This post will be unpopular amongst many cyclists. And I don’t care.
London, in recent weeks, has been at the forefront of cycling-related Twitterings. A number of terribly tragic deaths has had cyclists on the social media website screaming from every corner of the country about road safety in the capital, inequality between road users, Boris bloody Johnson, buses and, in particular, HGVs.
Comments range from the still-a-long-way-from-sublime to the utterly ridiculous. Blame, by the online cycling community, at least, is hurled at everyone but the injured/deceased cyclist, but are they really entirely without some degree of blame?
Road Traffic Accidents are, in emergency services parlance, no longer called ‘accidents’. They’re called ‘collisions’. The reason behind this was that, regardless of intent, at least one party to the incident did something that resulted in a collision. In studying these incidents more closely, it was found that, in almost every single case, more than one of the parties involved acted in a manner that contributed to the crash. There exists degrees of culpability, but few are solely the fault of just one individual.
Few places demonstrate this better than the British motorway. The unwitting three-in-a-bed, where C is in lane three, overtaking B in lane two, who is likewise overtaking A in lane one. All at the same time. Few experienced drivers will have ever considered the utter stupidity of such actions. It’s normal, acceptable, safe every day motorway driving, isn’t it? Normal and acceptable, yes. Safe, not even close. In the event of an incident where avoiding action may need to be taken, Drivers B and C have, by their actions, reduced their options by a third. 33.3%. Accelerate or brake. They do have new third, of course, but who deliberately crashes?
Cyclists aren’t allowed to ride bicycles on the motorway, so what’s my point?
It’s this. Driving standards are poor in this country. And so are cycling standards. Systematic use of careful observation, early anticipation and planning, and the constant and consistent reassessment of such are huge factors is the staying alive process. If cyclists in big cities were to think just what they’re doing, they would never, ever ride down the nearside of a stationary bus or lorry. Think about it. You can’t out-run it, and you’ve a whole truck to come past before braking is going to save you. The railings on your left that you thought would be nice to hold on to, and save you taking a foot from your Keos, is the thing that’s taken away your only escape route. All that’s left is to go under the wheels of the lorry that, through no fault of the driver who’s blind spot you’ve never been out of, kills you.
So, here’s a quid’s worth of free advice. Up your game. Observation is everything you can see, not just the next fifty or one hundred metres. Never stop looking, never stop evaluating. Everything is a hazard and, therefore, potentially dangerous, until proven otherwise. Think of it like this: reducing your culpability makes you safer (and, if things do go wrong, richer…although I’d prefer legs to a bulging bank balance).
Give yourself options, and never, ever EVER cut off your escape routes.