I was riding along the cycle path that runs the length of the A27 this week, like I often do. On turning a bend I saw a car had half pulled up onto the path, and had it’s hazards on. Naturally, I slowed down, and when I reached the car I asked the driver and her companion if they were ok. It conspired they had broken down, and had no phone signal, or any clue where they were! At this point they had already been on the path for some time. They thought the radiator needed water, so we emptied my water bottles into it, only to see it leak out the bottom and onto the road. Breakdown services it is then. My phone had signal so they were able to call the AA, and I was able to tell them exactly where the recovery vehicle needed to come. At this point I left them to wait for the AA, and rode off in search of water for my now empty bottles.
The fact is that even if I didn’t want to stop and help – I would have had to actively avoid eye contact and ride pass the driver, who was stood outside her car, with less than a metre between her and myself. I would have had to slow right down to squeeze past her anyway. Stopping wasn’t a decision – it was instinct, common sense, the only option.
Somewhat weirdly, it was almost the exact same spot that I came flying off my bike a couple of months ago. By just a few metres. I had been riding in the dark (with lights, of course) and a fox ran in front of me. Cue slamming on the brakes and hurtling over the handlebars. I wasn’t very hurt, but I was shaken up and freaked out. I stayed lying in the spot I hit the tarmac for about 2 minutes before getting up, and during that time I lost count of the number of cars that went past me. There’s no way they can’t have seen me – the lights on my bike were still flashing. The fact is, it’s difficult to stop suddenly when you’re driving along at 60 or 70. You’d probably cause your own accident. But if someone was concerned they could have pulled up at the lay-by just ahead and walked back. Anyway, whatever, I was fine – a friend came and rescued me – I had a cup of tea, laughed at my stupidity and was grateful that I wasn’t badly hurt.
It just makes you think, doesn’t it?
I’m not making a statement about ‘motorists’ or ‘cyclists’. But as a person in a car, you can hide. Pass on by without feeling bad. Pretend you haven’t noticed. And that’s just not the case on a bicycle.
(Apologies if you now have Gary Numan stuck in your head)