Following the recent accidents with cyclists and some of the conversations in the ladies changing rooms after swimming training, I wrote this with the intent that it may give invite us to embrace our fears and get back into doing something that we thoroughly enjoy: cycling…
The Netherlands is, and has been for a long time, one of the most advanced countries to protect and create a safe environment for its cyclists. As Dutch, we do, and carry, everything on our bicycle, from grocery bags to umbrella’s to children. We learned to ride at the age of 3. So did I.
Despite the separate bicycle lanes on the roads, the awareness of cyclists by drivers (because we are many), accidents do happen. And they happen when least expected. On a Saturday morning a long time ago, at 7 o’clock my friend and I were on our way to a summer-job on our bicycles, to earn some extra money to for our holidays. Two happy responsible teenagers, cycling their way to a farm in the early morning. We cycled in the correct lane, bicycle lights were on. Because it was Saturday morning, it was quiet on the road and it was this hazy morning light, announcing a beautiful sunny day.
Approaching a junction, it happened. Two cars, two cyclists, it was unavoidable. I don’t remember anything of what happened. My friend died, I lived. Barely.
As soon as I could move again, my dad took me to the bicycle shop. To get me back on the horse. The first time, I still remember, I wasn’t sure if I could do it. The bicycle was beautiful, with lots of gears and a nice colour, and I missed the feeling of freedom to go wherever I want, slow or fast, the wind in my hair and the sounds of changing the gears. I didn’t think I would be able to enjoy it again. But off I went. With sweaty palms and shaky legs. But I went. And have not stopped cycling since.
When I got my road bike here in Cyprus (my first one), and having heard about the terrible accidents that have happened, for sure I was anxious and nervous. Yet, this shiny Ferrari red bicycle, with all those gears of which I love the sound when I change them, the beautiful nature, it was too tempting not to do it. And yes, when we are riding early mornings and going downhill really fast, I do think about myself and the terrible accidents that happened to others, talented, gifted, beautiful people. I am a bit more careful, but most of all, I am back on the horse.
I don’t know why these terrible accidents happen to people. And I don’t have an interpretation for it, am not a philosopher. Saying things like: ‘what is meant to happen will happen’, is not doing any justice to the people it happened to and discards their pain and the feelings of loss. It also invalidates our own control and influence over our lives and what we do with it.
Also on whose fault it was and what caused what to happen, I have nothing to say. I know it is my responsibility to be as safe and careful as I can be when I am out there cycling in this beautiful country. The rest is not up to me.
Cycling is an amazing experience, and fear that something may happen, should not hold us back to doing something we love to do. Let your fear guide you to be safe and responsible, to take care of fellow cyclists on the road and to let yourself be taken care of by fellow cyclists.
So please, go out there and enjoy, get back on that aluminium or carbon horse!
With lots of love for you and for cycling,
PS For sure I realise the roads in Cyprus are not as organised around cyclists as they are in the Netherlands or some other parts of the world. I am also very aware that drivers may or may not be expecting cyclists on the roads, especially at the times when we go out. There is work to do in creating better roads and in increasing awareness.