P1120805

The Thin Black Line

The Thin Black Line

by / / 105 posts

Every time we get on our bikes, we are playing a game of Russian Roulette. We take care to maintain our machines, to make sure they are in perfect running order, we look after our bodies to maximise our performance, and we, hopefully, abide by the rules of the road to keep ourselves safe from the dangers of other road users. But ultimately, our lives are in the hands of fate, destiny, or even other people. Ours is a sport fraught with danger, and every now and then, and increasingly all too often, we are reminded of the thin black line between life and death.

Such a reminder came today with the news that yet another Pro Cyclist, Kristof Goddaert, lost their life when going about their everyday job. Maybe we are less at risk in our own day-to-day lives than these athletes, but we shouldn’t take with a grain of salt the dangers that are inherent any and every time we cover ourselves with a thin shield of lycra, mount an 8kg piece of plastic, alloy and rubber, then surround ourselves with tonnes of fast-moving metal often operated by less-than-accommodating drivers. We should regard every motorist with caution, never knowing if they themselves are a cycle-aware operator or one of the increasingly common outspoken anti-cyclists that seem to crawl out of the woodwork to vent their disdain for us every time an online article regarding any aspect of sharing the road appears. Make no bones about it, there is a lot of contempt and anger towards cyclists from many drivers.

There’s only so much we can do to minimise our risk of not returning from a ride. Wearing a YJA is not going to help. Having a foam lid half-encasing our craniums will only do so much (let’s not get into a helmet debate here though). Not putting ourselves into a dangerous situation by flouting road rules, running red lights or riding erratically in traffic should be a no-brainer. Yet just by joining the arterial flow of cars, buses and trucks we put ourselves at the bottom of the transport food chain, and like a hyena in a lion-filled savannah, we need to be alert and aware of our surroundings and regard everyone around us a potential predator.

We’ve lost many of our own, and it’s often I think about our community friend @itburns when I kit up. Every time I read about another cyclist tragically killed, the reality of the dangers of our passion hits home, again, hard. Having met Kristof on KT12, when he gave up his time to talk to us before Paris-Roubaix, answering our questions, humouring us as he prepared for one of his most important days at work of the year, it feels that little bit more personal, even though our worlds were so far removed from each other. And now, he is removed from our world completely, a victim of bad luck, a tragic accident of circumstances that we might never consider could happen to us. Which only serves to remind us that it can.

Be careful out there, friends.

 

// Awesome Belgian Guys // Defining Moments // La Vie Velominatus // Reverence

  1. So, my approach with a mirror and lots of flashing lights is not so uncool then ?

  2. @TK

    Nice piece and some touching comments. I relish the tone and the attitude of the Keepers of the Cog. I regularly insist to my VMH that this site is a Global Source for Good. Still… in light of events like deaths of Amy Gillett and Kristof Goddart, I wonder if Rule #66 and “Wearing a YJA is not going to help” really are defensible. Not sure. Just asking.

    I think it was a Bristol Uni study? YJA will give you 6 cm extra room from passing motorists, but only when it included the word POLICE across the back. Safest way to ride a bike? Long blonde hair, dress, town bike, with a basket on the front! Most dangerous? As a cyclist rather than someone who merely rides a bike.

  3. @Ken Ho

    So, my approach with a mirror and lots of flashing lights is not so uncool then ?

    Who knows?

  4. The Who

  5. Sympathies to the Goddaert family. It was the Bath Uni study and since I’m not ready to wear a wig or a YJA that serves only to indicate that I might be cycling to work at a construction site,  I try to exercise as much caution as possible especially in urban areas where traffic is greater.  We must remember that we share the road with sometimes reluctant partners.  Don’t knowingly put yourself in harm’s way…and you still may not be safe.

  6. 38:38

  7. @andrew

    Gas prices will be one thing that can change people’s minds; they seem to have already shut down HumVee production and shifted some people into smaller cars from what I hear. Though seriously, cars and trucks over there are freaking enormous.

    Hummer went to the wall during the GFC… unless someone has resurrected it.

    Don’t know about passing a law that makes the driver automatically at fault but they are trialling a law here in Queensland, Aus that requires a one meter gap when cars overtake bikes. Fine is massive too, about $4000 if I remember correctly. BIG uproar about it be none of the objectors had any real reason why it shouldn’t be made law. Best they could come up with was “it’s unenforceable”. If that’s they case, why resist it???? They are partially right in that it likely will only be applied after an incident. Regardless, since the debate started months ago on this and a raft of other laws cars have been giving me more clearance than I have ever had. Law or no law it has at least bought awareness. There are actually a lot of folks that believe the laws are already in place. They aren’t just a trial in Brisbane of one of the laws.

