Thursday 2 February 2012

It shouldn't take a serious accident for cyclists to know what's safe

The fact that anyone with Epilepsy may use a bicycle to get around probably won't and shouldn't change, but even as a veteran cyclist (or so I like to think!), I've recently learned that even I should change my habits to do with the way I cycle, particularly around a busy city like London. I hope anyone, with or without Epilepsy, thinks about their habits too, especially after what I'm about to tell you.

It's always shocking to see someone so able and athletic, unable to take part in physical activity. This was most definitely the case with my friend and fellow London Wayfarers Hockey Club player, Xanthe. As a Goalkeeper who played with her in defence, I was always pretty comfortable in the knowledge if Xanthe had the ball in our 3rd of the pitch, it wouldn't be there for long! It was a huge shock then, to see her in a large brace she had for her back, after a multiple spinal fracture and back injury because of a car driving into the back of her bike.

I know from experience after my Neurosurgery, how serious anything to do with the brain or spine is if it's injured. So I was shocked when I spoke to Xanthe about her accident and what she was told as a result. In essence, she was told if she had been riding on cleats, she wouldn't be here.

What she told me not only made myself and I'm sure all her friends incredibly thankful she wasn't wearing cleat pedals, but also made me seriously think about how I ride myself. Up until Xanthe had told me what she did, I had ridden on cleat pedals because I thought it was safer if I was able to ride quickly and not agitate drivers into over-taking me dangerously.

Looking back on it, I actually had one incredibly close shave myself, with a bendy-bus no less. I got trapped between the bus and a curb on Oxford Street, which was too high for me to clip out my pedal and put my foot down on. Looking back on it I have no idea how I had the presence of mind to do what I did, but I was incredibly lucky that I did it. What ended up happening, was with the bus giving me no room to cycle, I saw the rubber bend in the middle, grabbed onto it and pulled myself into the bus, which in turn pulled me along the road until I had space to take my foot out my pedal. If I hadn't done that I may have ended up underneath the bus.

The reason I wanted to explain these stories is that I never thought I was reckless as a cyclist, I always thought the opposite, I always wear a helmet, high visibility clothing, have lights on my bike, etc. After the incident with the bus I didn't stop wearing my cleats when I should have done, I just avoided roads with high pavements or if I saw one coming, would ride in the middle of the road so a bus couldn't do what it did before.

It should never have taken one of my friends being seriously injured for me to change my cleat pedal habit.

But I didn't know any better, which is why if you are reading this and ride on cleats, please think seriously about the potential consequences. If you are reading this and have Epilepsy while riding on cleats, SERIOUSLY think about the potential consequences. For me speaking to friends and researching this blog has completely changed my view on what constitutes safe cycling. There are obvious things that I hope everyone knows about, helmets, lights, clothing etc, but riding with trainers instead of cleat shoes, wearing a medical emergency band, could be the difference between life and death. Even people without Epilepsy, who have an allergy to a certain medicine should really wear a medical band if it's possible you could be knocked off your bike - it could be that vital bit of information the emergency services need to keep you alive.

As for my friend Xanthe, well this amazing woman is not only back at work only a couple of months after a major accident, but she is also planning to cycle London2Paris in the near future and is still recovering from her horrific accident.
If that doesn't inspire you to do your own cycle for charity - NOTHING WILL!

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