So, just a few days after I’d written about fear, I get a timely reminder of how it feels; and yes we are talking proper heart-in-mouth, hyperventilating, adrenaline-surging, brown-pant-inducing terror here.
On a morning commute last week, I was passing some parked cars when one of the doors was suddenly flung open a few feet in front of me. I managed to (just about) stop in time, although I did collide with the inside of the open car door. Fortunately the bike and I both stayed upright, and physically I got away with nothing worse than a bit of bruised arm.
The driver was not exactly a kindly chap either, after exclaiming ‘F**k!’ a couple of times and giving me a cursory glance to ensure I hadn’t actually done any damage to his car, he stomped off into a house opposite, leaving me ranting at the side of the road (in my rather polite, middle-class way) that perhaps he might want to look in his mirrors before opening his door in future?
I was lucky, that’s for sure. As I pedalled on towards work, my brain went into ‘what if’ overdrive … Before long I found myself blubbing inconsolably and shaking like a leaf, which forced a little sit-down on a conveniently situated garden wall to pull myself together. Shock does funny things to you.
My fears are justifed though. 600 cyclists a year are apparently injured in incidents like this, 92 of them seriously. A few years ago in London, I witnessed a cyclist being hit so forcefully by a car door that he was flung across the road into the path of oncoming traffic where he very narrowly escaped being hit by a truck. Recently, Labour MP Margaret Hodge knocked a cyclist off his bike in exactly the same way, although unlike the delightful gent I had a run-in with, she had the decency to be extremely apologetic, and no doubt will be far more considerate in future.
Until we have a comprehensive network of segregated cycle lanes (not likely this side of doomsday), cyclists on city streets will be a fact of life. And motorists will always need to park on those same streets. So drivers, please, please just take two seconds to look before opening that door eh, no matter how much of a rush you’re in, And cyclists, don’t be afraid to give parked cars a really, really wide berth, even if that means pissing off the driver behind you for a minute or two.