Prominent South African cyclist Dylan Girdlestone was left shocked and bruised but thankfully not badly injured after a car rode into him while on a training ride in Johannesburg yesterday morning.
Girdlestone, who placed 11th at the national road championships earlier this month, said he was about 2km from his home when the incident occurred.
“I was going over the flyover on Witkoppen [Road] heading down towards Cedar where there’s a slipway that comes from William Nicol Drive.
“I crossed over that slipway on the dotted white line, which was the yellow line before that and I didn’t see any cars coming from the left, so I just carried on like I normally would every single day.”
Girdlestone was going 41km per hour according to his Garmin before the impact happened.
“I was just minding my own business and not even thinking of any incidents that could happen. Next thing I just heard this loud bang and I saw the sky, then I saw a white car and then I saw floor.
“I didn’t actually know what happened until I saw the car come past me while I was flying through the air. Then only I realised oh damn I’ve been hit by a car.
“Then I hit the ground, rolled quite a lot and slid a bit. That impact accelerated me from say 40km/h to just under 50km/h, so it was quite an impact.”
He added that the driver had come from William Nicol up onto the slipway and was joining the traffic flow on Witkoppen, but as he was doing so he was looking back to see if any cars were coming.
“He actually didn’t see me in front of him, so he just ploughed into the back of me at about 60 to 65km/h.”
Girdlestone said it shocked him how hard that impact was.
“It honestly felt like a rocket had hit me. It hit so hard that it just crumbled my SRT rear wheel; it broke my frame’s rear triangle, cracked my front triangle and twisted my handlebars and front wheel around.
“So it was a pretty hard impact even though it was a small speed differential.”
He said the driver was very apologetic and said he honestly did not see him.
“Normally I would’ve lost it and [had a] go at the guy, but I could see how sorry he was. There was also a witness behind us who was part of the flow of traffic that I was riding with and he said the guy just came around and ploughed straight into the back of me.”
Girdlestone felt it could have been a lot worse as the driver hit him “slap bang in the middle of his front bumper”.
“As he hit me he realised he hit something, so he swerved as hard as he could to the right and I did a backflip over his bonnet and rolled off the left side of his car instead of going straight over the windshield and roof, which I think would’ve been a worse situation.
“I managed to get off with just some roasties pretty much everywhere on my body and a partially torn hip-flexor muscle, which will heal over a couple of days I think.
“The biggest thing was that it was a shock. It honestly came out of nowhere and there was no way I could’ve avoided it. If I had left home two seconds later probably yes, but I think it was just wrong place, wrong time.”
Girdlestone felt that motorists in SA did not really know the damage their cars could do to pedestrians and cyclists, so they were not as cautious as they should be.
“I think the traffic and policing system in SA lets people off a little bit too lightly for serious injuries and death caused by motor vehicles from negligent driving. Not that the guy was driving negligently, it was literally just bad judgment and almost not paying full attention.
“I think motorists need to really wake up when they’re driving and pay attention. I’m sure a lot of incidents on the roads are due to people being on their cellphones and not looking what’s in front of them.”
Girdlestone said it was very difficult for cyclists to avoid this and felt all they could do going forward was to be more aware and somehow get the system to react more harshly towards negligent drivers.
“The number of accidents on our roads where people are just ploughed into from behind is staggering and a lot of that is drunk driving as well.
“We take a risk every day we leave home to go and ride our bikes and do what we love. That’s just a risk that all cyclists worldwide have and a choice we make. There is no way to get rid of accidents completely.
“I think in the future we just need to be extra vigilant – that’s all we can do, and [have] a bit of luck on our side.”