It’s been a pretty rubbish fortnight as far as cyclist safety is concerned. 6 deaths in London has been a nationwide story these last couple of days.
Not since Sir Bradley Wiggins won Le Tour, or since Lance Armstrong (partially) ‘confessed on Oprah has cycling featured so heavily in the media.
Stories abound in the media this morning of Boris Johnson losing credibility with cyclists over his desire to ban headphones on cyclists, of police stopping cyclists in London to ‘advise’ on road safety and of course, of the recent deaths on the roads.
But is anything changing? Is anyone noticing?
Obviously one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but today seemed different as I rode into Nottingham.
Car, van, lorry and bus drivers seemed to be giving more room, and showing more patience, on the road.
I ride in through a couple of villages where there’s a great deal of road furniture (centre islands, etc) and normally cars will gun it to nip through as quickly as they can, but today the didn’t. Today they waited the extra 2 seconds.
Lorries gave enormous amounts of room, and cars waited.
As I over-took, or even under-took, cars moved out of the way to give me extra space. not just 1 or 2, but 75% of them.
Not once did I feel even slightly miffed at being passed so closely – and normally there’s at least 3 vehicles that will take liberties in the 10 miles.
Could it be that all the stories have made the non-cycling, car-drivng population sit up and take note of the fragility of human life out on the roads?
The lady behind the counter in a shop struck up a conversation about the terrible stories of late, wishing me a safe ride on my way in. No mention of tax, helmets or headphones, just a desire to see me safely about my day.
I had a long chat with my own wife last night about the stories in the news, obviously she is concerned as a wife and mother, and she expressed her wish that I would ride on footpaths on my journeys. what she doesn’t realise (and I will expand this to almost every car driver) is that so many footpaths are literally strewn with glass – in a 3 mile stretch accompanying a major road I have 11 patches, glasses, bottles and car windscreens. How can I ride of a path which will destroy my tyres on a daily basis?
So I ride on the road, rear lights, front lights, bright pink reflective rucksack cover, reflective ankles, gloves, sleeves and knees.
I do everything I can to be seen, whilst acting as if I am not.
And I hope to get home at night.
I’m fervently hoping that this carnage marks a watershed moment in the public consciousness. If it was a tainted batch of food that killed so many so quickly there would be uproar in the media, we can only hope the uproar continues.
It’s 2013, we no longer blame rape victims for the shortness of their skirts, nor do we blame the victims of a psychopathic killing spree – yet we seem to accept that it’s ok to blame cyclists.
Perhaps, if today’s experience was anything to go by, that might be changing. Perhaps drivers are noticing , paying attention and perhaps they will drive accordingly.
And then I can continue to get home every night, to hold my wife and kiss my children, and carry on doing an activity which hurts no-one and gives pleasure to so many.