Another cyclist was killed on the roads of London yesterday, so I have put aside the post I was working on to reflect a little on this tragedy and, selfishly, how it affects me.
According to the BBC website article about the incident this was the first cycling fatality in London this year. Road.cc concurs but adds it’s the fourteenth in Great Britain in less than a month! The Evening Standard adds a few witness testimonies to the story but it’s still hard to piece together exactly what happened from the available information.
The initial reports had a woman in her 30s, cycling through London during rush hour, sucked under a truck as it turned left. The woman’s age has since been quoted as 29 but the whole thing still strikes very close to home for me. I know to never let myself be caught on the inside of a large vehicle turning left (equiv. turning right in USA or other countries where you drive on the right), even if I’m turning too, indeed I do my best to never be on the inside of a large vehicle at all, overtaking them on the outside if the situation arises, but it’s hard to avoid sometimes.
Did she know that too? Could she see what was going to happen to her in the seconds before it did? I don’t know if she had put herself in that position not knowing how unsafe it was, either because she didn’t realise the truck was turning left or because she was unaware of the physics of long vehicles turning. I don’t know if the truck was overtaking her when it turned so she had no choice. Maybe she was just head-down, focusing on her ride and getting to where she was going on time, a trap into which I could so easily slip, especially in winter when I wear a tubular cloth around my head which partially blinkers me (I’m going to stop doing that now).
I’ve sat in the cab of a lorry, courtesy of the Metropolitan Police who seem to run bike/lorry safety sessions quite regularly near Kings Cross/St Pancras, around the corner from where I used to work. Even in modern lorries, with slanted dashboards and extra mirrors, visibility is very poor and the time required to check all the mirrors is easily sufficient for a bike to come alongside or slip in front. Without the extra mirrors (which are not required to be retro fitted into older lorries) and slanted dashboard the blind spots are enormous.
I just want to take a minute to think of this poor woman and her family, along with the other 13 fatalities and their families. Is it just luck that I haven’t joined their numbers or have I made my own luck – blazing lights; traffic awareness; obeying the rules of the road? Many of the principles I learnt during my driving lessons (half a lifetime ago) I have imported directly into my cycling, especially the first lesson my uncle (a driving instructor) ever taught me.
Always drive (or ride) as if everyone else on the road might be an idiot.
Chances are most of them won’t be but it’s always prepare me for when I encounter someone who is.