Tuesday, 6 July 2010

In which I nearly take out a cyclist

    The UK road casualty statistics nearly jumped a little this morning, a girl on a bike decided the safest way to move to the middle of the road for a right turn was to attempt without looking to merge into a stream of moving traffic. Right in front of me as I drove in to work. It worked, I guess, the Turbocharged Rollerskate's servo-assisted brakes and my panic-fast reaction meant the car stood on its nose and she passed unscathed millimetres from my front bumper. Outside the city centre 20mph speed limit she might not have been quite so fortunate, and I would certainly not have come away unscathed had the car behind me not left a decent gap and had similar quick reactions.
    I could at this point launch into a rant about cyclists, denounce them as the vermin of the streets and call for a cull enforced by Robocop-style special attack squads with lethal force. After all, that seems to be the usual level of debate when cyclists and motorists meet. Unfortunately though here I hit a snag. I'm a cyclist too. I no longer commute to work by bike because work is too far from home, but for years I too pedalled my way across my city morning and evening and I too cursed the apparent blindness of motorists.
    So I'll save my ire. I think the girl in question is damned lucky not to be in casualty or even a morgue today and I think she needs to learn pretty quickly what a shoulder check is, but her ineptitude is not the fault of cyclists as a whole. Instead I'd like to question what she was doing there in the first place.
    That part of my city is well served by designated cycle routes. Special coloured lanes on the road, albeit rather narrow ones. In the orgy of greenwash from Government, cycling has been decreed as a Good Thing, and councils everywhere have scrambled to show how cycle-friendly they are. Unfortunately though in my city they seem not to have engaged the services of a cyclist when it came to planning their cycle routes. The girl this morning was not in her own lane because the designated cycle route takes a detour a block over. No problem if you have a motor, but who in their right mind is going to waste energy pedalling further than they need to? My council has ticked the "cycle-friendly" box but has in reality done nothing to separate cyclists - inept or otherwise - from the rush-hour traffic.
     So that's enough ranting for the morning. Please excuse me, my heart rate will eventually return to normal and the steam coming from my ears will reduce in due course. One dubious benefit though - there's nothing like a panic-driven adrenaline rush to dispel those early morning girl-fog blues!


  1. I once nearly became a statistic, when like a fool, I pedaled down a city street while listening to some lively rock music on a pair of headphones. I was so wrapped up in pedaling to the beat of the music, that I completely ignored a stop light, then suddenly my peripheral vision picked up a van bearing down on me. I squeezed both brake levers as hard as I could, and laid the bike down sideways in the street, just missing a collision with the speeding van by inches.

    I liked the completely separate bike paths, that paralleled the streets in Fankfurt, when I lived there. Narrow bike lanes that are just painted onto the street as an afterthought, are virtually worthless, and leave the cyclist vulnerable to collisions with opening car doors. Out here in the country, you risk your life cycling on two lane shoulderless highways, with 55 MPH speed limits.

    Melissa XX

  2. I almost single handed got a cycle way instigated separate from traffic most of the way to my nearest city centre, naturally the council utterly failed to ask any cyclist for their opinion of the irritating little details which make sections a real pain!

    I loath riding in traffic now since few road users, car or bike seem to have any appreciation of or courtesy towards each other.

    Lucky escape for both of you.

    Caroline xxx

  3. We've all had our "moments" on a bike. I could pick from several.

    TBH I've given up on in-town riding because of the lack of courtesy, it's a jungle out there! Fortunately my town's small enough to walk most places.

    Long-distance riding in the UK is a pleasure once you hit the minor road network, but no fun on main roads.

  4. A very acceptable rant. Thank God for quick reflexes on your part, Jenny.

    Calie xxx

  5. Thank God I wasn't driving my other car, with its 50-year-old brakes!

    Mind you, I'd have been leaving an ENORMOUS gap had I been doing so.