Friday 4 December 2009

running the gauntlet

A normal morning on Cotham Hill. The usual vans parked on the double yellows. In the background, a lorry is lurching forwards and backwards, manoeuvring into the narrow entrance of the builders' yard. Pedestrians seize their moment and dash through the gap when it offers itself. Nobody is helping the driver out by waving him back, watching his blind spots. It's about 10:30; the chaps at the yard are probably having a cup of tea.

Forty eight hours earlier, just about to the minute, a cyclist and her bike were crushed under a lorry at this exact spot. It was a bigger lorry, an articulated one; it was swinging into this same entrance when it caught her. Of the comments on the Bristol Evening Post website, a lot of them seem almost to gloat that a cyclist has been badly injured, assuming that she was doing something that she shouldn't have been doing, and reckoning that she'd got what was coming to her. The general attitude is: lorries are dangerous, and the drivers can't see very much from their cabs, so keep well clear or you've got no-one to blame except yourself.

As I commented on the website,'s the 'elephant in the room' thing. And it's not just an elephant, it's a visually-impaired elephant. And it's not in the room, it's on the streets.

When I worked on a ro-ro ferry, lorries were not allowed to move around unless under the supervision of crew members with hi-vis gear and radios. And yet it is apparently thought perfectly acceptable that an articulated lorry should be allowed to manoeuvre through one of the busiest parts of town without any sort of control or assistance.


  1. It's astonishing how some people can be so utterly callous.

    I dare say even Miss Marple would be blamed if her trusty Raleigh (or was it a Dawes?) was run over with her on it.

    I suppose it will take the serious injury of a top politician, a biking politician, to stop the rot and get the plight of cyclists in towns taken seriously.


  2. It does seem strange that the victim is at fault. This is like your accident only worse.

    I always keep well clear of any vehicle that is manouvering when I'm on foot, it's all too easy not to see someone.

    Most streets weren't designed for lorries or cars, we seem to forget that.

  3. I once got into a bit of a tangle with a car while cycling. I pulled away from lights in front of him and he clearly thought I should have let him go first - to drive the fifty or so yards to the next red light.
    There was a bit of that dangerous bike/car shouldering thing.
    At the next red light he pulled up beside me and shouted: "I'm a car!"
    He drove off and only then I thought "No, you're not a car - you're in charge of a car."


  4. Dru,
    I came by Cotham Hill on Thursday morning (3rd December)and the usual lorry was backing into the builders yard. There was a guy in a high vis jacket conning the driver in.
    But from what you saw on Friday it's obvious that this was not the start of a more caring attitude towards cyclists, but probably more to prevent damage to the cars parked in the narrow entrance road. But just for a moment there...

  5. I doubt it, Lucy. Maybe if Jeremy Clarkson could get run over, that might help, though.

    I heard that Boris Johnson on the BBC website, talking about cycling in London. He talked sense. He knows what it's like. I was impressed.

    It's surprisingly pervasive, that blame-the-victim thing, Anji. I wonder if it's some sort of genetic hangover from when siding with the biggest and strongest was a survival tactic?

    ..there's plenty of men who identify very strongly with their cars, of course, as you probably know, Federay. It is funny, the lengths people will go to to get ahead of a bicycle, because in their world order cars *of course* have to get past bicycles.

    I fear you're right, John. Damage to a car is a far more heinous sin than squishing someone!

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  7. I used to cycle a lot. I got a bit fed up with being mistaken for a target when the local mobile empty lager can hurling championships were taking place. I don't know if that's a local sport or if it's taken off across the country now.

    Dru, I have added a link to here on my site, mainly for my own convenience. If you're not happy with that, let me know and I'll remove it as soon as. Best wishes, Graham

  8. I've not had any lager cans thrown at me, Graham, though someone once showered me with cat litter when I was out a-cycling once. Clean cat litter, I hope. Though I did avenge myself on them...

    Thank you. I am v happy with that!