Friday, March 4, 2016

Near Misses

I have a theory that people who regularly cycle must filter out their near misses.  I have taken part in the Near Miss Project and both times my diary included several unpleasant “near misses”.  Well the first two and a half weeks of this year I was off my bike after a stupid stumble on the bottom step of a flight of stairs. I managed to sprain both ankles, one would have been unfortunate, two was careless!

So I was full of the joys of Spring when I managed to get out and cycle again.  Given I was only off my bike for a short time I was surprised at how reckless some drivers are when it came to my life.  Perhaps I was sensitive to split-second accidents after having a split-second moment of my own and enduring the consequences. However even now a month on I can clearly remember three incidents and with a minor bit of effort recall a fourth annoyance.

The first incident was being overtaken by a car on a blind double bend – in Swaffham Bulbeck as it happens. Normally I would cycle on NCN51 which takes you around the back of the village up Quarry Lane, however | was taking things easy and avoiding hills – which is quite an easy thing to do in the flatlands.

Approaching the double bends – Swaffham Bulbeck

The good thing is that the car gave me plenty of room – pretty much up to Highway code rule 163 standards. However there was now way they could tell what was coming the other way.  This time there was a car – both were forced to a standstill – the overtaking car didn’t swerve in at me, although most cyclists will have experienced having vehicles swerve in front of them when approaching junctions or pinch-points.  In my mind that was careless driving.

The second incident occurred when I was cycling along the Stretham Road (A1123) between the Upware Road and Way Lane.  This is a straight and fast bit of road and accidents are not uncommon. According to the UK crash map there have been four slight and four serious accidents on the road between 2005 and 2014!  I personally have been past in the aftermath three of the accidents.

So I was cycling towards Way Lane when two cars came towards me at 60+ mph, I was to the left of my white line, but not able to go onto the verge because of the drainage channels. So it seems that rule 163 doesn’t count for oncoming cyclists!  That was scary, but over in the blink of an eye. A car travelling at 60mph covers the ground at 27metres/second.  If a bike is two metres long and a car 4m then the overlap takes about two tenths of a second. Which is just slightly longer than the blink of an eye at 0.1 to 0.15 seconds.   The driver should not have overtake, I was wearing a bright yellow jacket – however that driver was not to be thwarted in his (yes it was a he, surprise, surprise) need for speed.

The third incident was another overtake on a blind double bend, this time in Lode. The pickup truck driver wasn’t bothered about rule 163 and passed me with around 1m and then turned in on me as he went past. I was forced into the kerb and the truck passed within 5cm of my front wheel. To my mind that was a classic “cyclists are not traffic and can be treated as if they don’t exist” style of driving. It probably wasn’t life threatening – but could easily have broken my collar bone if he had caught me.  About a quarter of a mile along there was a temporary set of traffic lights, I easily caught him up. I was pretty damn cross though and decided it was probably better not to get involved in a shouting match.

The final incident was on NCN51 cycling along Bell Road in Bottisham. The road has acquired some new speed warning signs that report your speed in green if under 30mph and red if over.  A transit van went past me at 40mph. It gave room and in this instance wasn’t scary – but a clear disregard for road safety.

I am now nearly a 1000Km on and I have stopped remembering my near misses.

Upware Washes

White Fen

White Fen Pylons

The track to Oily Hall