Saturday, October 05, 2019

near miss

it's been over a year since I started cycling in the UK, and surprisingly, this week stood out as a disastrous one. someone vandalized my cycle TWICE in the last week, and it was disgusting becasue they just seemed to be doing it for the fun of it - there's obviously nothing to be gained from derailing the chain of someone's trusty cycle when it's chained outside a supermarket.

but no, that wasn't it.

i had an accident on Tuesday. a cabbie parked illegally right next to a cycling path, and the passenger opened the door without looking. bam!

i survived without much damage (to myself or my two wheels), but it was more luck than anything else: I was moving slowly, having just gone through an intersection (the same one the cabbie drove through before parking), and the door was opeend so quickly, i didn't have the time to grab the brakes - because if i did, it would have been my fingers instead of the brake lever that would have taken the impact.

my first reaction was shock: i checked myself, my bike (obvious damage limited to the flimsy headlight i got with the cycle popping into its two parts, one of which was on the road), and when asked if i was ok, said i'm fine, and rode off after accepting the cabbie's and passenger's apologies.

but as i turned into the parking lot, my shock turned into anger and regret: i should have given both the cabbie and the passenger a piece of my mind.

the passenger, for not looking before opening the door (the incident happened in front of my office, and she was a co-employee - so i somehow expected a baseline of safe behaviour from someone who worked here)

and of course, the cabbie, for stopping in an illegal spot (double yellow lines, anyone?) and so close to a heavily used cycle track. and also for him shaking his head at me as if it was somehow not his fault. this dude is obviously going to to do it again and again and put more people in danger.

as i hopped onto my cycle on the way home that evening, i turned on my lights on, in flashing mode, even though it wasn't dark yet, thinking to myself that anything i do to help myself being seen could potentially save me, even if it was a 1% chance. something i haven't been doing all this while, even though in hindsight i can't explain why i haven't been doing so.

the next day, it was raining, so i wore my high-vis jacket over my usual jacket. another thing i had not done that morning (and indeed, for the few months preceding it).

on my way to work, while passing a row of parked cabs, a cabbie opened his door and stepped right out. he would have been right in my path if it wasn't for me moving towards the right of the lane well before i passed the parked cabs.

when i filtered between queued vehicles at a red light, i made sure i was slow enough to come to a dead stop in two feet or less.

and of course, as i mulled over the on-road events of the last 24 hours, i kept an eye on every driver/passenger in every vehicle i passed.

and that's when i was forced to admit, it's easy to blame the passenger and cabbie for my accident, but i have also started taking things easy on the road. defensive driving is not limited to motored vehicles: defensive riding is also a necessity.

and so, the last two days, i've gone back to doing over my shoulder every time i change path or anticipate braking - things i should have been always doing but have simply gotten lax about.

this post is a reminder of the near miss, how things could have been worse, and that they most likely will be worse if i let myself be lulled into taking things easy when on the road.

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