Thursday 25 October 2012

Anatomy of a Crash

I was knocked off my bike a few weeks ago, ironically I was on my way to the doctor's at the time.

I was cycling along Park Road North in Birkenhead, passing the junction with Park Road West when I was hit by a car emerging from the side road.

It was raining, the middle of the afternoon in late September, I was wearing a bright blue jacket that contrasted as well with my surroundings as any hi viz product; and I was cycling in secondary position about 1-1.5m from the edge of my lane.

I was merrily cycling along considering the thorny topic of cycle helmets. I approached the side road and maintained my position, I don't recall or didn't notice if the vehicle approaching the junction from my left stopped at the give way line, either way, as I passed it I noticed in my peripheral vision that it was moving out into the road and towards me. It disappeared out of sight behind me as I braced myself in anticipation of the crash that I knew was coming.

About 1 second later the hit came, not particularly hard, just enough to put me off balance enough that it was not recoverable, I was probably only travelling at 12mph up a very slight gradient so as I hit the ground I didn't really slide. My left thigh and elbow took the most impact, my head didn't touch the ground.

My first thought was to check that the car had stopped and wasn't about to continue over the top of me, fortunately he had. next I lay still for a moment and audited my body parts, nothing seemed broken, nothing even hurt particularly except for my elbow which I could tell was cut. I stood up, clothes were ok, nothing ripped particularly badly; how was the bike? Remarkably okay on first impressions, I'd been hit on the back wheel but even this was still perfectly tru, a testament to Andrew at Spa Cycles wheelbuilding skills!

The driver was out of his car and approaching me, he was immediately apologetic, he hadn't seen me; I didn't actually grin at this, but I had to stop myself, properly smidsy'd. He said that he too was a cyclist, I was pretty ambivalent about this, when you are hit by a car it doesn't really matter if the driver is also a cyclist. I wasn't mad at him, I was probably calmer than he

We move to the side of the road, I take pictures there's not even a scratch on his car that I can see, calm down a bit, notice that my left hand brake lever is broken. I'm not in pain but I know I'm going to stiffen up and I need a bandage on my arm. I get the driver's details and eventually leave, I'm only a mile from my GP which is where I was heading, when I get there he bandages my elbow.

Over the next few days bruises start to appear all over me, some from hitting the floor, some from the bike hitting me. Including a whopper of a bruise covering a large part of my thigh, black, blue, purple, and yellow. The pain in my thigh became so great I went to A&E and had to have a couple of days off work. I also realised how lucky I was.

This side road has a very open junction, cars do not approach the main road perpendicular to it with the driver looking to his immediate right, in the last few metres of approach the driver is already turning left, by the time they are at the give way line they are at 45 degrees to the road and must look back almost over their shoulder into their blind spot to see what is approaching.


By my estimation, while the driver was doing this I was already in front of his car and he was looking in completely the wrong direction to see me. While he was looking back over his shoulder he had pulled out and tagged my back wheel and I had gone down. He only hit me quite lightly and if his eyes hadn't returned to looking forward at the right moment he could well have not known he had hit me until he felt the car drive over the top of me.

This is what the driver would have been looking at, a very open view, it's almost not necessary to slow below 20mph if the road is clear,


I think I was perhaps in a blind spot created by his A-pillar as he approached the junction, alternatively he REALLY wasn't paying attention.


There is an awful lot of space on the approach to this junction which doesn't encourage drivers to slow down. Even more crazily this junction is on a corner occupied by a sixth form college


It's not like Wirral Borough Council can even claim ignorance, the next junction along was modified to make the angle car approach it more perpendicular. You can just make out on the left hand side of the junction to Shrewsbury Road where the old kerb used to be and how it has been built out.


This road has many shops, a school, a world renowned park and a medical centre on the other side of the road. I find it difficult to believe these large junctions are either necessary or sensible. The roads were probably laid out 100-150 years ago when Birkenhead was having a heyday and the corporation and the rich men of the age thought broad boulevard type roads around the perimeter of the park were pleasant. Indeed they can be, but they do need redesigning as they encourage poor and sloppy driving, the head of the junction needs narrowing and Park Road West could easily accommodate a segregated cycling path, which would have the dual benefit of providing a place for safe cycling and slowing down the traffic in an area that ought to be safe and pleasant for pedestrians.

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