  8. @unversio

    How to have a moment of silence online?

  9. @ChrissyOne

    @unversio

    How to have a moment of silence online?

  10. @Mikael Liddy

    @TK

    Nice piece and some touching comments. I relish the tone and the attitude of the Keepers of the Cog. I regularly insist to my VMH that this site is a Global Source for Good. Still… in light of events like deaths of Amy Gillett and Kristof Goddart, I wonder if Rule #66 and “Wearing a YJA is not going to help” really are defensible. Not sure. Just asking.

    You know, my Father in-law is a Fire Chief (or was). He told me something that confimed my perspective on hi-vis colours. He drives/rides in a massive, chrome and red brick shaped truck. It has flashing headlights, strobing blue’s and reds on all sides along with 120db sirens. 99% of drivers have no idea this things is bearing down on them until it’s within a few meters and the sirens have made it past the sound deadening and music. Drivers pull out in front of him, sometimes he sits on their tail sounding the horn until they wake up and move out the way.

    Now, when I was tought to drive I was told to check my mirrors every 30 sec (which is probably too long). When I was taught to ride a motorcycle I was taught to be scanning 360° around me at all times not just looking for cars but any hazard. Dogs, Pot holes, birds, you name it. Clearly no one is doing this riding in their cocoon (car) and no bright yellow jact is going to make a lick of difference. If they are not actively looking for a cyclist, the will simply not see one. Fact.

    I believe everyone should be made to ride a motorcycle for 12 months before they get a car licence and that licence re-testing should be every  years. I am convinced it would revolutionise the roads. I am a miner, and every 12 months I have to go and get my safety inducation re-done. Same shit every year. CPR, Danger Tags, all basic but always drummed into you. Drivers get a licence at 17, and that’s it, for life!! Something is wrong there.

  11. @Ken Ho

    So, my approach with a mirror and lots of flashing lights is not so uncool then ?

    Actually it depends on the bike it’s on. I quote @Frank “On the commuter anything goes”.

    If on the race bike, I think you’ll find you overstep the mark with the mirror.

  12. @Puffy

    @Ken Ho

    So, my approach with a mirror and lots of flashing lights is not so uncool then ?

    Actually it depends on the bike it’s on. I quote @Frank “On the commuter anything goes”.

    If on the race bike, I think you’ll find you overstep the mark with the mirror.

    Yup.  For the daily minefield runs to work, rule violations abound.  Mirror?  Not for me, but no problem if that’s your thing.  Beat up fenders?  Check.  Galactic-scale EPMS and backpack for all the crap I haul to work?  Check.  YJA?  Fuck that.  You have to draw the line somewhere.

    On the chaingang?  Solo 300km training ride?  Hill repeats Sunday morning at the park? The Rules are the Alpha and the Omega, and we break them at our peril.

  13. Unfortunately, it’s becoming almost a weekly ritual here in Southern California:

    http://ktla.com/2014/02/20/bicyclist-killed-in-fatal-hit-and-run-driver-arrested/#axzz2txy0VvH4

  14. @Puffy

    The mirror is really about pinch points.  When the road narrows abruptly, because of a roundabout, or other road furniture, or even a parked car creating a door zone, then I really like to know what’s coming up behind me.    That occurs a lot on commuter routes, but also on a lot of longer training routes.  There is one 15km section that runs back along the Tweed Coast, where there a pinch point about every 500m, with kerbed pedestrian crossings , roundabouts, narrow verges, parked cars, school zones etc.  It’s a real circus and doing it without a mirror is a mad gamble.  I  can no more ride without a mirror on my roadie than I can in my car or on my motorbike.   I tried for a bit when one broke, and it drove me nuts.

    Most of the fatalities that occur on our roads happen at pinch points, where cars and trucks just force their way past bikes, heedless to the consequences.  It was such a death that prompted the successful campaign to have a minimum passing distance law looked at, that of Richard Pollitt.

    Now if I’m actually racing, no worries, it can come off.

  15. @wiscot

    @TK

    Nice piece and some touching comments. I relish the tone and the attitude of the Keepers of the Cog. I regularly insist to my VMH that this site is a Global Source for Good. Still… in light of events like deaths of Amy Gillett and Kristof Goddart, I wonder if Rule #66 and “Wearing a YJA is not going to help” really are defensible. Not sure. Just asking.

