The daily miracle of survival
At times, it seems that it is something of a war for cyclists in the nation’s capital. Over 38 years of London cycling, I had been left unconscious three times, twice with three broken ribs. That was until last night.
The first time was when I was hit by an Indonesian driver in Bow Street (his first day out on British roads; I only woke up to cracked ribs when I flew later that day to Cairo and tried to lie down to sleep in the hotel), again in the early 2000s when I was hit on a dark, rainy night in Lonsdale Road, Barnes, by someone who pulled out without warning, with no lights on, and drove off, leaving me in the road, and then again in 2006 – when a Mongolian woman (second day out on British roads) hit me at over 30 miles an hour in Olympia, while I was in a cycle lane. It turned out that she had been struggling to put a seat belt back on her daughter in the back seat, while continuing to drive at more than the speed limit.
I have been aggressively shunted from behind by a driver in Hammersmith, but to date nothing compares with last night – when three men rammed me from behind in Berwick Street, again leaving me semi-conscious in the roadway. We all have African origins, as was abundantly clear from my recent 23andMe genetic test results, but these three were more recent arrivals.
The incident started when one of them shouted at me as they arrived from behind at a set of lights. IAs the lights changed, I stopped to see what they were saying. At least one seemed to be inebriated, while a third in the back tried to calm the other two. Despairing of getting any sense out of them, I turned south into Berwick Street. There was a blast on a horn and then they rammed me from behind. I was off the bike, banged my head on the road – but luckily was wearing a helmet, which took the brunt of the impact. I lay for a couple of minutes semi-conscious while people gathered around.
Luckily, many of those who saw the incident came up to offer themselves as witnesses. Then, and perhaps I should have expected this, as soon as the road was cleared of my bike, the offending driver drove off. My sense is that at least one of the three men in the car was under the influence of drugs. No-one had initially got out of the car, apparently, but when the driver did he kept saying: “You were going slow, so I hit you.” It was clear to the witnesses that he had intended to. The impact damaged my back mudguard and smashed his front number plate, which was dangling into the road.
His car was small and black, and the license number was: BF55 VZG. Luckily, at least five of the witnesses had independently taken down the number. The police are coming this evening to take a second statement.
I had a damaged, bleeding ankle, butmanaged to cycle home, though the Dawes bike that has seen me through so many incidents was once again squeaking in complaint – and is in need of a good massage.
Eventually we must hope that London will be much safer for cyclists, but I suspect that will only be the case if we re-weight the legal balance. We should follow the Dutch model of making all drivers responsible for any accidents involving cyclists — and track down egregious offenders like those last night. As a minimum, they should be stopped from driving for a year and forced to retake the driving test.