This August marks four years since I had a very serious bike accident. It’s not something I talk about very often, and even some of my closest friends only found out about it this year.
But, I’ve decided to open up about my experience in the hope that people will think twice before getting on their bike without wearing a helmet, and hopefully prevent tragedies such as this one, here, from happening.
My scars have slowly faded over time (thank you, Bio-Oil), but my top lip is still entirely numb. It’s still a reminder everyday of the traumatic ordeal, but they also remind me of how lucky I am to be here as I am.
It was a boiling hot day in August, and having taken up cycling again only recently, I borrowed a bike and went off down the country roads, luckily with my boyfriend at my side. I must say, at that stage, I was fairly reluctant to wear a helmet. My boyfriend and I hadn’t been together that long, and I didn’t want him to see my greasy hat hair when I took my helmet off. Nonetheless, I put it on and thought “better to be safe than sorry”.
We were having a great time, riding through the Cheshire countryside and visiting small hamlets and villages along with the hundreds of other cyclists who took up the opportunity on such a nice day. Riding along without a care in the world, I suddenly hit a pot hole and flew over the handlebars, head and face first. One minute I was on the bike, the next I was on the floor speaking in nonsensical murmurs.
The impact onto the tarmac was hard. I’d been travelling at around 25 mph when I fell, and my head had taken the brunt of the force. My face was spurting blood, and the world was spinning at a fast rate.
The next moments are a blur of cars stopping to help, my boyfriend holding me tightly and telling me everything was going to be Ok, a child crying whilst his mum phoned the ambulance and my mum and dad arriving.
In the ambulance, I was asked hundreds of questions about what the date was, where I lived, what my name was, what school I was at, all so that they could make sure I wasn’t concussed. The paramedic said it was one of many bike accidents he’d seen that day, but one man who hadn’t been wearing a helmet hadn’t been as lucky as I had.
The first thing the paramedics did was take off my helmet to see where the worst impact had been. The helmet was far beyond use, completely battered in, and in the words of the paramedic, I am “lucky that wasn’t my skull”. The helmet was carried with me everywhere I went and given to every nurse, doctor, surgeon and radiologist I came into contact with, as they held it, amazed and how they could have been looking at someone who was either badly brain damaged, or worse, dead. Instead, an MRI scan showed no damage to my brain or skull.
It’s understandable, therefore, that whenever I see someone on a bike without a helmet, I cringe a little. I can’t for the life of me comprehend how anyone can get on a bike without wearing one, or worse, allow their children on bikes without wearing one.
The roads today are more dangerous than ever before, with more traffic and faster cars. Cycle lanes and routes are unreliable, suddenly abruptly coming to an end with no warning, and with pot holes and litter in the road, it just isn’t worth the risk in my opinion.
A few months later, whilst digging through some old things, we came across my helmet. I stared at it, unable to comprehend how a bit of plastic and padding had somehow saved my life. I hope by writing about my story, people will think twice before getting on their bike without a helmet. Afterall, would you rather arrive somewhere with slightly greasy hair, or not arrive somewhere at all?