This is another of those stories that seem to crop up all too often.  A cyclist was hit by a motorist and he lost his life.  Seems all the more heartbreaking when it is clear that he had a considerable amount of talent, and although this is not to suggest that the death of a casual cyclist, club cyclist or any other would be less important or noteworthy, it does bring into question the plight of the racing cyclist and the hours s/he needs to spend on the roads in order to reach the standard needed to compete at a high level.

It sounds rather corny, but when will drivers in the UK learn that cyclists are made of flesh and blood and they are no match for a ton or more of steel?  How many more near misses must I endure before I either give up the ride or give up the ghost?

What I’d really like to see is the cycling authorities getting behind a coordinated campaign to raise the profile of cycling safety.  The profile of cycling in the UK is higher now than it has been for many years, probably since the days of Tom Simpson, thanks to the likes of Hoy, Cavendish, Wiggins, Pendleton et al, but the profile of cycling safety is still lagging way behind.  We need the might of British Cycling to invest some time and effort into educating Joe Public about what it takes to become a world class cyclist – namely, thousands and thousands of hours on the road.  Yes, we get to see the high level results of all the training, but the training itself is all but hidden in the media. Okay, those of us who frequent Twitter will have caught glimpses of how Cavendish has been following Rob Hales’s scooter (resplendent in the world champion’s rainbow stripes) as part of his motor pacing regime, but where are the stories of the other top cyclists plying their trade through the rancid gloom of the British winter and beyond?  They make make the cycling press, but these are largely publications produced by and for the ‘enlightened’.  Where are the prime time documentaries? Where are the roadside posters and notices (cf those used to warn motorcyclists of the dangers they face)?  Where are the high profile cycling fans – Alan Sugar and Paul Smith just off the top of my head – who could call in favours from well placed contacts in the media?  Where is the president of British Cycling, Brian Cookson, when it comes to the role of the governing body of the sport?  Is he working with CTT and/or the CTC to develop a joined-up strategy?  What about the BBC, ITV and (especially) Sky?  As cycling becomes more visible through our television screens, isn’t it time that some of the air time is used to explain what it takes to become a racing cyclist?

I’ve written elsewhere about the threats I face every day when I’m on the road, but nobody gives a toss about me.  Nobody will give a toss about me, or any of the thousands of other cyclists out there until cycling itself becomes accepted as a mainstream sport.  It’s difficult to understand how much time and respect drivers allow for horses and their mounts, not least when moments before they have given me zero time, space, respect or understanding.  Evidently, if they hit me, I’ll do considerably less damage to their precious bodywork than a 500kg horse would.

Finally, back to the tragic story of Lewis Balyckyi.  I have no first hand knowledge of this case and can only comment on what has been reported.  Frankly, a cyclist out after dark without lights and in dark clothing is simply asking for trouble, for obvious reasons.  More of a concern is that this kind of (reported) behaviour adds too much fuel to the anti-cycling brigade; we are giving motorists plentiful ammunition.  Not only do we not pay Road Tax (yes, we’ve all heard that one), but we also flout the rules of the road.  We have to be responsible and be seen to be responsible, not give other road users the excuses to justify their own carelessness.  I know that what I do as a cyclist impacts on how drivers view cyclists as a whole.  It may not be cool to have lights, it may be cool to wear black, I don’t know.  I’m about as far from cool as it is possible to reach, but you don’t get bigger legs and win races while laid out on the slab in the morgue.

Oh, and while I’m plugging the anti-cool message, mudguards in the winter are one of the nicest ways of caring about your fellow riders.

Stay safe out there.

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