Tomorrow I will kiss my two beautiful children and my wife goodbye. I know I’ll wonder whether I will ever see them again. I’m not a member of the emergency services, nor brave enough to be a soldier, I’m a cyclist.
I know that when I leave them I will be gifted a near-death experience by either a motorist ‘buzzing’ me by passing too close (and breaking the law in doing so), speeding toward me (and sometimes even speeding up) when passing me going the opposite way on rural roads, turning across my path or driving without due care and attention, I know it’s coming and I can do nothing to prevent it.
None of my friend’s or family who have been killed or maimed ‘on the bike’ have done so because of something they did. They include the victim of one ton of metal hitting them from from behind, a car driven by a mother who was at that moment turning round to deal with her errant toddlers, or the lorry driver who came down a slip road and drove straight over the cyclist he did not see.
We don’t live in a war zone; we should be able to enjoy the sport, which does so much for the health and well being of children and adults, without fear of death. However road injury statistics continue to show that whilst road deaths are going down, the number of cyclists killed on the roads are rising.
So it should be no surprise when those people who ride bikes react strongly when conversations on cycle safety turn to the perennial argument that cyclists should stop jumping red lights and stop riding irresponsibly. An argument akin to saying that we should ignore punish stupidity with death.
These arguments serve only to distract away from the need to push for better driving standards and road infrastructure to save lives.
We are as vulnerable as newborns when we take to the roads we pay for. Yes, we all pay for the roads. The myth of road tax is slowly being eroded. There is no road tax; there is vehicle excise duty, which does not pay for the road, it is a levy based on CO2 emissions, which goes to the Treasury.
As a taxpayer and payer of council and other non-direct taxes, which go toward the upkeep of the transport system, I pay my fair share for the roads on which I ride.
The roads were not built for cars; we are all valid road users. One person in a car is no more important than a person on a bike; the addition of an engine and horsepower does not grant immunity from the usual rules governing society.
If I slow you down then I am afraid you’ll have to slow down but I will do my very best to respect you as a fellow road user as I am also the owner of two cars, I am therefore neither cyclist nor driver, I am a bloke who just wants to get home safely to see his wife and children.