Tuesday 1 December 2009

Cycling Safety - Near Accident near Cambridge

This happened to me today on the Hardwick Road just north of Toft, Cambridgeshire. It's so close to an accident I didn't know what to do for a few minutes. Luckily, my legs do just have this habit of going round until my mind returns, so I found myself a bit further on.

However, that's not the nub of this blog. It's more a description and my analysis of what happened. It gives a pretty obvious reason why people don't want to cycle and some kind of ammunition to those calling for more resources to be put into making cycling safer.

So, first a couple of things to observe from the offset of this 20 second video. Note that my camera is mounted on the right hand side of my helmet (and at a slight angle!). It shows that I'm travelling along the edge of the road and in a consistent line. Also, there is clear sight of a lorry and 2 cars in the next 200 or so yards.

Now, listen to the skid that occurs at 4 seconds into the video. This is a car coming up behind me at speed looking to overtake me and finding, at the last moment, that they can't.

Quite what the driver was thinking I don't know. Perhaps they thought that there is enough space on the road for a bike and two passing cars? Looking at the space on the road, that clearly isn't the case. Perhaps they had only registered the lorry and was seeking to pull out after it passed only to discover the following cars? Again, these cars are fairly obvious. Possibly the driver simply wasn't concentrating on the road? Either way, I think most people would consider this driving to be appalling.

Now, the noise of this skid was considerable to say the least. And it was long enough for me to realise what it was, mentally calculate that it might not end before striking me, and take my heart to somewhere near my throat.

My state of mind directly after this was awash with concern. As previously said I went into auto-mode which includes continuing to pedal. However, my speed dropped, I kept trying to look round to see what the car behind was trying to do next. Somehow I was calm-ish, although still concerned that my life might end very soon.

As the car passed, you can see how far into the other lane the driver had to go to pass safely and avoid hitting me. I do remember seeing the driver with shoulder length blond-ish hair. You can't make that out on the video. You can make out the toy stuck to the glass in the back window indicating that the driver probably had a young child, not necessarily in the car. After the car passed it was clearly a small red hatchback (a Fiesta?) with numberplate Y246 WCB (or possible D last). I wish I could get a screenshot of the numberplate, it is quite clear on one frame, but my software isn't up to it.

Now, you may think that this is a one-off event, that cars rarely come so close to causing an accident. However, it's far from the truth. When cycling regularly, and I'm not cycling in the rush hour, it happens once or twice a week to me. Not necessarily the sharp breaking, mostly its missing my right hand by a few inches at 50-60mph. Roads like this one, Long Road north from Comberton, Coton Road north-west from Granchester, Hinton Way north-east from Great Shelford, and Lilm Kiln Road south from Cherry Hinton.

This can hardly be a conducive atmosphere for encouraging less short-range car journeys and more cycling. These are exactly the sort of roads from local Cambridge villages that need to be made safe.

Now, the other issue is should I report this? If someone had taken a pot shot at me with a small firearm most people wouldn't think twice. However, cyclists put up with this danger quite regularly without reporting it. Despite the scenario being any less dangerous and any less deliberate.


  1. You can check number plates online at https://www.mycarcheck.com/

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