The Thin Black Line
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.