A bicycle lost control

A selection of recent news items in 2013, concerning bicycles losing control.

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 09.33.18

In Hull -

Police said the bicycle lost control, span round and hit the lamppost opposite the Holiday Inn.

In Croydon -

The London Fire Brigade told the Advertiser the bicycle lost control, flipped over and hit the two pedestrians

In Nantwich -

Father-of-three Rob was killed after his bicycle lost control and hit a tree at 55mph on Marsh Lane, Nantwich.

In North Wales -

Eyewitnesses told how the bicycle lost control on the A548, struck a kerb before careering through the air, across the central reservation and smashed into the AdHoc building. On the way it also destroyed a tree, sign, fence and lamppost.

In Bromsgrove -

A bicycle towing a catering unit on the A448 near Dodford crashed into a road bridge over a stream and a second bicycle lost control, left the road and went into the stream below.

In John O’Groats -

A bicycle lost control on the A836 Thurso to Castletown road at Murkle when it landed into the garden of a property at 11.55am

In Davistow -

The porch of a house in North Cornwall was completely destroyed at the weekend after a bicycle lost control on the A39 and careered into the building.

In Callington -

A woman had a lucky escape after her bicycle lost control, hit a hedge and flipped near to Callington today.

In West Sussex -

She and her friend had watched in horror as a bicycle lost control on a bend and slid down a hill on its side, crashing into two cars in its path

In Rugby -

Oliver, 17, died during the crash when a bicycle lost control and collided with a lamppost just after 4.30pm.

In Greater Manchester -

A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police told Saddleworth News: “At approximately 3.30pm this afternoon, a bicycle lost control and crashed into a ditch on the A635 Road above Greenfield, it ended up shedding its load of scrap metal. Thankfully no one has been injured.”

In Southend -

A WOMAN had to be cut free from her bicycle after a collision in Southend. The crash happened at 8.40pm on Monday in Eastern Avenue. Firefighters worked to cut her free after another bicycle lost control and ended up on the wrong side of the carriageway.

In Kent -

Dale West was riding a silver Batavus when his bicycle lost control and was involved in a collision with a lorry parked in a layby on the opposite carriageway.

In Bromsgrove (again) -

A bicycle lost control and smashed into a tree during an early morning Bromsgrove Highway crash.

In Tyrone -

One man remains seriously injured in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast after a bicycle lost control on the A5 Omagh to Newtownstewart Road on Sunday.

By now you’ll have probably guessed that a bicycle was not involved in any of these incidents.

As we all know, bicycles do not ‘lose control’. They are controlled by human beings. 

All I have done, in each of these news items, is to exchange the word ‘car’, ‘van’ or ‘lorry’ for ‘bicycle’, to demonstrate the absurdity of the conventional phrasing, so commonly used in news items – impersonal language that denies agency. Motor vehicles do not lose control. People lose control of them, with disastrous, and often fatal, consequences.

What’s also interesting about these stories is how the carnage, injury and death seem quite farcical when the mode of transport involved is the humble bicycle. Bicycles do not career through the air, smash into buildings, or crush pedestrians. They’re really quite safe, and when people do lose control of them, the consequences are quite mundane when compared to the consequences detailed in these news items.

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13 Responses to A bicycle lost control

  1. Great post, I was going to leave a comment that I’d like to meet the person who managed to crash their bike in North Wales and destroy such a long list of property until I read a few more and the penny dropped :-)

  2. monchberter says:

    A bit of a brainfart this, but bear with me…

    The taboo is around an inability to show that ‘normal’, well adjusted people can in fact end failing in personal responsibility when doing ‘normal’ things such as driving.

    News narratives in the main are reassuring to ‘normal’ people while continually pointing out ‘deviants’. Compare with how drink and drug related offenses (and at the less tolerant end of the news scale, how cycling offenses) are reported. People who do them are pretty much ‘thugs’ and ‘criminals’.

