Riding Blind : Dead Hippy Axle Dressing vs Situational Awareness

Riding Blind

For my first post in a long long time, I’m going to talk about some things I have rarely mentioned since I started this blog. Those being cycling and blindness.

There is a reason – apart from whimsy – why this blog is called “Blind Cyclists’ Union”. I am a long time cyclist, and I am also ‘blind’. You’ll note that I’ve put quotes around that ‘blind’ there, because, apparently, ‘blind’ is a spectrum rather than a binary condition.

Well, it is according to those who are responsible for labelling the disabled in order to better pigeon-hole and patronise them – as the DWP (and they should know!) tells us :

Most people who are registered blind have some degree of residual vision.

Yeah, it came as a surprise to me as well, but there you go, in order to be registered blind, you don’t actually have to be.

So the question arises : “How blind ?”. And the answer is, frankly, fucked if I know. I mean how am I supposed to measure it ? Blind enough to be registered, that’s for sure, which is moire than blind enough to fail the mandatory DVLA sight test by a wide margin. It used to be a red letter day if I managed to guess the second line on an eye chart. It’s not correctable, and it obviously degrades with age like everybody else’s. There are additional complications around dazzling from bright lights, ‘floaters’ and various stuff.

Whatever. Anyway, 99.9% of the time this is utterly and profoundly irrelevant. I only bring it up because of a recent spate of spew from the cycling lobby which has particularly boiled my piss.

On Yer Bike

As I mentioned above, I am also a cyclist. I have been since I was a child. I ride on the roads. Less so these days – in my late 30s I trust my reactions less than I used to – but still reasonably regularly. Shock horror, eh ?

Anyway, there’s the background on my end, lets get on with the overheated urine.

Fuck Off Jon Snow

Initially my ire was aroused by this piece in the Indy, whereby Jon (C4 News Snow), the CTC and the Indy have all started a campaign to “Save our cyclists”.

Here’s a gem

The campaign aims to protect cyclists from lorries and buses, which account for a disproportionate number of the 230 cyclists killed or seriously injured every month on Britain’s roads.

HGVs and buses are the largest vehicles on the roads, and have by far the most limited fields of view. You are likely to be KSId if one drives over you, that’s for sure. Then again, they are the most visible – and most visibly dangerous – vehicles on the road as well, so it should be a surprise that they are involved with so many cycle deaths. But somehow I don’t think that’s the point that the Indy is trying to make.

Ambush Predator flags up that on the same day the AA launched a cycling safety campaign by giving away a huge number of free helmets and hi vis tabards. I’d have taken them up on that like a shot, free stuff – what’s not to like ?

Well according to the Evening Standard article AP links to and to it’s author’s blog a number of cyclists did indeed take the huff. The published comments are sourced directly from Twitter – of course – here’s a gem :

Oh, ho ho ho, my sides to fucking split.

Wait A Mo, Did You Say On The Roads ?

@geographyjim’s timeline contains various other tweets insinuating that all cycle deaths are the fault of poor drivers, criminals in charge of HGVs and the like. I am living proof that this is simply not true.

I’ve been riding around on the roads – busy roads mind you – with lorries and buses for more than twenty years, and I am not dead. Here is a full list of all the accidents I have had in that time involving other vehicles.

Cluster Bomb

Age around 13, riding down my own street my chain came off, looked down at chain, became one with parked red Renault 5 stuffing face through rear driver side light cluster. Ouch. Knocked on owners door, paid for damage – well, my rightly angry dad paid, and it took many weeks of car washing and the like to pay it off. Spent about an hour picking glass and plastic out of face. Entirely my fault.

Junction Dysfunction

Age maybe 15, Riding home from school along busy A road, approaching minor junction with cul-de-sac, judged safe to cross junction as nose to tail traffic blocking vehicle egress from junction. Driver of white Ford Sierra decides to poke his nose out anyway, not paying attention, hits me. Arrive at road surface via bounce off red Ford Transit van on my right who was also crossing junction. Minor scrapes to me + van. Front teeth removed from Sierra driver by owner of red Transit, front bumper of Sierra ripped free by cycle pedal. Fault ? 50/50. He wasn’t looking, but his idiot behaviour was entirely predictable. I should have been watching him, not judging simply by traffic conditions. Surprised ? Transit driver was, he entirely blamed Sierra man. And he made him pay for the dent.

Rib ‘n’ Saucy

Age 30+, proceeding at speed (35 MPH) down steep hill through small light industrial area, vehicle (silver two door hatchback of some kind) reverses out of parking area in front of light industrial unit. Doesn’t see me. Taking evasive action I go wide and hit the kerbstone on the other side of the hill resulting in spectacular and very long distance pile up. Vehicle drives off, almost certainly never saw me. I arrive at destination 30 miles later bruised and bloodied. Subsequently it turns out that I have bust almost the ribs down the right side of my body and a couple on the left. That made the two mile stretch of disused rail track fun.

Fault ? Mine entirely. I know the road, I was going way to fast for the hazard level and not paying enough attention.

That’s all of them.

Dead Hippy Axle Dressing

So, if all of these cycling KSIs can be blamed on drivers, someone needs to tell me how come I – with my ‘low vision’/’partial/restricted sight’/blindness or whatever we’re calling it this week – have been managing to cycle around on busy roads and in bus lanes, four lane roundabouts with HGVs, hordes of zombie commuters and distracted school run mums with overloaded cars full of screaming brats and have only had three accidents in over twenty years, all of which were entirely or partially my fault ?

Surely by now I should have been murdered by one of these feckless criminal zombie drivers the cycling lobby are so keen to blame for all the accidents ? But I haven’t.

Situational Awareness

Because if you’ve put yourself in a position where someone has to see you in order for you to be safe — to see you, and to give a fuck — you’ve already blown it.
Neal Stephenson – Zodiac

The above is from some exposition in the cited novel about cycling in a city, they are words I have – literally – lived by.

If you are on a bicycle on the road it is your responsibility to pay attention to your safety. It is not a safe fluffy environment for cyclists, get used to it. Never assume that someone can see you, never put yourself in a position where they need to in order for you to keep your life. Situational awareness and anticipation skills can be developed to the point where even a blindy like me can ride around on the road without being killed or even seriously injured. If you cycle about the place with the arrogance of a self righteous hippy :

Jamie Crick, a presenter on Classic FM, also contacted The Independent to register his support. He said: “My producer and I both cycle into Classic FM and have been swapping terror stories. The lack of provision for cyclists is woeful in London.

Soon you will die. Simples.

I’m blind and I’m not dead. What’s your excuse ?

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3 Responses

  1. […] Riding Blind : Dead Hippy Axle Dressing vs Situational Awareness […]

  2. My accidents have been due to mechanical failure, driver error, my error and road rage (his). Never seriously hurt. The fact is most people killed have put THEMSELVES in the blind spot (usually women, usually meekly waiting at lights).

  3. Road users – not just drivers – generally do not look out enough. Most drivers are incredibly cautious around cyclists, it’s actually human nature not to want to intimidate the rider in your 1500kg metal box.

    Some riders do silly things though, like forgetting that if it is dark and rainy, they are basically invisible in your mirrors.

    There’s been a couple of stories here about cyclists getting wiped out by lorries in left-hand turns. Seriously, the one fucking place you do not ever want to be, even if you’re a pedestrian standing on the corner of a junction.

    Automated detection and retardation systems are surely going to cause even more hassle.

    Like most matters, far better training & practice are the best remedy.

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