Death on the Roads

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.

BBC article
road.cc article
Evening Standard article

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.

Stay safe,
Jen

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2 thoughts on “Death on the Roads

  1. I would like to see two laws introduced, which would cut some bike deaths and certainly reduce cyclist / driver friction: 1) Ban cyclists from wearing earphones with an on-the-spot and heavy fine and 2) Bring in a lower speed limit for cyclists. Too many cyclists are unaware of their surroundings because they have the music on or are chatting on the phone and too many of them ride too quickly and try to keep up with trucks etc. It’s time we really had a clamp down on dangerous cyclists who should not be on the roads. For too long it’s always been the motorists’ fault when an accident happens.

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    • Sweetie, sometimes I do have trouble working out when you’re serious or sarcastic. On this occasion I’m hoping you’re being sarcastic

      I agree with you that cyclists shouldn’t wear earphones. We need to be aware of our surroundings and the traffic. Then again, so does everyone on the roads, so motorists shouldn’t be allowed to wear earphones either. Should they be allowed to make phone calls, even hands free? That’s distracting too. Which brings us on to conversations with other passengers, and music on a car stereo… Oh and they should have their windows open so they don’t block the sounds of other traffic from outside?

      As for speed limits, I know a lot of cyclists and only and handful of them have the technology on their bikes to monitor their speed. I had a bike computer on my other bike but I lent that to a friend. I did have a larger gps computer on my current bike but that’s having a few technical issues so I took it off. There’s no legal requirement for me to have anything like that on my bike. Besides, surely it’s safer to travel at a speed comparable with the rest of the traffic as this reduces the need for other people to overtake.

      When it comes to issuing fines to cyclists, it’s a lot harder than handing them out to drivers. Make a note of the registration number of a motor vehicle and, assuming it’s not stolen, you have the name of someone at least connected with the driver at the time of the offence along with contact details. Make a note of offences against someone’s licence and you can track it back should they be pulled over again. With no registration or licencing of cyclists, enforcement becomes a nightmare. I’ve seen a man in black riding a bike with no lights up the wrong side of the road at night, what can I do? “Well officer, it was a dark bike, not very expensive-looking. He looked oriental, maybe in his 50s or 60s.”

      Drop me a text or email, or call me if you want to debate this further but know that the bottom line of my views are that if more people cycled and fewer drove the roads would be a lot safer for everyone. The Catch-22 is that until the roads are a lot safer, people are going to prefer sitting inside roll cages and crumple zones.

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