There’s no shortage of cyclists on the roads these days, which may be why everyone keeps trying to kill us.
I’m no statistician, but it’s fair to say that if you regularly cycle in any major city – and particularly London – then it’s merely a matter of time before you get shunted and come clattering off. Picture the graph in your mind: the longer the curve of time, the more likely it is to happen.
Aside from die horribly, here’s how to get knocked off your bike.
STEP ONE: Just Let It Happen
At the point of impact, forget reacting. You will do what you will do. All is one. Yin and yang. Karma chameleon. I’ve got some military training, and even my instincts during a collision don’t go any further than letting me fly through the air like a big daft sack of blimey.
You arms will flail out. ‘They’ advise curling up as you sail through the air, but that won’t happen. Trying to stop your arms breaking your fall is like trying to not blink when someone pokes at your eyeball.
The worst injury I ever got wasn’t from the impact of the car, it was from my arm ripping out of its socket because I put it out to break my fall. That’s why they call it “breaking your fall”, I suppose. So basically, I have nothing for you at this point.
STEP TWO: Go A Bit Funny In The Head
In the immediate aftermath, you may, like me, go into a strange state of calm, which has been gifted to you by a massive adrenaline overdose. Others will completely freak out.
In nearly all my previous crashes, I rather British-ly denied all help from passers-by. But anyone who steps up, in or over must be latched onto. You need witnesses, even if you don’t need assistance. The driver – or more likely their insurer – will later deny anything happened at all, and you may find it’s your word against a powerful insurance corporation and all its lawyers.
STEP THREE: Get The Hell Out Of The Road
Did I not say this one already? Well, durr, yeah. Get the hell out of the road.
STEP FOUR: Record This Wonderful Moment For Posterity
If you can’t do it yourself, ask some nearby to use their phone to take pictures of you, the driver, their vehicle and their registration. Anything and everything.
Again, the driver’s insurer may eventually try to say that the car was a different colour, the driver wasn’t even there etc etc. I know this probably only applies to people over 40, but don’t ever go out on your bike without your phone. It may spoil the line of your spandex leotard but it’s worth it.
STEP FIVE: Don’t Be All British About It
It’s British to avoid fuss at all costs, but balls to that. When someone asks if you want an ambulance or the police say “yes please” and “immediately”. Like me, you may think you’re fine and then eight months later be trying to pick up the pieces from not being able to work for half a year, while the person who knackered your life is claiming they weren’t even there. You aren’t a doctor – you are roadkill. Get the professionals in.
Watch out for the blame game starting while you’re still high as a kite and pissing blood out of your elbows. Pick up any shattered bits of bike, as the insurers may try to make out that they never existed later when you want to replace them (try to get pics of the shrapnel ‘in situ’ at the scene first, though).
Basically, treat the place as a crime scene, because a) it is! and b) no one else will.
Be brutal. Be sure. You need to get ALL the details of the driver, and don’t ever assume you’re being given the real ones. If they give you a number, get them to call you on the spot so that it’s confirmed. Ask for ID. Now isn’t the time for politeness. And remember, you may need to contact all the witnesses too – so get their details as well.
STEP SIX: Brace For The Comedown
You’ll need people around you later, when the adrenaline starts to subside. All my spills over the last 35 years (four in total – not bad!) involved injuries both major and minor that I simply wasn’t aware of for several hours, when my adrenalised zen-powers had worn off.
The last one involved a dislocated shoulder and broken arm that did not, as I hoped, magic themselves better 48 hours later. Yes of course it hurt, cheers. Yes I am well hard, thanks.
Bottom line, your injuries could be something very serious, and you should not on any account decide for yourself that you are okay.
STEP SEVEN: Don’t Rely On CCTV To Back You Up
It’s a myth that we are always being watched. It’s nonsense. Most cameras are there for the safety and security of the camera owners, not for you. Many of those on shops, business and council buildings are there solely for insurance purposes and often aren’t even real – they’re just empty metal boxes.
My last spill happened outside the MI6 building. I’m not kidding. I went back to the exact spot and there are 12 – count ’em, 12 – cameras covering the area. None of them caught the accident. Not one. My solicitor informed me that Lambeth and Transport For London had nothin’. Apparently the cameras weren’t even on. At rush hour.
I doff my tinfoil hat at the conspiracy theorists but the world just isn’t that organised.
STEP EIGHT: Lawyer Up
Again, it’s dreadfully American to make a scene and talk to lawyers… but then only an idiot takes the financial brunt of someone else’s actions.
Whether it’s the cost of a new wheel or the cost of a new leg, it’s not yours to bear. I went on courier websites after my last spill and found a solicitor who was a cyclist, a courier-union member and a specialist in bike spills. Ideally it’s important to get someone who specialises in and sympathises with your situation.
Be prepared, both emotionally and financially, for it to take over a year – yep – for anything to happen at all. Prevarication is the insurer’s tool, and the driver’s insurer will do anything to avoid, or put off, paying you.
STEP NINE: No Fibbing
Aside from the obvious dirty tricks – such as flat-out denying anything even happened – they may drag things out as long possible in order to weeear yoooou dooowwn. Don’t badger your solicitor though – they can’t make their opponent go any faster. Let them do their job.
It’s important to be truthful with both yourself and your solicitor. Don’t make any false claims or ‘sex up’ the incident, as that’ll just end up making all your case weaker. Start building up evidence of loss of earnings, keeping all receipts and so on.
You’d be surprised by the amounts of money involved, so do take it seriously. Your solicitor is only as good as the person they represent, and if you make it hard instead of easy this will affect your compensation.
STEP TEN: Get Prepped For Next Time
There’s insurance out there for cyclists. Get some – it’s worth it. (Unless you aren’t wearing a helmet, in which case you probably won’t see anything after the initial impact anyway.)
Naturally if you have a mobile video camera, such as a GoPro, strapped to you at all times then it sure will help with the aftermath. Won’t stop you getting hit though, unfortunately.
I could talk about prevention, how to ride extra-safely and even next-level tech like cycling jackets with airbags built into them, but as I said at the top, it’s just a matter of time. Especially if you ride like a dickhead.