Just last week, a teammate of ours here in Canada was hit by vehicle while out cycling. And about 24 hours ago, back home in Malaysia, national athlete Kimbeley Yap was hit during her ride (news report here). As far as I know, Kimbeley is the only Malaysian athlete who has participated in the South East Asian games in three separate sports - swimming, cycling and triathlon with the highlight being two gold medals in triathlon, one in 2005 and another in 2007. I have them both in my prayers and wishing them both a speedy recovery.
News of cyclists being hit are unfortunately, very common. And these two recent cases pinches me a bit closer to home, hence this blog post. I'm not going to waste my time on those who speak or type through their butt holes with insensitive comments such as it was partly the cyclist's fault or the cyclist asked for it. Let me get this straight. NO ONE ASKS TO BE HIT. Even if it was partly the cyclist's fault, the consequences for the cyclist are a lot more significant - broken bones, long term to permanent injury and even, death! Than say, compared to... a dented bumper! Thankfully, both Kimbeley and my teammate are in stable conditions and are recovering, slowly but surely.
There are some common responses though, are well meaning, I would like to touch on.
Always be careful while cycling
My apologies for being overly sensitive but I think this implies that the cyclist who was hit was not careful in the first place. Yes, I cannot deny that there are cyclists who ride recklessly and blatantly flout traffic rules. These are dickheads and give cyclists, in general, a bad reputation. Most cyclists are law abiding. We try to minimize risks - wear bright colours, pick less busy roads, have lights on when it's dark, indicate when we are going to turn, stop at red traffic lights, ride as close as possible to the edge of the road without risking a puncture from debris or falling over cracks. I do not have the specific details of the two incidents above, but I'm sure, being seasoned cyclists, they would both have exercised as much as caution as possible.
Pick another sport
Not all sports are done in the safety of the gym or the badminton court. Most, if not all sports have their inherent risks. Of course, some more risky than others. A downhill skier has a higher risk than a lawn bowler. For cyclists, apart from being exposed to other fast moving vehicles on the road, we also face the risk of falling in challenging terrains with fast corners and downhill sections. Although we chose this sport knowing these risks, a little awareness from other users on the road goes a long way. Ironically, I have a permanent scar on my right shin, due to a fall I had not while cycling, but when I tripped over a rowing machine in the gym a few years ago.
Cycle in groups
Safety in numbers, I won't disagree with this one. With a bigger group, hopefully we would be more visible to motorists and there is a lower probability of getting hit. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Most of us who do this sport have full time jobs and other commitments. Getting a group of people with similar abilities to ride together, can be difficult at times. And an accident like this can still happen while cycling in a group if motorists are not aware. Just last year, another Malaysian national cyclist was killed while cycling in a group training ride.
Stay off the big roads
I quote Ng Yong Li, Malaysian national cyclist, The road is my office. Like it or not, I have to be at my office. I'm far from being an elite or a national athlete but I am competitive in my own right, always pushing myself to enhance my performance. My performance would be very limited if I restricted my cycling to doing rounds in the park or in my neighbourhood paths. Cycling in these places are not necessarily safer either with children playing, pedestrians walking or running and vehicles reversing out of their driveways with many blind spots. Cyclists are not foolish. Whenever possible, we pick roads that we believe are less busy. Unfortunately, you would also find that vehicles tend to overspeed in roads with less traffic.
This is not a finger pointing post. But more to create awareness. I know the above responses all mean well but it still shows, in my opinion, a lack of awareness. To make all roads cycle friendly requires planning, infrastructure and funding. This takes a while. However, if motorists are more aware, the risk of an accident involving a cyclist would be reduced.
When you walk through a narrow corridor and if there is someone walking at a slower pace in front of you, won't you slow down as you pass that person? Similarly on the road, won't you slow down and check to see if the lane next to you is clear before you overtake a slower vehicle in front? Why should this be any different if you are overtaking a cyclist? I've lost count the number of times a vehicle has zoomed past me with less than a meter clearance from my shoulder. No matter whose fault it is, a cyclist always loses in a collision.
I'm a cyclist but I'm also a road user. More importantly, I'm a husband, a son, a brother and god willing, someday, a father too. My life is no less valuable than a motorist just because I cycle on the road. So when you're driving, remove all distractions - no texting, reading or eating. If you have a cyclist blocking your way, give a friendly honk and we'll be more than happy to move aside and let you pass. It'll only take a few seconds. Let's all be courteous and share the road.
With that, I end this post with this video clip (not mine, so full credit to the owner).