Cycling debate: Reflections on a crash


Cambridge based copy writer Stuart Mathews has inadvertently weighed in on the Streets for People debate in the town – by becoming the victim of a road crash.

On Thursday morning I got hit by a car. It hurt.

It’s Sunday now. The last three days have felt a lot like a hangover. My head hurts. My body aches. And I can’t function properly. The only element missing is the 10 pints of Guinness that normally precede these sensations.

I’m not suggesting you should replace pints of Guinness with car impact. And I’m pretty certain it won’t be a cheaper. But it sure hurts the same. Warning: Get hit by cars in moderation.

What I can tell you for certain is that if you want to help someone lying prone on the road don’t pick them up without asking. They are not moving for a reason. In my case it was the dislocated shoulder. I needed a few minutes to remember how to breathe. An extra second or two to untangle from my bike. And a moment to figure out which leg worked well enough to stand on. I did appreciate the help though, even if pain made me sound ungrateful.

Profuse apologies pleaded at me by the panicked driver were also redundant. I didn’t know her. She isn’t on the list of people who have reasons to run me over. Someone was helping her too: “it’s okay, he’s not dead.” That was a sobering thing to overhear. It also set a low bar for what counts as okay.

The paramedic was nice. I think I have a crush. It could be the drugs. I got to breathe through one of those pain killer green whistles you see on Bondi Rescue. They taste like petrol, not the mint flavour inferred from the colour. The ride to A&E is a bit blurry. I remember the bumps: sharp pain, followed by another wave of nausea.

Five jabs of fentanyl and two x-rays later a big doctor showed up to knock me out. A medium doctor and her little doctors gathered round to help, just in case I stopped breathing, vomited or had an allergic reaction. ”Are you starting to feel…”

Wake up, shoulder in, sling on, pain gone. Wait around for an hour or two, while they make sure I still work. Instant coffee and a ham sandwich from the nurse. So good. Begged a t-shirt from the guy in the bed opposite – mine got cut off. Cab home.

It was daylight. I live in a cycling town. The roads were quiet. I eyeballed the driver who stopped. The one who didn’t appeared out of the corner of my eye.

I’d always thought that if I got clipped it would be there. In the main street, on that five point roundabout, where there’s a lot going on and all types of travel intersect in a stop-start relationship with who’s turn it is to go.

The pop-up cycle lane that has riled so many suddenly looks inviting. It circumvents intersections. It has physical barriers. But it also has driveways, entrances and exits. I have cycling paranoia now.

The policeman who gave me back my bike says they’ve got great CCTV footage. Maybe one day I’ll show up on Fail Army. I’d like to see the video, if only to stop the replay I’ve got on loop in my head.

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