    Driving and the consequences of irresponsible driving confuses news narratives as it overturns an ideology that can only push blame onto ‘deviants’ while reassuring ‘normal’ people that they are morally superior.

    The message for cycling is that it will increasingly receive more favorable coverage (even if it does end up following the absurd pattern above “nice middle class Danny’s bicycle lost control…”) the more normalised it becomes.

    • Indeed. I remember a recent news item, concerning the Official For National Statistics revealing that the most frequently complained about form of anti-social behaviour was… driving.

      Cue lots of confused comments on social media, failing to understand how driving (presumably, ‘ordinary’ driving of the type they engage in) could even be anti-social. This fits with your notion that it is only ‘abnormal’ people who can engage in deviant or immoral behaviour. Because ordinary, ‘normal’ people drive every single day, the act of driving, even badly, is clearly difficult to conceptualise as ‘anti-social’.

  3. Ed says:

    Great article. Fix your Croydon link though!

  4. rdrf says:

    This is very much about the motorist as victim. Often the trope is “the MOTORIST lost control”. S/he is desperately struggling with this elemental force (the car) which no reasonable person could expect them to always properly deal with, however manfully they struggle. So eventually, yes, they will lose control.

    Sometimes I wonder what would happen if a righteously indignant cyclist attacked a rule/law breaking motorist. What would that be? I’d say a cyclist losing control…

    • That’s an interesting take on it, RD. I hadn’t thought of it quite like that before, but what you say is consistent with the animistic tone in much discussion and depiction of cars. There is a lurking strain of animism in much of our relations with machinery but it is absolutely blatant in, for example, the way that cars are depicted in adverts to make the headlights look like eyes.

      • pm says:

        I’ve long thought that that is part of the reason why pedestrians behave differently with motorists than with cyclists. Cars are seen as forces of nature that can’t be reasoned with, and about which its silly to make moral judgements. Its your responsibility to keep out of their way, as with tsunamis and tornados.

        Cyclists, in contrast, are visibly human beings, just ones that have somehow acquired wheels, and so are regarded as moral agents who are part of a human social contract.

  5. pm says:

    You don’t often see “the bicycle mounted the pavement” either.

  6. Christine Jones says:

    I have had two incidences where I did loose control of my bike, the first one was in about 1998 in Utrecht, NL, it was a beautiful summers evening on the way home from work on a Dutch bike, I was going like the clappers on cycle path off the saddle in a mini dress when my bottom bracket snapped, I fell forward and down with my crutch on the pedal set, still holding the handlebars above my head, I scraped my calf and knee along the ground for about 10m before aiming for a big tree to stop myself. My legs were very grazed but otherwise I was fine. Nobody else was hurt.
    The other time was about a year before, on a 1:10 hill on a tandem with my then boyfriend on a country road between Newbury and Oxford. Halfway down the hill we realised the drum brakes on this pre-war tandem weren’t tight enough and we had no brakes. The driver of the tandem, Erik the Dutchman, did amazingly well, we flew down the hill overtaking cars in 1st gear down to a junction into the village, flew through the red light, missed a lorry by a metre and slowed down on the hill on the other side. We stopped at the pub on the junction for a whiskey to calm our nerves and carried on. On the way back a couple of days later, they recognised us when we stopped at the pub, the story had gone round the village :)
    your point still stands though, and in both cases I think we did very well to keep the bikes under control!

  7. legocyclist says:

    There may just be another explanation here, which is lazy journalism. If you look at the Stats 19 records that the police produce after attending a collision, they tend to use a standard shorthand. For example, Car1 was heading south-bound and clipped the kerb before losing control and hitting HGV1 and PC1 travelling northbound (PC stands for pedal cycle by the way). Full details of the drivers are captured elsewhere on a confidential section of the report. It may be that journos are just given the bit about the mechanics of the collision, which they then transcribe with minimal effort into a story. I may be wrong, but I suspect that there is at least a grain of truth in it.

  8. Pingback: A significant majority | As Easy As Riding A Bike

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