Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Road to Falling in Love with Cycling Again

River Lea (Image - Christine Matthews
I used to cycle a lot when I was younger. Mostly family bike rides along the tow paths and nature reserves of the river Lea and the dirt tracks of Epping forest. Getting a bit older, I used to cycle to friends’ houses all across London and when I got my first proper job, I became a cycle commuter. Well.. For one day... It was hilly, cold, wet, windy, and I fell off and smashed my shoulder up on the way home (my fault). I hated it, never wanted to do it again and learnt to drive instead.

For six years I never looked back. I was dry, warm and relatively safe(r). I moved further away and the 30 minute cycle commute became an impractical to cycle 35 mile drive. Plus, I lasted five years before my first accident. (wasn't my fault)

Friday, 12 October 2012

Getting Back in the Saddle & My Battle with Clips

Failure to Unclip + Unsympathetic Friend = This Photo
We've all come off our bikes at one time or another. They say that when you fall off, you should get straight back on. That’s good advice because the longer you go before you get back on a bike after having come off, the harder it is likely to be.

I carry the burden of not being very good at unclipping. Evidence of this can be found on Facebook thanks to a “friend” who was quicker at whipping his camera out than I was getting up again. I dusted myself down, accepted the ribbing, got back on and begun to plan my revenge. The fact that I wasn't very good at unclipping was down to me.  It was a funny moment but it did dent my confidence just a little bit as I was just getting used to SPDs. I'm still using clips though and getting better at it with each ride.

Sometimes however, it’s not as simple as that. We all react differently to the shock that comes from falling off and you cannot always laugh things off so easily. And just telling somebody to get back on might be as insensitive as telling somebody to “pull themselves together”.

Where you come off your bike because another road user has negligently knocked you off, there is another problem you might have to contend with – your fear that it might happen again irrespective of your own skill and care. It’s an understandable fear. You relive the incident in your mind and if you come to the conclusion that there was nothing you could have done to prevent the collision; it’s only natural to think that it is going to happen again. There are some bad drivers out there.

Any anxieties can be magnified by unsympathetic attitudes. We all know somebody who thinks we’re mad to be cycling in the first place. When you've had an accident, they think you’re certifiable if you even hint that you want to get back out there.

It need not be all doom and gloom because there is help out there. If you’re in an accident caused by a motorist, you can claim reasonable medical costs including the cost of therapy. In some cases, psychological help might be beneficial but it could just as easily not be medical therapy as such. You might just need some cycle training sessions to get your confidence back. That’s not to say that there was anything wrong with your riding before the accident, but going out on the road again with a confident rider will help restore your own confidence.

I've had clients who have benefited from some confidence building lessons and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. For example, one of my clients couldn't unclip fast enough (those damn clips again!) as a car emerged from a side road without stopping and drove into him. His confidence was knocked considerably and he was having a problem riding in clips. The accident wasn't his fault and it is doubtful that if he had got out of his clips he could have done anything to avoid being hit. But the mind can play tricks and after the accident, unclipping was becoming an issue that made the difference between a pleasurable ride and an anxious one.

There’s a stigma about mental health in the UK and it often prevents people from seeking help, but if the accident wasn't your fault, you can make the responsible party pay for the treatment you need.

Meanwhile, I'm still riding in my clips and it’s been 200 km since my last clip related incident!

written by Levenes Cycling Solicitor, Tim Beasley

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Friday, 5 October 2012

The Rise of the Head Cam

“Big brother is watching you” was a slogan immortalized in Orwell’s 1984. It conjures up images of the totalitarian state spying on it’s citizens in order to control them. However, even Orwell himself could not have predicted how the tables could be turned. This has been the case for some time with more and more people carrying phones with the capacity to take video footage at the press of a button.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Something for Everyone at The Cycle Show 2012

Cycling is a broad church. There is an evangelical wing, determined to spread the gospel of utility cycling on the Queen’s highway. There are those who attach their BMX or off road bikes to racks on the back of their cars and very rarely go on the highway. There are even some men (and women) who insist on wearing lycra as they ride their racing bikes at the weekends but would not dream of cycling to work every day. Whatever your personal relationship with that normally 2 wheeled object we call a cycle, the cycle show had something for you.

Levenes Cycle Injury spent the 4 days of the cycle show talking to the cycling faithful in attendance. We talked about our free to use Interactive Accident Map and how it is a tool for individual cyclists that can help identify junctions or roads on the commute to work that might need extra care or avoiding altogether.

Or for cycle groups and campaigners who want to know where cycle accidents happen in their area, a quick glance at the map will show you if there is a particular junction or road with an inordinate number of accidents. As the map uses official government data, it can be used in campaigns and presented to local press, councils and road planners for something to be done. It’s based on the familiar Google Maps and you can zoom right in on street view to see close up what might be going wrong.

We had many lively discussions about bad drivers, bad cycle lanes and bad councils that pay lip service to promoting cycling whilst they do nothing really concrete to improve things. For the most part, the people we spoke to cycle regularly on our roads and they know what happens on the streets of Hull, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, London…..What is pleasing is that things appear to be gradually changing for the better, people are not put off and remain firmly in the saddle.

Browsing the map with show goers
We also gave away our Cycle Accident Card to anyone who wanted one. It’s no bigger than a credit card but gives practical advice on what to do after an accident. There’s room to write down key details such as the name address and registration number of the other driver. One bit of advice that we were able to give out many times was the importance of getting the vehicle registration. If you can get it even if that’s all you can get, we can find out if the car was insured and who the keeper of the vehicle might be. That is often enough to get the claim under way.

Over the weekend, the reaction was positive. Most of those who talked to us all had a tale to tell. A near miss, a bad junction or in some cases how they had been hit and knocked off their bikes and knew from experience how painful it could be.

Some of them had not even considered claiming and consider it an occupational hazard that you are going to be knocked off from time to time. It shouldn't be like that. Only by drawing attention to accidents will we get those in power to make the changes needed to make the roads safe for its more vulnerable users.

written by Levenes cycling Solicitor, Tim Beasley

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