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I’m fortunate I can try to contemplate why a driver would knock me off my bike: Davide Rebellin didn’t get that chance

After she was hit by a driver who didn't stop just days ago, the news of Rebellin's death was especially pertinent for reviewer Emma Silversides

Since Sunday, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to ask myself, ‘why?’… Why did he enter the roundabout in the right-hand lane to cut in the front of me and take the first exit? Why didn’t he stop?

How can I consider myself fortunate when every single breath, bend, lift or reach induces a searing pain in my rib cage? What makes me fortunate is that I can actually move to induce the pain and have the senses to feel.

I read the news about Davide Rebellin last night and felt another wave of nausea, like the ones I felt on Sunday sat in the ambulance, waiting in A&E, lying in bed back home in the early hours of Monday…

I’ve been unlucky enough to be knocked off my bike (by cars) three times in the last two years. In the first two cases the drivers stopped. They put their hands up and admitted fault. In both cases, the excuse ‘I didn’t see you’ was cited. With witnesses these drivers had very little wriggle room. I felt that in both circumstances, ‘I didn’t look’ would have been a more appropriate statement, but who would want to admit that? What is now clear, at least to me, is that their admission of fault helped me process things, just a little.

On Sunday I was out testing a high vis jersey from Pactimo. It was a bright day and the vehicle came up behind me to pass me on my right. That the driver saw me before they hit me is unquestionable. That they saw me as they hit me or after they hit me is, on the other hand, questionable. Were they following a sat-nav that had guided them to the right lane, to then turn left? Did they have music on so loud that they didn’t hear the front end of my bike hit the back end of their car? Did they bother to look in the mirrors as they left the roundabout to observe that the cyclist they’d just driven round was on the floor in a heap? I guess the overarching question here is: was this an act of maliciousness or sheer incompetence and negligence?

I am fortunate to be able to contemplate all of the questions that I have. Davide isn’t. His family and close friends have no choice though: the frustration and mental trauma is all theirs.

> Emma Silversides: I was knocked off my bike by a driver… and faced more than just a physical battle

Despite contemplation, I haven’t been able to answer any of my questions and it’s unlikely I ever will. Despite witnesses stopping no one got a registration, make or model. Contact with the local council has ascertained that there is no CCTV on the roundabout. No one with a dash cam stopped. Do I have a camera on my bike? No. I will sadly admit that now I feel the need to get one though.

My non-cycling friends are asking the obvious question, obvious to them at least: You’ll be stopping riding now, won’t you? I give the obvious cyclists’ answer.

I know I’ll get back on the road to realise that my confidence, just like my ribs and elbow, has taken a good hiding and will take time to recover.

Whether it was malicious or just sheer incompetence, I still consider myself fortunate to be asking questions and feeling the pain that I am feeling.

Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling. 

After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing. 

Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…

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HeadDown | 1 year ago

Fear of punishment works. Call it archaic, but then again call what you like if it's effective. I lived in the Netherlands for several years and over there if you, as a driver of a vehicle, make contact with a cyclist you're in deep sh!te. Even if they literally fling themselves in front of you. So, as a driver over there (discounting the foreign factor, as natives I drove with did likewise), you slow the hell down and look left. Then right. Then left. Then right. Then proceed realllllly slowly. NL used to be similar in the 70s in terms of car culture to how it is here now. Too many children died (look up stop de kindermoord) and they'd simply had enough.

Rendel Harris replied to HeadDown | 1 year ago

Plus, as a Dutch gentleman or lady mentioned on the live blog earlier in the week, every driver in the Netherlands probably cycles themselves or as a minimum will know dozens of people who do, so they're not just looking out for cyclists but for their child, partner, parent, colleague, teacher, doctor, friend...

pete666 | 1 year ago

Wishing you a full and speedy recovery Emma.

Reading the experiences here, I feel lucky to have only been knocked off my bike just the once! It was around 25 years ago and of all things, hit by a car turning into a garage that I was cycling past! The impact broke their windscreen, mangled my bike and saw me off work for the best part of a month with severe bruising and swelling to my lower back. Thankfully nothing broken but I was left with a permanent lump to remind me of the experience! The driver was very shook up. On the plus side, it turned me into a helmet wearer! Made me even more vigilant which along with fast reactions has saved me from a few more collisions.

Oldfatgit | 1 year ago

I'm sorry to read that you've been knocked off your bike and injured ... and especially the victim of a coward who werent decent enough to face their responsibility.

Reading your article, you seem to be apportioning blame to yourself and looking for things that you could have done wrong.

For the sake of your own sanity, you need to stop thinking that you caused this, and that you are responsible... you are not.

Speaking as someone who was struck by an 80 year old who decided that turning in front of me would be a great idea, and as someone that has been left with life and mobility changing injuries - who got back on the bike 2 years after the collision - you need to stop living in "what if" as all it will do is screw you up.

