Bradley Wiggins, four-time gold medal winner, was hit by a Vauxhall Astra at 6pm yesterday in Wrightington, near his home. Wiggins was admitted to hospital with broken ribs and was kept in for observation. He has since been released and is expected to make a full recovery.
Hours later, on Thursday morning, head coach Shane Sutton was out cycling in the Manchester area when he too was struck by a vehicle. His injuries are reported to be much more severe, having already been diagnosed with some serious bruising and, more alarmingly, bleeding in the brain. It is predicted that his stay in hospital will last at least the next few days. Both Wiggins and Sutton wore helmets on their rides and both of them will owe their lives to this. Already cycling activists are calling on the government to improve the safety on the roads. Dedicated cycle lanes are needed in all populated areas to increase the safety of the sport.
A magnificent effect of the Olympics is the increased popularity of sports and with our amazing performance in the Velodrome it is only natural that cycling is the epitome of this. These accidents show that no matter how good a cycler you are, whether you are a complete beginner or the best in the world, appropriate precautions must be taken. Every student in Leeds who owns or has rented a bike will have some story of how they came so close to crash but narrowly avoided it, either by their own skill or luck. Normally these stories are taken with a casual tone and much laughter ensues but they paint they demonstrate how dangerous cycling can be. Every city with a dedicated cycling population will have casualties, this is inevitable, but there is so much more we can do to limit the possibility of injury.
Wearing a helmet is just good common sense and all the professionals recommend it. If Bradley Wiggins inspired you to be a cyclist then follow his lead and protect your head. Careless and often even dangerous drivers are a constant concern for the city cyclist. In Bristol earlier this year bus driver Gavin Hill purposefully used his bus as a weapon and smashed into a cyclist, seriously injuring him. The thought of violence like this will make even the bravest of cyclists break out in a cold sweat.
In 2010 Olympic rower James Cracknell was cycling across America when he was struck by a truck’s wing mirror from behind. The incident left Cracknell severely injured and he suffered partial brain damage. He has suffered some short-term memory loss and will never fully recover but is still out and about on his bike. Cracknell has since become one of the foremost advocates for helmets in cycling. These men all represent the pinnacle of achievement in cycling, they are the best of the best and yet they are the ones who are getting injured. If it can happen to them it can easily happen to anyone. Hopefully Shane Sutton will make a full recovery so he and Wiggins can really drive the message home. Cycling is a brilliant pastime but it is not worth your life, be sensible, risk the hair-do and wear helmet.
Author: Nick Gandy