riding on the roads, even the poorly maintained roads of Surrey, and it’s going to take a lot more than a couple of minor falls to make me sacrifice this way of life.  So keep your eyes open, folks; I’m still out there!

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