Road Safety

In 2001 I was living in Reigate in Surrey and landed a job running a big healthclub in Cheam near Sutton. It was a great job and I was really chuffed, with the only problem being transport. My £200 F reg Fiesta had just packed up and I was not up for spending megabucks on a new motor so a little lateral thinking was required.
After a few minutes serious though I decided it would be cool to get a scooter. What I really wanted was one of those cool 60’s Vespas with mirrors and chrome. However, a pal of mine had one and it was about as reliable as a fishnet condom, so that was out. In the end I plumped for one of the modern “vintage style” models and bought a chrome kit for it.

It was cool.
I was cool.

I was also spending a fraction of the transport costs, compared with my buddies. They of course needed big swanky motors to compensate for their lack of sexual prowess, even if that meant paying through the nose for finance, insurance and running costs. I of course had my head screwed on. It was cheap. It was cool. It was far more commuter savvy. (On the day of the Epsom Derby it took my housemate an hour and a half to get to work up the A217. It took me the usual 25 – 30 minutes!)

One morning I was on the roundabout where the 217 links the M25. There were two lanes of traffic waiting at the lights so I did exactly what I was allowed to do and filtered between the traffic at no more than 15 mph quicker than the queue. As I neared the front the lights changed. The guy in the Merc at the front was obviously looking to his right as I came alongside and as he pulled off he clipped me. I bit the dust and thanked my lucky stars that I was only doing 5-10 mph. I walked away with nothing more than a bruised ego. (For ego read “arse”. My arse had turned a beautiful shade of black within a few hours!)

Now this was certainly not my fault as the insurance claim pretty much proved. However, I was quite shaken that although I was not to blame, my arse was just as black as if I was. Seems that being right did not save me. I decided to be a lot more careful and play it uber safe from now on.

I did OK for a few months without further incident. It seemed as though I had learned my lesson well and now had the measure of motorcycle safety. (Or scooter safety, if you want to be picky.)

Not long after that I woke up in hospital. I had been pretty much out of it for a week, although I had some vague memories of some people visiting. Apparently I had been taken out on my way home from work. I remember doing the running club. I remember saying goodbye to my girlfriend at the time, who ran the Beauty/Treatment rooms at the club, and that is all I remember.

According to all sources (and the damage to my bike and the other guys Nissan Micra) he had pulled out of a side road into my path and I had gone underneath. I like to think it would take more than a Nissan Micra to wipe me out! Volvo maybe. When I went to pick up what was left of my bike the bloke said he was surprised to see me. “We don’t normally get to see the owners when the bikes are this mashed up!” said he.

This was not a main road but my quiet residential route leading to the A217. It was not busy or raining and there was no other factor at play than driver error. I know I was strictly doing 30mph. I always did.

I had a compound femur fracture, (that’s the one where the broken thigh bone splits out of the skin!) and a ruptured cruciate ligament, (That’s when your knee is unstable because the ligaments don’t work.) a couple of sprained wrist and a broken nose. (This really pissed me off as in 5 years of boxing I had never had a broken nose.) At least I kept my good looks. I have had 4 operations on my legs including the initial repair and I am still working on my legs in an attempt to get them right.

It was 2003 before I could work in fitness again. I still can’t run and as an ex-marathon runner this is not good. I can’t kneel at all plus standing/sitting/walking/driving for any period of time is painful. There are lots of things that I can’t do and the long term prognosis does not look good. For a super fit guy, this was devastating. My body used to be a temple. Now it is a Kebab house.

I was lucky.

A couple of months ago I got an email from a member asking me to suspend her membership. She would be back but her son had just been killed on his motorbike and right now she was in no fit state for the gym. I saw her again for the first time on Wednesday and she looked awful. We joked that if you could bottle her method of weight loss without the grief we could make a fortune. (She had apparently lived on coffee and chocolate for the last few months.) I’ll say it again because I still can’t get the image of her out of my head. She looked terrible. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. To see this strong willed, successful woman reduced to her state was heart wrenching.

I know she will bounce back and that time heals all wounds blah blah. But right then I would have done anything to make it right.

Today I have just come back from another member’s house. Her husband has just been killed on his bike. She too looks terrible and it only happened a few days ago. I just went and dropped off some flowers from the team here and felt such a prat. Like they would help at all. I just can’t believe it’s happened again. Such nice people too.

I’m not sure what message I am trying to convey in this post. I’m certainly not anti motorbike. I would love to have one again. Everything about them makes so much sense. The cost, the freedom, the convenience, everything. There are so many reasons to own a bike. But for me there is one good reason to not own a bike. That’s just me and how I feel. I know people who still ride and would not swap it for the world. They know the risk and are possibly even better riders than me and the people I have written about. Maybe they won’t get nailed. I hope to god not. I know that motorcyclists as a species are not all perfect and there are some real twats riding bikes. I’m not proportioning blame.

I realise also that being in a car is not exactly safe. (This is particularly true considering the cars I own. Smart Cars and 32 year old MG Midgets do not have particularly good safety records.) I had a smash in my Smart some months ago that was identical to my smash on my scooter. The only difference was that this time the opponent was a Renault Traffic van. I walked away with some whiplash and a seatbelt bruise. Cars are not safe, just somewhat safer.

I wish things were different. I wish roads were safer. I wish drivers of all kinds were more considerate. I wish accidents were less devastating. I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t have any suggestions. No actually I have one.

If you drive a car, please please look out for bikes.

Posted: Motley Fool


~ by Tony's Desk on March 25, 2008.

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