Thursday morning, 8.30am. I pedal smoothly along Villiers Road – brisk, but unhurried. It’s bright for a September morning and the schoolchildren flit by me like shadows on the pavement; youngsters hand-in-hand with mums, older kids with tightly knotted ties yanked down and skirts that are just a little too short to be appropriate for school. A small flotilla of posties on their heavy red bikes launches from the sorting office slip road and cruises past untidily on the opposite side of the road.
The way clears. The road ahead is empty for once. The crossing looms, policed by the sour-faced man who always moans at cyclists and, beyond it, a left-hand turn A black car creeps across the centre line towards the turn, facing me. I ease back, apply a gentle pressure against the revolution of the cranks. The black car creeps into the pristine air between us; it creeps. Forty metres, thirty, twenty… it creeps, idly. I press on, satisfied that the driver is waiting for me to pass. The side road nears. Ten metres. Five. The car creeps to my right.
And then it roars. I’m at the turn and the car pounces towards me like a black jaguar, an angry shadow bearing over me suddenly. It’s too near, it’s too near. I roar back, my mind surges – too late to brake; it’s going to hit me straight on. The car accelerates, still. I yank the bars to the left and turn my body, too – try to cross the car’s path at an angle to deflect the blow. Anything to avoid a straight impact.
Then the hit. And now I’m flying over the bonnet, the bike peeling away from me, somersaulting in the morning air. Something gouges into my leg; it feels like a blunted knife. I’m tumbling, listening to the clatter of the bike’s steel on the hard tarmac. I’m already shouting before I come to a stop: “You maniac! You fucking maniac!” Then I’m on my back, stationery, my thick brown courier bag a comforting pad beneath my shoulders. I lay still. I know you have to lay still. My left shoulder hurts intensely. Is it broken? People are starting to gather – I can sense them hovering in the bright sky above me.
I’m awake. That’s a start. I do a mental check: right leg? Ouch. Left shoulder? Fuck. Neck? Seems fine. Arms move? I reckon. Good – not badly hurt. Except the shoulder maybe.
A girl, I assume the driver, is looking at me in distress. “You fucking maniac!” I shout, straight at her. Then, calmer: “I’m sorry, but that was…” She looks at me guiltily, says nothing. A woman’s face looms over mine, upside down. She talks kindly, gently, places a bag under my head. I hear a man say loudly: “Do you want an ambulance? Has anyone called the ambulance?” “Please.”
We wait. People mill about, staring. I start to tremble, then remind myself that I’m ok. This has happened before; it’s fine. The woman talks to me warmly. She is a local councillor; there was a similar accident here a few weeks ago, she tells me, a nasty one. The people move aside for the ambulance and then a brusquely efficient paramedic is kneeling beside me. “Everything ok? Can you move your legs? What about your neck?”
They sit me up. “Ok, now your arm. Can you move your shoulder for me?” Seems fine, the pain’s already less intense. The girl’s friend apologises. I tell her not to worry – that I’m fine. The paramedic helps me up and walks me into the ambulance, where my bike is already waiting. I look it over – just a bent wheel. Relief. Then the paramedic points out the deep dent on the downtube, just above the cranks. A write-off. I groan.
We chat as he takes my blood pressure – bikes, the number of stupid calls he has to go to made by people who have a bit of a headache or something equally minor. We agree that people should make more use of pharmacists. “They’re as good as GPs for most things,” he says. A policewoman arrives and takes a statement – initial impressions first, then a fuller account. Her letters are big and round. I quibble a little about the wording, then sign it. “She’s already said she didn’t see you,” the PC tells me. The councillor pops her head in and hands me a piece of paper. “This is her name and address,” she says. “I’m happy to be a witness.” I look through the open door and see the girl and her friend sitting in a police car. I assume they’re also giving a statement.
“Do you want to go to hospital then?” asks the paramedic, almost cheerily. “Nah, I’m ok.” “Lift home?” “Please.”
A car is trying to squeeze between us and the pavement. We can’t move. The paramedic gets out and impatiently tells the driver to reverse and go round the other side. “Idiot”, he mutters as he climbs back on board. Then we’re off.
Home. Do I stay off work? I feel ok – there’s no shock and I’m mobile. Shit! I’ve got news stories to write, deadlines. That settles it: shower, text colleagues, quick bit of Twitter, work. The day begins again.
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