I’ve always been the first one to berate poor drivers that don’t consider the safety of cyclists. And like most cyclists on the road today, I’ve seen it all. Aggressive behaviour, failing to give way, passing too close, lack of patience and an overt disregard for others safety.
I’ve seen several of my fellow cyclists seriously injured, and my life flash before my eyes when I was two inches away from becoming a Xmas decoration for the front of a semi trailer.
But …… what’s it like to be on the other side of the equation?
Like all budding triathletes I’m up early each morning to commence training before the sun gets up. And like all busy people I’m trying to maximise my sleep by waking up at the very last second with just enough time to do what I have to do to get out the door in time.
And this morning was no exception. Except for the fact that I had no cash to pay for pool entry, and they don’t take card. Agh …. an ATM stop!! That wasn’t factored in to my morning, I better hurry!
I threw my gear into the car and flew out the driveway and down the street. There aren’t many cars on the road at this time of the morning so surely it wouldn’t hurt to slightly increase speed levels to accommodate this extra stop? Surely!?
I headed to the ATM, retrieved my money and sped off. As I arrived at the intersection to the main road I glanced left and I glanced right and saw no cars. So as I rolled forward, slammed it into 2nd and headed around the corner. And that’s when it happened. I became what I feared most.
I had looked straight through, and past a lady riding her bike as if she didn’t exist. My brain was only looking for cars, not for cyclists, not for pedestrians, not for that stray dog etc.
She wasn’t going fast and she wasn’t doing anything silly. She was riding a commuter bike with a basket, and at a glance, looked healthy, fit and alert. Much more alert than I was. I saw nothing until I was within a metre of taking her out. Thankfully she veered towards the centre of the road which afforded me the stopping time needed to avoid a collision.
But what if there were cars on the other side of the road and she couldn’t get out of my way? What if I did in fact hit her? Was I a few seconds away from killing someone?
My immediate reaction was that of guilt, embarrassment and concern. I felt stupid and hypocritical. Wow …. it’s that easy. A split second lack of concentration and a life could be over.
Now some of you might be thinking I’m being a little dramatic. But, let’s look at how this may have potentially played out.
No matter what age you are when you get hit by a car it all comes down to how and where you’re hit, and how you inevitably fall. Friends of mine have broken collar bones, ribs, vertebrae, arms and legs from just falling off their bike on the own accord, never mind being helped by a Honda travelling at speed. My wife came off her bike 6 months ago and the resulting brain injury is still not healed. These injuries all come at a cost, and all take many months in recovery. Sometimes years.
On this particular occasion the lady looked at least 60 years old, and I reckon people don’t bounce so well at that age! What if this was her only form of exercise and she hurt herself to the point where she could no longer ride? Or worse, what if she died as a result of her injuries?
For 10 seconds of time saved I could have been staring down the barrel of a reckless driving charge, or worse …….. manslaughter. Two families could have been majorly impacted for the sake of 10 seconds. Yet everyday on our roads drivers are doing just that. Putting others lives at risk for the sake of a few seconds.
The ongoing tension that exists between cyclists and drivers is irrelevant in the end. It makes no difference who was right and who was wrong, who’s the biggest wanker or who won the argument on that never ending Facebook post.
The end result is that the lives of both partys will be impacted for ever! As the driver you have to live with the knowledge that you killed someone. And as the rider …… well, that’s it, life is over. No more bunch rides for you.
So I implore all drivers and cyclists alike to slow down, stay alert and be considerate of your fellow commuter. They may be your friend, your neighbour, someone’s son or in this case someones mother and grandmother.
Please leave the agro at home and try and leave home 10 seconds earlier. It could be your mother whose life depends on it.
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