Yesterday was a good ride into work. The sun was trying to shine (unlike today!), and it wasn’t raining, freezing cold or blowing a howling gale. It felt like spring was finally on the way.
Most importantly, my ride into work yesterday morning didn’t end with me under the wheels of a lorry.
Sadly, that’s more than can be said for the rider of the bike in the picture above. She was killed, crushed by a left-turning lorry, as she cycled near Victoria in central London during the morning rush hour.
There’s something deeply shocking about this picture of her mangled bike. Just looking at it, with its buckled wheels and broken frame, fills me with a sense of horror. It shows just how brutal the impact must have been, and how fragile a bike is – not to mention a human life – compared to the massive hulking weight of the lorry.
It also reminds me – as if I needed to be reminded – just how vulnerable we are out on the roads.
Cycling in rush hour traffic in the centre of London is challenging. Yes, there are rules we’re supposed to follow: we’re supposed to cycle on the left of the traffic, we’re supposed to overtake, not undertake, and we’re supposed to stop at red lights. But when you’re fighting for space on narrow, busy streets choked with cars, buses, taxis, motorbikes, pedestrians, lorries and other cyclists those rules become blurred very easily.
What do you do when there’s no room on the left? When you’re going faster than the rest of the traffic? When you need to turn right? When there’s a line of cyclists, one behind each other, all waiting for the lights to change? When a bus is trying to pull out in front of you? When there’s a lorry alongside you? When you want to go forwards when someone else is trying to turn left?
Cycling in these situations means having to make on-the-spot decisions about what’s safe, while trying to second-guess what other road users are going to do. Experience has taught me to make the right decision almost all of the time: I’ve been cycling here for over ten years, and in that time I haven’t had a single major accident and only two minor ones.
But it’s incredibly easy to make the wrong decision, to find myself in the wrong place at the wrong time – in someone’s blind spot, or on the wrong side of a line of traffic when the lights change. And, as yesterday’s tragic incident showed, all it would take is one driver not to be looking, one driver not to see me, and that would be it.
I sincerely hope it won’t be. I hope that whatever has kept me safe for the past ten years will continue to do so. Sadly, not everyone is so lucky, and my heart goes out to the family and friends of the woman killed yesterday. May she rest in peace.