What if I hadn't have stopped for a few minutes to send my wife a text ...
Or what if I had have, and the blue-lighting paramedic unit was a minute earlier or a couple of minutes later ...
The answer to that one is I would have died from my injuries and my wife would be a widow and my kids fatherless ...

"What if" never stops ... it just fecks with your brain, and makes you scared and second guess yourself - and out there, on two wheels with no armour - we can't afford to be scared, and we can't afford to doubt ourselves.

I've got cameras now (Fly 12 Sport and Fly 6 Gen 3) and they give me comfort knowing that should something happen in the future, at least the arsehole or their insurance will be made to pay.

CyclingSilvers replied to Oldfatgit | 1 year ago

Thanks for the well wishes.
I absolutely don't blame myself. It's undeniable that his driving was so incompetent it's incomprehensible. I guess I just battle mentally with the fact that he didn't stop, that's the issue that I will grapple with for a long time.
Having just read the latest press release about Davide - that the driver stopped, looked and then drove leaves me speechless. What is wrong with the world?

JustTryingToGet... | 1 year ago

"My non-cycling friends are asking the obvious question, obvious to them at least: You’ll be stopping riding now, won’t you? I give the obvious cyclists’ answer." = resilience

Hope the injuries heal well, and you get back on the bike as soon as you are ready. See if the Road CC advertisers can't send you some cameras to test and keep!

Steve K | 1 year ago

Get well soon.

ChrisB200SX | 1 year ago

"I didn't see you" or "you came out of nowhere" are always an admission of guilt/fault.

If you do not look, you do not see.

nniff | 1 year ago

I wrote a rather depressing comment the other day after someone had punted me into a hedge on a country lane and just driven off (no harm done).  I counted the number of times a car driver has hit me.  It's something like this:

Hit and run - following a car through the village, cars parked to the left.  I'm 'next vehicle' distance from the car in front and travelling at the same speed, in primary.  A  Volvo x90 draws level with me and just boots me out of the way.  Blood and snot everywhere, bike mangled.  The car I'm following sees it and slows; the Volvo takes off, but the other driver gets their number.  Long and short of it - he's a villain with an alias.  It goes to court, he dosen't turn up.  Clerk to the magistrates has a wobbly over identity and he walks.  Police livid and assure me that their paths will cross again and they'll get him.

Left hook in London.  Driver has no licence, but car is insured so I'm covered.  They drove over my front wheel and I skinnned my fingers.  Police lose the record and no action taken.

T-bone from right in London.  1 hour lying in the road and 9 hours in A&E - a "miraculous escape".  Bike totalled.  Driver sent a NIP, but none of the witnesses hung around so no further action.  Really, really hurt, but I limped out of A&E under my own steam.  List of suspected ailments included - broken femur, wrist & neck. Internal injuries, inlcuding heart.  Road rash.  I  still have a dogy knee as a result.

Driver half-overtook at traffic lights, then pulled back in when they changed.  Driver stopped.  No further action.  Collected a KOM on the Lincoln crit circuit in the back of the ambulance.  Suspected broken pelvis - actually knocked my rather dodgy spine straight and not had a problem since.

On top of that, I've hit a pothole on a roundabout (hideen by the car in front).  Lots of grazes. Slipped on a newly painted arrow on a mini-roundabout in the rain at night, which wasn't there the evening before.  Grazes.  One operator error on a tightening, descending bend.

Over 45,000 miles.

Car Delenda Est | 1 year ago

I was hit by a car back in January while riding in a cycle lane by a motorist who didn't understand what any of the road markings meant, unfortunately I was too in shock to ask if he had a licence.

Although uninjured, aside from some very slight bruises, I haven't felt the same sense of freedom on the road that I used to and now find myself walking instead of cycling.

I'm not sure if it's a case of regaining confidence or accepting the loss of my false sense of security.

IanMSpencer replied to Car Delenda Est | 1 year ago

I've posted recently about an incident where a car drove round a blind bend on the wrong side of the road and barely avoided doing a group of us serious injury.

If you can't cycle entirely correctly and entirely within your own side of the road and yet can be hit by a driver who admitted they had just been completely incompetent, how do you face using the roads? I've cut down my cycling, not entirely beaten, but I also have found that I am far less tolerant of minor infractions by drivers.

kil0ran replied to IanMSpencer | 1 year ago

This is my nightmare too. But I hate bullies and won't let them win so I've recently adopted a somewhat fatalistic approach to my riding.

I had very similar to you on a steep descent between high hedges with a left hand bend at the bottom. Rounded that bend to find a white van driver in my lane overtaking another vehicle. Somehow squeezed between it and the hedge but if I'd been a couple of seconds earlier there would have been nowhere to go.

Many years ago a motorcyclist friend of mine was killed and I spent a long time thinking about the "sliding doors" aspect of what lead to his death, did he stop for an amber, did he flash someone out of a side road, wait slightly longer at a junction, etc, in the half hour ride he had before the collision? And similarly what about the driver who killed him? Have always felt guilt for that as I was the last person to speak to him before he set off.

