|Ghost Bike Memorial|
More than the physical effects, the emotional aftermath is not going to be a breeze. This friend has been a comrade on the roads, a dedicated cyclist for about as long as I have. Whether she chooses to get back on her steed when she finishes the long process of recovery remains to be seen.
The danger that we face out on the roads is something that every cyclist is aware of, but most of us push the thought to the back of our minds. I've never looked at the stats. I cycle past the rotting flowers or ghostly bikes pinned to railings subdued, mutter a prayer for the families and then firmly forget. When people congratulate me on my 'bravery' for biking in the capital, I shrug it off, mentioning the sense of safety in numbers, the improving facilities, the sensible choices you can make to avoid danger.
Of course you can't completely avoid danger. We know this. We're like minnows swimming with whales- armoured, myopic whales. Whilst the majority of drivers are aware and polite, a significant minority are reckless and distracted. They are mindlessly piloting weighty metal weapons, and we, just fragile flesh, choose to dance with them. Bendy buses and big white vans and disastrously designed junctions and our own impatience all add to the likelihood that sometime, somewhere, we may well get hurt. The lucky ones like my friend will suffer a repairable injury; a dodgy back, a broken bone or a strain. Some (and I can't bring myself to look up how many) will be killed, leaving a big gaping wound in the lives of those who love them.
None of this puts me off. I really don't know if it is the same kind of self-protective denial that smokers use, an innate sense of indestructibility or a willingness to play the odds. I will keep cycling, because I think it is worth the risk. I don't really know how big the risk is, but unless someone can convince me that cycling is going to make me vastly more likely to die I will keep doing it. And maybe even then. There are many things in life are worse than dying, and living in fear is one of them. Taking the tube everyday is probably, realistically, not one of them, but it might come close.
So I'll helmet-and-high-vis it up, keep my lights in full working order and avoid nipping down the left side of anything bigger than a Fiat Punto- but keep riding. Trusty and I will not be deterred. For the risks may be big, but the rewards are bigger. Today I'll be out on the road, thinking of my friend but defying the danger. There is too much fun to be had.
Image by PortocalaMecanica