After avoiding most of the worst of the snow and the frost I managed to come off my bike on ice this week. Astonishingly, it wasn’t the fault of the local councils through not gritting. I mean: they haven’t gritted, didn’t grit, won’t grit; they’re too busy trumpeting how low council tax is to actually do anything socially responsible; but the road I came off on was a tiny, thin back route in the surrounding Cotswolds.
Almost all of this week’s brief ice covering had melted, and the main roads were largely clear, when a colleague I was cycling home with suggested we go on the quieter routes off the main road. Not thinking much about it, I happily agreed. Indeed, most of it was absolutely fine, until we came to the road out of the back of one village, where in the past we’ve pursued barn owls down a shady, overhung single track.
The road doglegs before the start of the track, and it was only when we came out of the double bend and our bike lights illuminated the path that it was clear something was wrong. Although the sun had been on the hillside all day, it hadn’t reached the road because of overhanging trees. The road is also below the level of the surrounding fields, and the high banks leak meltwater from the fields and concentrate it onto the surface: in other words, the road becomes a drainage ditch when there’s a high water table. It had leaked for some hours, hitting the cold road and freezing into a smooth mirror of ice.
My colleague managed to stop early, while there was still some gravel on the ice to let him come gracefully to a halt. I still occasionally wonder whether or not he was leading me to an icy doom, but not very often. It isn’t healthy to dwell on these things. My bike switfly came out from underneath me and I fell backwards and to the left: that’s the one good thing about coming off on ice as opposed to any other accident; you don’t go forwards over the handlebars. I landed on my knee and palm – a habit I’m trying to get out of as I always feel like I’ve both ruined my cartilage again and snapped my scaphoid again – and skidded for several feet, almost under my colleagues bike at one point, before coming to a halt.
My knee rapidly swelled up like a balloon, and we both agreed that it was best to stop watching it do so and try to walk off the shock. Twenty yards later the ice finished abruptly, and we never saw any more. After a bit more walking I was able to get back on my bike and gingerly, fearfully almost freewheel it home. Luckily there was no permanent damage, and the accident, and my subsequent treating it with whisky, was even mentioned on Radio 2 after I texted in from the depths of my somewhat subdued evening misery. By the next day I was walking fine, and I’ll probably be back cycling on Monday. Everyone who knows me would agree that I’m the sort of hard knock that would shrug this sort of event off quite quickly. I am man; hear me grunt.
I don’t really want to tell the council. They’re one of those councils that swears they don’t pollard trees till their eyes bleed, then wipe them dry and go off to pollard some trees. A bunch of Tories who practise semi-destructive and ultimately unsustainable husbandry and pretend it’s environmental concern so that their MP—Call Me Dave Cameron, no less—won’t be embarrassed by their feckless antics. with In other words, their solution to the problem of the runoff freezing once a year would be to cut down all the trees and thus undermine the banks. I’d rather hit ice once in a while than be buried under a landslide.