Rendel Harris | 1 year ago

Get well soon Emma and hope you are back on the road in timely fashion; don't rush it though, I know from rugby experience that bust ribs can take a long time to heal and rushing back out there (as I have done!) just leads to more problems.

Given the capacities of modern technology and the fact that nearly all of them are already GPS-capable, it is surely time that cars were linked to a national tracking system. Not only would this virtually eliminate speeding and vehicle theft, it would ensure that anyone who chose to drive away from an incident in which they were involved could be swiftly traced and made to face the consequences.

perce | 1 year ago

Hope you get well soon Emma. The standard of driving in this country is shocking.

Mungecrundle | 1 year ago

Hi Emma,

Something that I suspect we can pretty much all empathise with from personal experience.

The physical harm is hopefully of the type which fully heals, the psychology is far more difficult. Forgiving someone for their incompetence is one thing, and for the most part, you can believe in a "lessons learned" positive outcome. Even arguing with another road user over interpretation of the Highway Code or your opinion of their driving has some sort of resolution, but if the other party just clears off and you suspect a malicious attack by a stranger, that is far harder not to think about every time another vehicle is driven too close.

My way of dealing with the stress of such an incident has been to use cameras on every ride. An investment for sure and they don't magically repel other vehicles, but they have since more than recouped their cost and brought a hit and run driver to justice. I use the Cycliq Fly6 and 12.

I assume the Pactimo jersey you were testing will be getting a 1 star review?

anagallis_arvensis | 1 year ago
1 like

Hope you are healed up soon, take your time getting back on the bike, ride with some friends. Good luck.

Awavey | 1 year ago

had a very near miss recently, probably as near as you can get without actually being hit, which shook me up, partly because I still have on my mind a local rider who was killed earlier this year and have felt much more vulnerable since on the roads on my bike and youre just left thinking from anything like that or Davide's death, that could have been me next at that moment.

And first thing the driver said to me was "I didnt see you". Ive driven the road since, same time, same traffic conditions just to try and process it myself,and I can only surmise they meant "I didnt look" too.

hope you heal quick & youre back riding your bike soon

AlsoSomniloquism | 1 year ago

Sounds similar to my experience with not being able to believe the driver didn't see or hear the collision, especially with how close I was to him as he swiped me. Yet there was not even a brake light showing. 

Bungle_52 | 1 year ago

I'm sorry but not surprised this has happened. Driving standards took a nose dive after the first lockdown which is when I got myself a camera.

I still get poor driving, not as bad as this, but knowing that I will be submitting the footage, in the hope that some action will be taken to encourage the driver to take more care around cyclists in future, gives me a sense of calm and reduces the need for contemplation. It doesn't matter whether it was maliciousness or sheer incompetence or negligence the result will be the same.

It wouldn't have helped Davide but it may have helped those left behind to see justice done and that would have helped to discourage a recurrence.

Get well soon and get back on the bike: with a camera.

As a final thought, some, including me, feel that drivers are more careful if they know you have a camera so there may be some direct benefit as well.

IanMSpencer | 1 year ago

Did they look? Chances are they believe they did, there are reasons why people don't see.

I was driving when I saw a van driver approaching at speed a roundabout I had already entered - he was on the phone and didn't glance across. I ABS'd and avoided hitting him. In a foul mouthed rant, he made it clear that I must have been driving too fast for him not to have seen me. I suspect he had glanced further back up the road and seen an empty roundabout but not seen the approach road as it was obscured by hedges.

That experience has informed me while cycling, I'm harder to see and drivers aren't actively looking and are often distracted. Probably 80% of drivers don't think that driving is a full time task, and even adjusting heating needs to be done at a planned time when there is a low probability of any incident. A very significant proportion of drivers don't think driving should require any of their valuable time - you see these disengaged drivers a lot.

Anyway, get well soon, and ride like they are all out to kill you, you won't always be wrong.

Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago

OMG.  Emma I hope both the physical and mental damage heals soon and this article brings you a form of catharsis.

Chin up and dont let the bastards get you down.

Get better soon.  Ps hope the bike is recoverable too.

M20MAMIL | 1 year ago

'But how's the bike?!!!' Seriously though, hope the ribs are feeling better soon and you're back riding. Too many of us know exactly how you feel and can empathise with the pain and frustration 

nniff replied to M20MAMIL | 1 year ago
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Good question - we need to know about the bike. 

Get well soon.  I've found that the nervousness diminishes.  I am currently working hard at being ruthlessly assertive - in particular, I absolutely will not 'squeeze' up to let someone past.  Only when I deem it safe - it seems worse but always ends better - every time I try and make space I regret it.  Ride in the gutter and you'll be treated as though that's where you belong

CyclingSilvers replied to M20MAMIL | 1 year ago
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It needs a full check. The bars are very bent so when I can move about with less pain I'll be thoroughly checking the forks, changing the bars and inspecting the frame. It was an old Aluminium Dolan Prefisio, a trusty winter bike with guards.
Thanks for the well wishes  1

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