    By all means go YJA. Last night I had the following on: Tights with reflective tape across the calf. A “winter” helmet with reflective tape on the back. My jacket had white sleeves with some reflcctive stuff on the upper arms. Three different blinking red lights behind (two on the stays, one on the seat post) two blinking white lights at the front. All removable in seconds. It was getting dark by the time I got home, but not totally dark. I was on familiar roads.

    In short, given how effective and cheap led lights are these days and how easy they are to attach/remove, there’s no excuse for Velominati to ride in the dark in the dark. Was I guily of overkill? I don’t think so. I think drivers truly appreciate being able to see you. Merckx knows I’ve seen enough folks riding at night in dark clothing with no lights. If they get hit, I’m not sure you can truly blame the driver as you have to take some responsibility for your safety.

    If you’re talking about riding last night, 2/20/14, the real story here is the fact that you rode last night in the whipping wind and driving rain/sleet, and failed to mention that fact anywhere in this post. Chapeau, good sir.

  16. @doubleR Riding at 11pm is not going to work in the favor of any cyclist. Only nite-time  training ride that we indulged was the first hour and a half after sunset on a semi-inactive circuit — always with front and rear lights. I referred to one rider as the “locomotive” — you could see an enormous beam of light coming up from behind you. He never had a tactful chance to win any sprints.

  17. @unversio

    @doubleR Riding at 11pm is not going to work in the favor of any cyclist. Only nite-time training ride that we indulged was the first hour and a half after sunset on a semi-inactive circuit — always with front and rear lights. I referred to one rider as the “locomotive” — you could see an enormous beam of light coming up from behind you. He never had a tactful chance to win any sprints.

    Depends on where you are.

    At home on the Gold Coast, I don’t need to ride at night much, but here in Mackay, when I’m away working, the day time traffic is horrendous.   I’ve just been on the trainer for an hour, because a combination of heat and traffic makes riding out too unappealing.  It’s a mining and pig-hunting town, and while there is a strong cycling presence, it pales next to the bogan (think “red-neck”) element.

    However, at night, there is barely any traffic out on the long ride route I favour, and I can go for 10-20 km with a brae handful of cars passing, most giving me a full lane of clearance, because my flashing lights give me a big footprint and much better than daytime visibility.   Night training is very popular here.  It works from the time management aspect too.

  18. Requiescat in pace, Kristof.

    Puffy’s suggestion has merit – maybe with the modification to have all motorists spend a minimum of X days/miles/units as a cyclist before being licensed.  An annual refresher requirement for motor vehicle operators has long struck me as needed.  In the US mining industry, Annual Refresher Training is an effective tool.  Several of us at my company who are cyclists have introduced a cycling and pedestrian safety section into safety training.  A good venue and tool.

  19. Last summer. Road wide enough easily for a car and a bike. But I ended in the ditch. The dirver’s first response (at least she stopped) was ‘I’m sorry I didn’t see you’. Which was kind of obvious. But even this sad apology was rather tarnished by her next statement. ‘ it’s a new car and I was worried about scratching the paintwork’. As opposed to my fleshwork, I guess. So that’s ok then.

  20. Timely article.  Read it this morning, hit by a truck two hours ago.  I’m okay, just waiting for CT results.  May have dented the hood with my face.  Five stitches in my hand.  Bruises.

    Bike hasn’t been looked at thoroughly yet.  Hanger was bent on quick look.

  21. @DerHoggz Fuuuggh… hope you heal well and things workout with the bike. Glad you are cognizant.

  22. @DerHoggz

    Oh man, very sorry to hear that. “Just waiting for the CT results” is not a phrase you want to have associated with your day.   Riding with stitches in your face does carry high badass points though, so there’s that.

    Rear derailleur hangers are the collarbones of road bikes.

  23. Bruises work too. Damn (lack of reading comprehension) autocorrect.

  24. @ChrissyOne

    @unversio

    How to have a moment of silence online?

    … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …

  25. CT scans were good.  I  am the least bruised I have been from any crash ever, no sliding and didn’t even rip my kit.  Just the stitches in between 3rd and 4th knuckle on my left hand, probably sliced it on the grill or something.

    The bike seems to be ok.  Front wheel is out of true.  May have cracks on the fork, I’m definitely having a shop look it over.

Leave a Reply