Thursday, June 07, 2007


My transport of delight is a 2000-model Honda CB600 Hornet motorcycle. I've owned it for about four years, and use it for daily commuting a short distance all year round.

Last Tuesday I crashed into a car that pulled out from a side road without seeing me. I'm afraid the bike is probably not going to make it, but thankfully I walked away from the accident virtually unscathed.

It was a bright sunny day and I left home at 8:30am, the same time as my wife in the car with the children on the school run. It was a warm sunny day and I was wearing the same gear I religiously pull on for every trip no matter how long -- full face helmet, ballistic nylon HeinGericke jacket and equivalent trousers with in-built armour, motorbike gloves, and leather motorbike boots. I joke that on days like this you have to keep moving to avoid cooking in all that gear, but it is only ever too much gear until you crash, at which point every piece is well appreciated. I also always ride with my headlight on dipped main beam to make me more visible.

I pulled onto the A3040 highway which has a 40mph limit, and was probably at 30mph and accelerating when I came up to a junction with a side road on my left. A car was in the side road waiting to turn right onto the A3040 (i.e. to go in the opposite direction to me).

A habit I learnt from taking the ROSPA Advanced Riding course is to watch the driver and check that they actually look at you to ensure they have seen you. I was looking at the driver, and she appeared to look back, but...

As I got close to the junction she set off across my path. I slammed on the brakes.

I had only just set off from home, so my tyres had not warmed up, and my bike doesn't have ABS, so it is always a gamble between under-braking or locking the wheels and provoking a skid. Once that front wheel looses grip you can kiss goodbye to staying upright and I didn't want to slide under the car!

Then there is that point where you know you are not going to be able to stop in time. I assume the other driver saw me upon them and instinctively hit the brakes, but it left me with little option as I simultaneously tried to steer round the back of the car blocking my way, but to no avail. I smashed into the offside rear door with an almighty crunch! The right side of my motorbike and my body took the full force of the impact. Since I had got some braking in, I was probably doing about 20mph when I hit them.

As my motorbike came away from the car I obviously was no longer in control of it, and it was going down on it's right side with me astride it. I didn't want the weight of a full sized motorbike falling on my leg, so I jumped/fell off and rolled into the road. And lay there.

You'll recall that my wife had left home at the same time, and was in fact following behind me so saw all this unfold in the road ahead. I knew I was ok, but I can only imagine the fear and distress that seeing me perform this stunt caused the family.

A passenger in the car I hit was immediately on the phone to the emergency services. He was out of the car, standing over me, next to my wife, and telling the controller on the phone that "...he looks quite badly injured and in pain...". I was thinking 'no I'm not, I've just been beaten to the ground'. I started to get up, and about three people shouted "don't try to move, the ambulance is on it's way". My wife put her face down to plead me not to move, so as I lay back down I opened my visor and said "I'm fine, really I am". After a few seconds I started to sit up again, and was on my feet by the time the ambulance arrived -- which to their credit was only two or three minutes after they got the call.

As I was finding my feet, my wife went back to the car and got the children out. It was within walking distance of school, so she released the children into the care of a passing friend, thinking it was better for them to be out of the way once they saw I was ok. We are both grateful to the friend and school for the way they dealt with the inevitable shock that the children had had.

The ambulance crew were a welcome calming influence at the scene, very matter of fact. A police car arrived with full lights and sirens too. The policeman saw I was up and moving ok, and started dealing with the traffic, and presumably dealing with the other driver -- but I didn't really see much of him. It may have been the policeman who lifted my motorbike for me, at which point I saw fuel and coolant leaking from it, so I reached over and turned off the ignition. That's all we needed.

I went in the back of the ambulance for a check-up, and after a short time of talking to them and having blood pressure taken etc they gave me a clean bill of health, and released me back onto the street to get a lift home with my wife, who had gone to the school to ensure they were aware of what had happened and were dealing with the children properly.

I came home, dumped my gear, phoned the insurance company to report the incident, and have a strong cup of tea! After a cuppa, I drove back up to the school to visit the children and assure them I was ok -- that was a good move.

I'm convinced that the clothing I was wearing saved me from much more serious injury. It makes me shudder when I see motorbike riders wearing shorts, t-shirts, no-gloves, trainers, etc. It's just not worth it.

I just need to wait now and see if the insurance assessor writes off the bike. Though I have to say, I think it is unlikely I'll see it again :-(

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