All entries for Tuesday 16 June 2009

June 16, 2009

Notes on a Car Crash

This entry has appeared in various forms in my head over the past couple of weeks. There’s the dreamy confused sitting at the side of the road and wondering what happened version, the far too graphic to publish in a place my mother might stumble across it version, the euphoria of being alive and the misery of being in pain. Somehow none of these quite captured what I felt, so we’ll have to settle for the matter of fact what can I learn from all this version; I’m sure it’s rather dull but I wanted to write it.

Two weeks ago I was hit by a car. I was riding home from the maths block at about four thirty and crossing over the roundabout by Canley fire station when a car who was joining the roundabout failed to see me. A last minute squeal of brakes was not enough to prevent her hitting me pretty square on and I rolled somewhat ungracefully over her bonnet before landing back on the road. As collisions between cars and bikes go this was not serious, spectacular maybe, but I walked away apparently undamaged with my bike needing only minor servicing.

What I did for the next thirty six hours wasn’t especially sensible. I felt no pain, I’d walked away from what could have been an extremely serious accident, I had adrenaline coursing through my veins and I felt on top of the world. I refused people’s offers to take me to hospital and got people’s details only as an afterthought. When the extremely upset driver rang me to check that I was still alive I assured her that everything was fine and that there was really nothing to worry about. Had my opinion been sought, I would probably have told her not to bother with her insurance company as it would just end up more expensive for her. So when I woke up two days later unable to sit up in bed I realised how fortunate I was that she had done everything through the book and her insurance company were accepting responsibility.

My mum reacted furiously, as is a mother’s prerogative, insisting that this stupid woman should be banned from driving. But I don’t think that covers it, this was bad driving but not the kind of bad driving that I don’t see regularly on the road, and to dismiss it as a chance encounter with an atrocious driver would be to close my eyes to the real danger of being a cyclist.

I have lived with the notion that one can ride defensively, setting yourself a metre out from the pavement so that cars will have to think about overtaking, that if you always have lights and don’t behave in a way that drivers won’t expect then you’re perfectly safe. This is a myth. Of Warwick’s fifty or so maths PhD students, at least four have been knocked off a bike at the Canley roundabout, a staggering statistic given that not all of them ride a bike or commute from Earlsdon.

Bike riders are vulnerable and hard to see, and while we may fume at the actions of bad car drivers we must also accept their existence as a reality that isn’t going to go away any time soon. So from now on I won’t be doing big roundabouts on my bike, and while I’m hesitant to start lecturing people on here I’d really encourage people reading this to think twice before tackling the fire station roundabout again, as far as I’m concerned it’s just not safe.

June 2009

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