I came off my bike again on Thursday evening – and I mean properly came off. No getting my trousers caught, or skidding down the ramp at work for me this time.
No, those were just practice runs ahead of the main event.
I was on my way home from work when it happened. I’d taken a detour to stop off at Sainsbury’s in Camden, and I was heading down Parkhurst Road towards the junction with Holloway Road when I very suddenly came off my bike.
It all happened so quickly I had no time to react at all. One second I was cycling along, thinking about dinner and getting in from the rain, and the next second I was on the ground.
Nothing hit me, and I didn’t hit anyone else. In fact, there was no one else involved. Just me, the Trusty Steed and the tarmac.
In retrospect, it’s clear that I skidded, and that there was something on the road surface – other than just the day’s accumulation of rain – that had caused me to do so. But in those first seconds after I came off, I had no idea what had happened.
I just sat there in the road, stunned.
Having never come off my bike in quite this way before, I hadn’t realised just what effect it would have on me. Even though I knew I wasn’t badly injured – a quick inventory told me the only bit that was hurting was my arm, but as I could move it, I knew it wasn’t broken – the shock of the impact left me speechless and practically immobile.
In my head I was telling myself to get up, pick my bike up and get out of the road, but for some reason the message just didn’t get through to my limbs. If it weren’t for all the concerned people who stopped to check I was OK and to look after me, there’s every possibility I would still be sitting in the middle of the road now.
There was a young guy called Chris who called for an ambulance, who called the police when two other cyclists came off in exactly the same spot, who lent me his hoodie when I got cold, and who gave me a fiver when I decided to get a taxi rather than wait for the ambulance.
There was a woman called Ella, on her way home from the gym, who was the first to reach me in the road and who stayed with me until I got in the taxi.
There was a guy called Sam who lived around the corner, who provided me with a cup of tea I couldn’t drink and biscuits I couldn’t eat, who lent me his jacket and hat when I was still shivering despite Chris’s hoodie, who likewise gave me money for the taxi, and who took the Trusty Steed home with him so that it would be safe.
There were others, too, whose names I didn’t get: those who stuck around for just a few minutes – long enough to check I was OK – as well as those who waited with me in the rain.
It wasn’t what they did that mattered, or how long they stayed. It was the kindness they showed – the way they were willing to help me, even though it meant getting home late for dinner, even though it meant getting wet and cold, even though I was a complete stranger.
That kindness will stay with me long after the scars on my arm have faded.
To Chris, Ella, Sam and the others who helped me – thank you.