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Of cycling triumph and disaster

The highs and lows of being a cyclist

Urban cyclist
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David joined Leigh Day in 2011 and is responsible for all marketing, business development and client care across the firm.
This summer I experienced the very highs and the lows of being a cyclist.

I witnessed probably the most perfect bike ride ever ridden and learned that yet another cyclist had been killed on London roads, the 10th this year.

Second only to his win a week earlier in the Tour de France, Bradley Wiggins’ ride in the Olympic Time Trial, covering the 27-mile Olympic Time Trial course at an average speed of 31.8mph to win Gold, was one of the greatest sporting achievements of any British cyclist.

I was lucky enough to be hanging off a barrier in Kingston upon Thames as he flashed by. I had hoped to get a photograph to prove this fact to accompany this blog but my hands were shaking so much, from the emotion and excitement of the day, that I have only a very shaky memento.

It is only when you see the World’s greatest cyclists riding up close and note the speed of the following car, which carries a spare bike in case of mechanical problems behind the rider, that you get a true sense of the speed at which they are travelling for over 50 mins.

Bradley is the greatest British cyclist ever. He is a shining example of what funding into a sport can do.

Identified early, nurtured and maintained throughout not the easiest transition from both track to road and obscurity to limelight, he has now reached the very pinnacle of the sport and deserves every accolade.

It wasn’t until the journey home that I read about the death of a cyclist outside the Olympic park. As I write this we know no more details about the tragedy, who he was and who he left behind. All that has been reported is that a bus used to ferry journalists to the Games hit him.

The juxtapose between the elation of Bradley’s win and this latest cycling death was bound to cause debate and Bradley was inevitably asked his thoughts about cycle safety and his comments opened the debate normally marked ‘don’t go near with a bargepole’ for cyclists, the compulsory wearing of helmets.

It is of course safer to wear a helmet and I would advise you do.

An assessment carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT) of over 100 police forensic reports into cycling fatalities showed that between 10 and 16 per cent of those fatalities would have been avoided had the victim been wearing a helmet that is in good condition, of good quality and fits properly.

But what of the other 84% – 90% of fatalities?

The truth is I can put any amount of armour on my body but if a car hits me at any sort of speed then the chances are I’ll die.

As the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation remarks: “Cycle helmets provide best protection in situations involving simple, low-speed falls with no other party involved. They are unlikely to offer adequate protection in life-threatening situations.

The truth is the roads need to be made safe (not just safer) not least so that future Bradley Wiggins or Mark Cavendish’s can enjoy the sport and also that the UK, riddled with obesity, can enjoy the health benefits.

As British Cycling have said in a statement today, cycling should be  “brought into the heart of transport policy”. It is only by improving the road infrastructure that travelling becomes safe for all road users.

David Standard is Leigh Day’s Head of Media Relations and a former GB cyclist.

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