Cycling back and forth to work is a great thing as I’m reducing my carbon footprint, something I feel very good about in general, especially considering that my annual car mileage is under four thousand miles. However attempting to be good to the environment and looking after my health brings one very serious negative point, my life is at serious risk.
I have realised that it’s an inevitable fact that I am going to be involved in a road accident in the next few years, and I really don’t see any way to avoid it. In fact it has already happened, and that’s within my first year of cycling to my new work premises. Not just an accident either, but actively being run off the road.
On the fourteenth of November I was forced off the road and into a wall by a large truck. I was lucky.
Let me go through the events for you.
Cycling up the back road to my work is usually quite quiet. It’s a country road that’s used at rush hour as a shortcut, but it’s not overly busy. It’s a normal two lane road, apart from three places where bridges narrow into one lane. Two of these bridges have traffic lights placed either side of them, but are not yet operational, one of these bridges has no such lights.
This narrow bridge is located after a very long downhill straight that ends in a large bend shaped like a reverse question mark, the end of this bend is sharp enough to be almost a ‘u’ turn and is hidden by bushes, so you can’t really see around it until you turn to face the bridge. The bridge itself is about ten yards from the bend and narrows to about one lane for three or four yards with walls on either side, it then opens up to a two lane road and climbs a small hill, the crest of which is about fifteen yards on.
So I’m coming down the long straight doing around twenty miles an hour, slowing to start the bend I can hear a truck behind me. I, as always in traffic, am cycling near the middle of the lane as opposed to in the gutter – this not only makes it easier to cycle as I’m not bouncing around in the gutters and drains, but I also maintain control of my lane and encourage vehicles to actually overtake me and not just “get by” me.
Turning the final part of this bend so that I can now see the bridge and the hill, I suddenly hear the truck gun into life and I wonder what they are possibly trying to do when the road ahead narrows to a single lane. As I reach the bridge I see the truck begin to pass on my right hand side, and before the cab length has even passed me, it pulls in front to avoid hitting the far wall and therefore block the road ahead.
As soon as I see that it has cut right across me and not left enough room for me to keep going forward I make a sudden decision. Travelling at around twelve miles an hour, I turn the handlebars towards the left hand side of the road, ram on the brakes lifting my back wheel in the air, and skid towards the wall. As I crash into it I watch as the truck passes within centimetres of my right arm, and that is not an exaggeration.
Luckily for me I thought quickly and drove into the wall, and despite my back wheel being lifted into the air, it didn’t fall towards the truck and instead fell to the left towards the wall. Unfortunately for me I was attached to my bike by clip on shoes (SPDs) and still moving forward so my left leg was scraped against the wall and my front wheel took a fair bashing.
The truck pulled right in front of me, forced me off the road, and continued onwards. It headed up to the crest of the hill, remember that was just fifteen yards ahead, indicated right and pulled into the yard.
So the truck overtook me coming to a narrowing, one lane bridge, drove me off the road, and then stopped fifteen yards ahead to turn right. All the while without a care in the world.
Of course I was furious, more than that I was ready to punch the guy. So I raced up the hill, turned into the yard, and got off my bike absolutely fuming, I was ready to start shouting and screaming. Luckily I saw the other people around the yard, and the drivers attempts to totally ignore me. I took a sobering moment, and calmed long enough to get my Palm Pilot out and write down the details of his truck and the company.
Stephen J Dalton Skip Hire, I shall refrain from publishing the registration number as I have an active crime number from the Police now. That evening I headed to the Police station and submitted a report to a civilian receptionist. I’m still waiting for a Police visit and a statement to be taken, but at least I have my crime number for the insurance. The company shall be receiving a letter in the next few days requesting details of their insurance company and also notifying them of not only this accident, but a similar incident two days later.
Yes, it happened again. Different truck, this time it was actually just as I was passing the close of the bridge and the road began to open, the truck accelerated forward and squeezed by me with the same amount of space only to turn at the brow of the hill yards ahead.
You see although this has been the most extreme example to date, incidents like this are happening on a daily basis, even on an individual trip. There’s about two or three times a trip that I’m either cut up by another vehicle, or undercut. This morning I was in the outside lane of a roundabout and a vehicle drove up my inside, the left hand side of my bike where there was only half a lane to the pavement! Straight through pushing to get to their turn off. Crazy.
I doubt it will be long before some driver actually knocks me off my bike and attempts to kill me. Indeed they might even succeed. What I don’t want is for this to be quoted in my local newspaper as the man who blogged of his own death.
So why don’t you drivers out there wise up and give some serious respect to cyclists. I don’t want to die at the hands of a driver just trying to push by me because they can gain a few seconds on their journey. Stop being impatient and overtake bikes, don’t just get by. They have a right to the entire lane too, despite their width.
I’ll keep you updated on the Police and the Skip Hire Company developments, as long as you drivers allow me to keep the use of my hands that is.