Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards reflects on a recent close call and has a message for those behind the wheel.
Seemingly everything at the intersection was in my favour. I was first at the traffic lights waiting in a protected bike only area. I’d made eye contact with the person driving the car next to me. I had a green bike light giving me a few precious seconds head start. I was heading to the sanctuary of a quiet, bike friendly street.
The light turned green and I started pedalling. First, I sensed it. Then I heard it. The left turning person I’d eyeballed screeched their vehicle to a halt just centimetres from my right hip.
My head whipped around in shock. I saw a person with their hands up in apologetic surrender. No harm, no foul right? I continued on my way.
Over the next few hours my mind kept whirring. Asking myself a barrage of questions.
Why me? Why was I the one chosen to pedal away with just a scare when others aren’t so lucky?
What if that had’ve been curtains? How would my family cope? Would I suffer the torture of observing from afar all the things I was missing out on?
What was the person driving thinking? Were they so distracted they didn’t even see me? Even when I looked into their eyes? Were they sending a sneaky text? What was so urgent that they floored it in such a busy area?
Did I do something wrong? I’d had one of those days at the office where it takes all your strength to find the positives. Did the worry make me take off too slowly? Make my speed uneven?
What would it have done for ‘the cause’ if a bike advocate like me had been killed or seriously injured? Especially during National Road Safety Week. Would it scare others so much they left their bikes in the shed despite the fact that the risk of them being next is statistically miniscule? Would it give people behind the wheel the jolt needed to take their responsibility seriously?
What questions are the person driving now asking themselves? Have they even given that shocked person on the white bicycle on the corner of Landsdowne and Victoria Streets a second thought? Are they now a more attentive driver?
In the end, I had to put my mind into neutral and stop asking questions I couldn’t answer. All I could really do was be thankful that it was just a near miss. That I pedalled away with my body and bike intact. That I went home to my family, ate dinner, then went out and lost a tennis final (it really was an ordinary day).
But I know that everyone isn’t so lucky. So please take more care when you’re behind the wheel. Turn your phone off and put it in the boot. Don’t floor it no matter how late you are. Because you never know when it won’t be just a near miss.