This last week has been a pretty harrowing one for cyclists, writes Kath Bicknell.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

I don't need to recap recent bike vs car incidents here. Chances are, if you're reading this article you've probably already heard about a few of them. The internet is pretty powerful like that.

The frightening thing about these accidents is that it appears the injured cyclists were trying to ride safely, within the law, and hit for reasons out of their control.

It's also frightening that a lot of the discussions arising from these accidents would not have happened without video cameras and smart phones used by nearby vehicles or cyclists themselves.

We try to be visible, we try to ride on safer roads, in a safe manner and at safer times of day. But the reality is, wherever and however we ride, there's a large element of vulnerability. An incident that leaves a small mark on a car could drastically alter a cyclist's life.

The hate comments and sledging matches that follow the widespread reporting of such incidents make me feel more vulnerable too. While most motorists are respectful of other road users, unmoderated comments on some internet sites make a minority feel validated as a majority; like it's OK to say you'll deliberately go out of your way to harm another human being because of the mode of transport they use, or because using it means they make your own journey more of a pain.

Like Al Hinds, I'm spooked. While waiting for the hate-storm to calm down I've found myself thinking about why it is I continue to ride when there are very real risks to my life and my health when I do.

I keep riding because it reduces risks in other areas of my life. It keeps my weight in a healthy range, my body mobile and means the word 'diet' for me signifies eating ice cream most days of the week, not all of them.

I keep riding because I usually reach my destinations feeling calm and happy. I can't say the same for the way I feel sitting in traffic, searching for a car park, twitching as I watch the clock tick over while I simply sit there waiting to arrive. On my bike, the commute to work takes 22 minutes, time where I've included exercise for the day.

I keep riding because it reduces my susceptibility to heart problems, diabetes, depression. If I'm riding regularly I'm more productive at work, more relaxed at home, happy in the body I'm in.

And as I keep riding, I smile as I see overflowing bike racks and clearly marked cycle lanes increase. The rate at which this infrastructure is used, by a rapidly rising number of riders, means increasing feelings of safety and acceptance balance those of vulnerability and disapproval.

Then I think about the other risky activities that are part and parcel of many people's days: every time they have a cigarette, try a new medication, drive a car, catch a plane, go through pregnancy, eat unfamiliar foods, wander brashly and ignorantly through a foreign country, walk alone through a city at night.

Risk enters another level for people living in areas where political, racial or religious conflicts are rife or the simple act of holding their partner's hand puts them under threat.

We deal with risk all the time. And I'm lucky I live in a society where there is so much choice about what we do and how we go about it.

I choose to ride. It's not just an A to B. It's part of the jobs I do, the friendship circles I keep. It's a leisure activity, a lifestyle. I use other forms of transport too, but that's not the point.

It'll be bloody awful if this writing gets read out at my funeral or I reflect on it from a hospital bed. But I keep riding because, while there's a very good chance I may get hit or injured (again), at least I feel like I'm living my life…really enjoying the body I'm in and the city where I choose to live.

These are things I value. And I value them in the same way people make choices that involve a strong element of risk all the time.

As a cyclist, I hope that the events of the last week go a long way to raising awareness of these risks. I hope they lead to a continuing improvement in infrastructure, and more legal accountability when harm between one road user and another is malicious, irresponsible or downright vague.

One set of voices in this week's uproar that have been missing is that of motorists that have also been involved in a serious accident with a cyclist. I imagine that's an incredibly harrowing experience too.

Sign the Amy Gillett Foundation's petition for improved cycling safety.