"The future foretold, the past explained, the present...apologised for.”
Doctor Who. BBC TV (1979)
Doctor Who. BBC TV (1979)
After 20 years I had finally bought a road bike. It was great fun. Much had moved on since my steel-framed Dawes Windsor touring bike from the early 1980s.
The countryside around Otley is ideal for cycling, with enough hills to test even the most fit of athletes, some relatively quiet backroads, and a range of great views. I was getting out for up to 50 miles (80 kilometres) a week and I was starting to feel better for it.
But, as I lay flat on my back on the pavement staring at the sky, the joys and health benefits of cycling seemed a little less clear.
COVID-19 has rather stolen the headlines of late, with other major concerns such as the ‘obesity crisis’ and global warming pushed to the inner pages. But this has ‘suddenly’ changed with reports about how obesity may make us more vulnerable to COVID-19 (Actually, this was being reported in the early days of the pandemic https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/16/health/coronavirus-obesity-higher-risk.html) . Boris Johnson, the UK PM has now announced that he is to promote cycling and that GPs will prescribe bicycles to mitigate obesity.
Although one hopes not to be taken orally.
With atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations reaching 416.39 ppm in June (https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/), even with lockdown, and rapidly heading to Miocene values, a geological time that ended some 5 million years ago, could this also be the start of mitigating both climate change and obesity by getting the population away from cars and out walking or cycling?
But this needs to be more than a headline and more than just lending someone a bike.
I was certainly minded to think on this as I lay flat out on the pavement...
A car heading towards me had cut across me into a side road without stopping. Unfortunately, I was in-between. I remember being hit, then nothing, and then looking up at the sky and people around me.
Ok, so there are bad cyclists, and certainly, in some of our cities, there are idiots without helmets or lights or, unbelievably, brakes, who are a threat to everyone not least themselves.
But car drivers have the upper hand. No matter how bad the cyclist, if you hit them in a car, the cyclist will come off worse.
So, let me suggest some ideas to mitigate the risks and get more people out and fit.
Some of you will disagree vehemently with some of these I am sure.
Grounds for a potential conflict in the kitchen..
What can Governments and planners do?
What cyclists can do
What drivers can do
At the end of the day, I was lucky. I didn’t have a broken femur as initially thought, and my shoulder is still in one place, the right place. Yes, I did have to cancel a month of business meetings, but I lived to cycle another day, albeit with some ‘major’ scars to remind me of how vulnerable life is.
But in the two years since my accident, I have only ventured out on my bike once… That is not so good
"The sun was in our eyes" is a very poor excuse indeed.
A pdf version of this blog is available here for download