A particularly nasty crash whilst riding around Kent with the lovely Dulwich Paragon, early on Saturday morning. Nope, not me, although a confused text sent to the fragrant mrs onionbagblogger had her thinking I had been hospitalised. Sadly the panic was only displaced for another partner to have to handle.
We cleared London, free of any rain and looked ahead to a morning stretching out from the Surrey Downs, and continuing out towards Kent. The drizzle twenty miles out soon became persistent rain as we reached the furthest point out from Cafe St Germain on the circular route.
A strategic decision was taken by the ride lead to avoid the more technical route of the Kent country lanes and the increasingly steep drops and climbs. We settled on safer, unfamiliar territory terrain, and then within the first bend, we had a rider down.
I was cycling towards the back of the pelaton. Never a safe place to ride, but needs must. Most of the pack was oblivious to the accident. The back dozen or so cyclists were greeted with a truly horrific scene of a rider lying flat out on the road, clearly distressed and suffering in a great deal of pain.
It is the rare moments such as these that you realise the fragile safety bubble that cycling exists around. One minor deviation from an endless set of road safety variables, can lead to one hell of a fall from grace.
Our fallen rider was ironically on his first roll out with the Paragon. Details were patchy, but it seems he had taken the decent at too great a speed, locked his back wheel, skidded, and then as he tried to compensate he clipped the curb and somersaulted over the handlebars.
A local dog walker was already on the scene and had put in the 999 call. It is here that you feel utterly helpless, although the humanity of others around you leads you to the conclusion that everyday folk are pretty special people under testing circumstances,
Passing cars, cabbies and busses stopped to offer assistance. The best we could manage between us was to assemble some makeshift blankets using cycling tops. We offered comforting words that the ambulance was on its way, even if the ten minute waiting period seemed more like the best part of an hour.
It is in situations like these where wasted hours of watching Casualty don’t seem so misspent. You enter into a default common sense mode, repeatedly telling the injured not to move, try to keep him warm and attempt to humour the situation. In all truth, blokes with bikes and lycra aren’t that great at this; the women around us were truly wonderful, and knew of all the right things to do and say.
A lone paramedic soon arrived, and instantly put the patient in a neck brace. Arms and legs seemed fine, but the back was causing considerable concern. The call went out for an ambulance, by which time breathing apparatus and various drips had been attached. It was without a doubt the messiest scene I have seen whilst out cycling.
The help and support from around the local people in this most rural of Kent countryside locations continued. We had the offer to store bikes overnight in a nearby cow shed, and lifts were offered to the nearest hospital. Even the local police showed some signs of concern, once the formal questions about how the incident happened, and making sure that no crime had been committed was complete.
And so around an hour after the initial fall, the scene was finally cleared and we were ready to roll back towards Crystal Palace. Confidence was low amongst the small pack. This was to be a slow, sombre trek back towards town.
Another detour taking in Biggin Hill was agreed upon, once again to avoid the technicalities of the country lanes and all the elements of danger that they present.
Cycling along a main road once again proved to be more precocious. Any hopes of a shared humanity out on the road were left behind back at the crash site. Biggin Hill isn’t exactly bicycle friendly, and a few Petrol Heads took great exception to us sharing the road with them on Saturday morning.
And so best wishes to the fallen rider, taken down on his first ride out with the Dulwich Paragon. I hope within time he finds the confidence and will to return to the ride. It’s got to be better than spending your Saturday morning doing the supermarket run.